NCLB hurdles too high for many schools

It’s been almost a month since I’ve overloaded you with data. Good thing, because California’s No Child Left Behind and state Academic Performance Index results came out today.

This was a tough year for schools across the state, simply because the federal test score standard rose again. For an elementary school to clear the NCLB hurdle, 35.2 percent of its students — on average, as well as in various racial and academic “subgroups — needed to have tested at “proficient” or better in English (up from 24.4 percent last year). And 33.4 percent had to do so in math (up from 22.3 percent last year). It’s a similar situation for upper-grade schools.

I’m confident that you’re all proficient in math yourselves, but just to make it easy: That’s an 11 percentage point hike.

So, while Oakland’s test scores did rise this year, only about 37 percent of its schools met No Child’s challenge — down from 43 percent that passed the test last year.

Also this year, 12 Oakland schools hit the Program Improvement list after falling short of NCLB goals for two years in a row: Alliance Academy (Elmhurst); Fred T. Korematsu Academy (Stonehurst); Coliseum College Prep (Havenscourt); Dolores Huerta Learning Academy (charter); Edna Brewer Middle School; Elmhurst Community College Prep; Hillside Academy; Lakeview Elementary School; Peralta Creek Middle School (Calvin Simmons); Oakland Aviation High (charter); United for Success Academy (Calvin Simmons); ROOTS International (Havenscourt).

No Oakland schools freed themselves from PI status, which requires two straight years of hitting those federal benchmarks.

Here is a spreadsheet I made with the latest API scores (on a scale of 200 to 1,000, with 800 being the goal); and whether schools met the state and/or the federal benchmarks this year.

You can access the California Department of Education’s latest test score reports here.

image from James Maclennan’s site at flickr.com/creativecommons

Katy Murphy

Education reporter for the Oakland Tribune. Contact me at kmurphy@bayareanewsgroup.com.

  • Nextset

    Study the spreadsheet… The trouble with school performance hits with puberty and gets worse as the students head for age 18. This is so even when a whole lot of the loser kids drop out as they get older. What we are seeing is cognitive impairment as the students pass puberty. The schools can work on this more effectively.

    My position on all of this that among other things OUSD fails to have a program that meets the needs of the prole kids – thus the high number of drop outs and the awful performance of many of those who remain. The low functioning students, and OUSD has a lot of them – require programs that are less academic and more vocational, along with a clean and safe disciplined environment. A good school cafeteria would help also – with programs that go to 5pm or later.

    I believe we could get the basic reading and math performance up under these conditions. I would not offer much advanced algebra classes – outsource those.. The focus of such schools would be to place every student in a trade, occupation, military, jr college or other such program at the end of 12th grade. There would be no pretense of meeting 4 year college entrance requirements but only to meet HS graduation exit exam requirements.

    Put the academic students in few High Schools, one large and a couple of small ones. Everybody else in Defined Voc Ed campuses. Disruptive students in their own dead end campuses.

    All the numbers would improve.

  • Teri Gruenwald

    The problem with NCLB is that it is incredibly inflexible. Look at Edna Brewer, as an example. The school made double digit gains across the board, is close to 800 on the API, and yet, it did not make AYP because of two things: not enough kids with disabilities came to school to take the test (you have to have a 95% test-taking attendance) and the English Language Learners did not meet the AYP goals in Language Arts. (Incidentally, African American students did in AYP, but in API, they didn’t, but students with disabilites and English Language Learners did. Go figure.)

    Anyway, if I gave a test to my students, and told them the whole class would fail if two students failed, would anyone think that is fair? Or alternatively, if I gave a test of 100 questions, and I told them that unless they got all 100 questions correct, they would fail, even if they missed only 1 or 2, would that be fair? Yet, that is essentially how our schools are judged. And it’s the Title 1 schools that are punished. A non-Title 1 school might not meet it’s AYP, yet, it won’t go into Program Improvement. This is why we desperately need a a Democratic administration in Washington. Then we will have a fighting chance to get a more sensible approach to crafting a solid educational plan that will actually help students, educators, parents, schools, and school districts.

  • http://friendsofdave.org Dave Johnston


    I’d agree with you about NCLB if schools were getting close, but just missing by a student or two. But we’re not talking about just 1 or 2 questions or just a couple of students. At Edna Brewer, out of each class of 30 kids, only 13 passed the test. The other 17 didn’t. This test is designed to measure whether students have the knowledge and skills that our state has determined they should know for their grade-level.

