Hold the Right People Accountable

No Child Left Behind has been so widely publicized for so many years, and yet I never really understood it. Reading Chapter 6 of Diane Ravitch’s The Death And Life Of The Great American School System; How Testing And Choices Are Undermining Education I was fascinated by the idea that NCLB was brought about with the intent of helping students and holding schools accountable for their success, and yet the policies seemed so ridiculous. All of our schools are charged with this Sisyphean task, and are punished for being unable to fulfill their roles, while also being given little support from the government. Our schools are supposed to have reached 100% proficiency in only a year, and the chances of this happening are slim.

So then, is it a failure of our schools, for not doing what they were supposed to? Or is it a failure of our government, for setting unreachable goals?


19 thoughts on “Hold the Right People Accountable

  1. You’ve spent a little time observing classrooms now, would you say expectations are reasonable given the conditions the teachers face?

    I’m concerned that as long as dominant public perception is that achieving greater results IS POSSIBLE under the current funding structure that we will never see school funding reform.

  2. Olivia, the government needs to realize that teachers need extra support to help students meet their high expectations of excelling students. Specific support may include better teacher preparation workshops and/or refreshers, improved learning tools and/or supplies in general, and staff. All of which require better funding! Does any one know of some local educational funding improvements that are currently being worked on?

    • “All Hands Raised” is a local organization that is trying to organize a collaborative of non-profits to offer supports to students in the after school hours. Not sure if they are having any success, but they are trying…

    • Hi Kelcie,
      I read in the Northwest Labor Press that Governor Kitzhaber called for a special legislative session earlier this month that resulted in the passing of a number of bills, including HB5101. HB5101 sends $100 million to K-12 schools and $40 million to lower tuition at state universities and community colleges, as well as additional money towards mental health and senior programs.

      I am curious as to the extent to which this additional funding will help and how different schools will utilize these funds. Last year, at my little brother’s former middle school, additional funds were used to purchase iPads for faculty members. Even the teachers were complaining that using their money in that way was a waste.

  3. Motivating people with fear is rarely successful. By telling teachers they will lose their jobs or their schools will close if they don’t get their students scores up to the government set standards isn’t going to work. Teachers are people in the community but they aren’t the only ones responsible for helping children succeed. There are MANY OTHER people in the community who could help too. The parents need to be supported and educated as well so that they can help get their kids reading and math levels up. Brothers and sisters should be educated on how to help their siblings study, ect.

    • Elizabeth,
      I agree that motivating with fear is a poor strategy, especially when such high goals are set and schools are given so few tools and support to reach those goals. I also think it’s a great point that rearing children and supporting their success should be a priority of the whole community! There are so many factors outside of school that directly influence student performance in school.

    • “Motivating people with fear is rarely successful…” I totally agree with you Elizabeth! I truly feel like this is what is happening. If a school is told that they will be closed unless they have better results, then that school is going to do a mad scramble to give better results while still using the same resources/budget they have had… which will make a better outcome unlikely. It is like what kelsiemay said earlier “the government needs to realize that teachers need extra support to help students meet their high expectations of excelling students…” I totally agree with that as well. It is so frustrating to see this. I can’t imagine how frustrating it must be for teachers. Just to imagine… trying your best with limited resources to meet all the needs of your students individually… then being told it isn’t good enough and telling you that you are going to lose your job if you don’t help these students… when you already do as much as you can? Ahhhhh!

  4. I just read some FABULOUS quotes from Lisa Delpits, “Lessons from Home: Teaching Tolerance” interview. She’s discussing how to teach tolerance and connect with children of different cultures & how to teach children the Standard English way without ignoring or devaluing their own personal cultures.

    When asked about how to enlist the help of parents, she writes:

    “Well, I’ve found that most schools don’t really want parent involvement. They want people to sell brownies and go home and be quiet. And I speak as a parent! Schools need to rethink what their needs are regarding family involvement. Everything that we talk about is how to get the parent to the school. We really do have to start thinking about how to get the school to the parent.”

    This is so true! It’s not just the teacher’s job, but the parents and family members job too. They need to work together to help out kids. Honestly, who better to help kids learn than their own parents? There isn’t anyone who could care more about that child, individualize a plan for the child and find time outside of school to help the child.

    She writes more:

    “There are so many ways to involve parents, but they start with asking — with a phone call. A good place to start is by asking, “How do you want to help your child?” Find out if there is someone else who can stand in for a parent, if necessary — someone you can or should send packets home to. But don’t just send printed matter home. If you want to establish a relationship with African-American parents, you make personal contact, either face-to-face or with a phone call. And that’s probably the case in a lot of cultures.”

    I love this article. It’s been super enlightening and helpful to me!

    • I really loved this article as well-I feel like Delpit brings a lot of issues to the foreground that are commonly over-looked, or not seen, as problems with the education system today. You are right, it is not solely the teachers responsibility to make sure these kids succeed-for they have only a limited time with each student, while also juggling how many more each day. As much as one might want to work with each student and make sure that all the circumstances are building them up, it simply is not possible. Parents, or family members, can help outside of school, and also have the task of making sure the school/teachers know what their child might need to do well.

  5. Kelcie: There are discussions on funding that ebb and flow. I do know that there have been some more pointed tax reform discussions in recent months. The only way to dramatically change the funding for schools at this point would be to increase tax revenues from state taxes…how would you feel about changes in the tax structure? Is this something you would get behind and support?

    • Zapoura: I wouldn’t mind incorporating a sales tax in Oregon. I’m from California and am used to a high sales tax. I’m not sure how CA spends their sales tax revenue. But I do believe that OR can benefit with one in place. Especially if some of those tax dollars are set aside for educational reforms. A structured sales tax enforces that people are contributing to a pot for community needs. I’m not aware of the reasons why OR have continuously refused to include a sales tax. Can anyone enlighten me? In class you mentioned that Oregonians want to be independent and pay for their dues themselves. But how does this guarantee that people really are putting money into the pot for such needs?

  6. Olivia,

    It sounds like you believe the government should be tasked with providing solutions to the laws they have set forth. I wonder what that solution might look like. Would it be providing more resources? What would those resources be? Just financial support or human resources or tangible resources like textbooks and other school equipment?

    • All of the above! I think most things tie in to funding. Schools need more money to hire more teachers and aids, who can support children in the classroom. One teacher for 30 students is not an adequate learning environment, especially in an elementary school. Schools also need up-to-date textbooks. A student from a poor school that only has a 20 year old classroom set of the textbook is not going to be able to learn as much as a student from a wealthy school with a brand new textbook that they get to take home every night.

  7. If students need extra support at school, IEP plans would help put them on the right path, provide tools to help them improve. I have seen it help many students who may otherwise fall through the cracks. Sometimes, a class in Study Skills or extra time on tests, a quiet room for tests would help students who have learning issues or special needs.There are resources that need to be tapped into by the concerned and dedicated parent. The teacher can recommend these placements, as well. Additional testing is available to all students under federal law. My brother-in-law is a special education teacher and comments that sometimes parents do not follow through on the needs of their children.

  8. Olivia, I think you bring up a really interesting question when you ask whether its the governments fault or the schools fault as to why schools are continuously failing to meet set proficiency goals. I wonder though– could it be a combination of both? Indeed, the government has greatly failed in providing adequate support for students and teachers. However, some of the fault visibly lies in the hands of the school systems. As Alisha points out in her blog post, a good deal of alternative schools have not been held accountable for their failure to give students the opportunity to succeed. This is a fault connected to the schools themselves. Maybe then, the failure of both branches of power– government and school based– are working together to lessen the opportunity for student achievement. Do you agree? Do you think the two work together or do you think they should be held separate?


  9. Hi Olivia,
    You and I had some of the same thoughts on NCLB. When I read this chapter I kept thinking, how is it that no one in congress understood that all children also meant children with intellectual disabilities and children who need other accommodations as well? This means that no one actually understood the bill before passing it or that it was passed with the intention of failing a whole lot of children and public schools. For this reason, I believe the government should be held accountable. The bill should have never passed in the first place.

    • I’m not going to argue that the bill should never have passed, but I will say that I don’t believe it was ever feasible. The bill has some good intentions, but that’s all they are. Without the right funding and support within the schools, there’s no way for schools to reach the goals they’ve set forth. I think one of the main problems was the stipulation that schools be 100% proficient. This is crazy! I think the bill would need to be reworked to make for more manageable and attainable goals in order for it to be counted a success. The government needs to realize that with what they’ve got, there’s no way for schools to become 100% proficient by the end of the year.

      • You make good points and I have to agree with you. I don’t see how schools could be 100% proficient when there is little funding by the government. As you mentioned students should be given new text book. It is also hard to get help when there is only one teacher in the class room teaching 30 or more student. I think there should be a teacher helper for every huge class size. But overall I think the schools should be funded a lot more if they are want every school to become 100% proficient.

  10. Olivia, before reading this chapter I felt the same as you. I didn’t really fully understand the situation and problems that are being associated with the NCLB. I think that the original thought of what the NCLB was suppose to accomplish was a a great dream, but now that we are close to the year of where we are suppose to have so much accomplish it seems like the NCLB is nothing more than a dream. In my opinion it isn’t as simple as just blaming the government or the schools for this failure but instead both are responsible for the downfall of the system. I feel as if the government had set a great plan but hadn’t fully thought it out as to how difficult it would be fore the children to follow through with the plan. Ravitch stated that students were offered to go to alternative schools, but declined it; students were offered tutoring but 80percent declined it (pg.101), it is difficult to make the student go towards these offers. This is where I believe the school didn’t do their part. For the government I feel as if there needed to be a more thought out plan and more support given towards the schools, especially when this first went into effect they should have focused on the schools already failing and provided financial help. The government had also been proposing tasks that they didn’t fully understand and showed no success or progress. There are just many reasons as to why NCLB isn’t working at the moment, it slowly needs to be adjusted and a more reasonable timeline or maybe no timeline should be given as to when we can have a proficient amount of students passing.

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