    While the minimum grade-level proficiency percentages are rising quickly this late in NCLB’s implementation, we have to remember that these percentages were determined by the California State Board of Education. They’re the ones who decided that the first 6 year goals should be low and grow every three years but jump 11 percentage points a year at the end. Of course they had hoped that NCLB would be gone before they reached those latter years.

    NCLB certainly isn’t perfect. I’d favor a system that did honestly look at student progress each year. California’s Academic Performance Index (API) isn’t that system. The API hides real accountability in a system that the California Department of Education gets to adjust every year. You’re not even supposed to measure API scores from year to year because of these adjustments. At least NCLB has us talking about achievement gaps and appropriate interventions.

    Having 100% of students at grade-level may seem an unreachable goal, but what goal would you substitute. Is it OK for 60% of our students to be below grade-level? I don’t think so. Who is going to tell parents that their child isn’t capable of reaching grade-level or that they shouldn’t expect it of their child. Every parent expects their child at grade-level and expects their school to get them there.

  • Nextset

    Dave Johnston: Yes, some of our students are incapable of performing at “grade level”. And I would have no problem at all calling in the parent and telling them so. “Your kid is dull.” The next step is to find occupations that fit the childs abilities – steer the kid there – and encourage the student to go for more in life once they have mastered something that will keep them off welfare and out of prison.

    But I wouldn’t turn the dull students out in the world with absolutely nothing the way the schools do now.

    Dull witted people are a fact of nature. Some of them didn’t get enough nutrients pre and post natal. Some were dropped on their heads. Some just were dealt a different mix of genetics by nature – including dangerous personality disorders. Our public schools has to do the best they reasonably can for all these people. Refusing to provide services and ignoring the needs isn’t the way.

    So yes, I’d detect and report cognitively & behavior impaired children early and make sure everybody knew their options in life. And I wouldn’t just flog them to the point of rage or depression to get the school API up a point. Everybody is good at something – we can find out what that something is and work that.

  • Sharon

    Nextset: I appreciate the fact that you are reality based and intimately know the deeper challenges that these students present. Dave Johnston does not.

    If I am not mistaken, he is an observer from Ukiah who is interested in education issues, maintains a blog (Friends of Dave), and is also the Director of Data Management & Programming for an organization (Just for the Kids – California) which is sponsored by the National Center for Educational Achievement (NCEA). This organization was started in Texas in the 1990’s and has played a part in the current national fixation on student achievement data. Of course they are big supporters of NCLB.

  • Nextset

    Sharon: Save us from White Liberals…

    Sometimes I wonder where the people such as you described think they are taking our cities with their destruction of the public schools. The prole kids finish school with no skills and no prospects in a systems that should be giving them both. Our urban schools don’t even pretend to teach conversational english or civics or any kind of deportment – the students honestly don’t know how they need to look and behave in society and why.

    The parent(s) have to work or whatever – we no more need to say that the families have to teach these kids life skills than we say the families have to teach sex ed. It’s not going to happen – at least with the underclass – and no one of good will can abet the lack of meaningful education in OUSD and public schools in general.

    I know we have a cohort of students, some of which blog here – who are taking UC entrance requirements and are college bound. They are the exception in OUSD. This district is about life skills for the proletariat, many of which dissapear without “graduating”. If the achools would concentrate on verbal skills with related discipline and deportment, adding math skills, I think the API would do better than it is currently. But keeping the prole kids interested post-puberty requires less algebra and more Voc Ed (which can include algebra as job related).

    OUSD could start a school for hotel maids and get better numbers than this. The maids have to calculate cleaning supplies, etc.

    Speaking of which – I’m noticing that with the crashing economy the Jr Colleges seem to be filled to capacity and I’m seeing 18-19 year olds on the street in private (ads on TV) Voc School jumpsuits. I’m amused that we can’t get the prole children in the public schools to stop flaunting their butt cracks and tramp stamps but the minute they start Voc School – or Heald College – they dress to the nines in subdued uniform dress. I suppose the fact that they don’t get past the front door out of uniform (at Heald it’s business attire you can buy at Ross for Less) may have something to do with it. Too bad for the kids who don’t have the money or the nerve to go to private Voc Schools. But those schools do take prole kids and they do give them a start on the ladder of a career.

    I wish the public high schools could do for their kids what the private Voc Schools do at $1000/mo tuition for theirs. Teach them how to dress and speak… and then the academic program. We could have done this in all out public high schools.

    Yes the API numbers will go up if the kids are groomed better.

  • Sue

    “OUSD could start a school for hotel maids and get better numbers than this. The maids have to calculate cleaning supplies, etc.”

    Um, Nextset, no. I worked as a motel maid (among other low-status jobs) between my first, failed attempt at college, and my successful second try. I never had to calculate anything. The manager of the motel checked, and bought all the supplies. There’s always a concern that the employees will steal extras if they’re doing the calculations.

    The only calculations I remember that I ever did (and no other maid that I worked with ever tried anything like it) was how much I made cleaning 8 rooms, or 12, if it took me 20 minutes per room, or if it took me 30 minutes per room.

    And even though the other maids could finish their assigned rooms faster, it always took me 30 minutes – but my coworkers never ratted me out, either. They stayed and helped me with the last couple of rooms, and we all got bigger paychecks for working more hours.

  • Sharon

    Here’s a recent article that supports some of what Nextset is saying: “College Is Not A Must: Mandated college-prep classes inhibit high-schoolers’ futures”, Walt Gardner, The Christian Science Monitor, September 3, 2008, http://www.csmonitor.com/2008/0903/p09s02-coop.html.

    The author explains why, “Despite what the public is willing to acknowledge, the importance of a bachelor’s degree has been wildly oversold.”

    He also recognizes that, “The total damage inflicted on students by the college-is-for-everyone mentality is incalculable. Students who cannot measure up to the demands for a college curriculum are made to feel like failures.”

    We would be wise to press our school district to do more to direct its students towards positive life options other than college. The unrealistic expectations of NCLB — along with neglecting the things that so many young people really need — are damaging Oakland’s kids. It’s time for a new direction.

  • Jon Simon

    The kids feel like failures much earlier than college prep classes. Try kindergarten. NCLB and the accompanying push of reading to younger and younger kids has ruined school for countless children who just aren’t ready. They burn out, tune out, and eventually drop out. I’ve seen plenty of first graders who walk in on the first day of class already HATING school.

  • http://friendsofdave.org Dave Johnston

    Yes Sharon, you have correctly identified me. You don’t have to trying to connect me to NCEA to figure out that in general, I’m a supporter of NCLB. I believe my comments above did a pretty good job of that.

    Are you and Nextset suggesting that the nearly 60% of students statewide who are below grade-level are all “dull”, “cognitively & behavior impaired” or is possible there are things that can be done in the classroom to help bring a higher percentage of these somewhat dull students to grade-level. Nextset would be pretty busy running around the state telling 3.6M sets of parents that their kids are too “dull” to learn and that they should consider studying to be a motel maid.

    I’m not a drinker of the NCLB kool-aid. We will never, ever reach 100% grade-level proficiency if for no other reason than we have students with disabilities, new immigrants and others who need remediation to reach grade-level.

    If we had a real “value added” accountability system where the progress of each individual student towards grade-level could be measured each year. That sort of system could give the API-lovers part of what they want, credit for progress and yet could give the NCLB-lovers what they want, an accountability system that doesn’t hide the problems.

    My point was that through my day job, I’ve seen schools across the state, even in Oakland that are getting higher percentages of poor and minority students to grade-level that most schools. In Oakland, schools like American Indian Public Charter, Monarch Academy, Oakland Charter Academy, Sequoia Elementary and Think College Now are getting raising student achievement and closing achievement gaps. If these schools are doing it, doesn’t that mean it is possible? Shouldn’t other schools to visiting these schools to find out how they’re doing it?

    As Nextset suggested, just because kids are “dull” doesn’t mean we get to stop trying to teach them the basic skills they’ll need for life. The ability to read, write and calculate are skills that everyone, even motel maids, need in life.

    Instead of arguing over NCLB vs. API, let’s focus on that nearly 60% of kids that aren’t mastering the content for their grade-level. Actually at some schools that percentage is closer to 80%. Let’s give them the remediation they need to get back to grade-level. Let’s adjust teaching practices in classrooms to match what high-performing, high-poverty schools are doing rather than just deciding that these “dull” students can’t learn. We don’t reach 100% of students at grade-level any time soon, but we’ll certainly be doing a better job for the students in our classrooms.

  • Tony

    Man , cmon. I know for a fact that one of these schools (DHLA Charter) is failing because of the people running the school.

    Dual language Immersion? For Spansih speaking immigrant kids? Poor kids are doomed!

    Now Aviation was supposed to be this school supported by groups such as the Charter Schools Assn. and other charter schools, that was supposed to be an innovative success. Success for who? The idealists? Definitley not for the kids!

    Lets blame NCLB for holding the adults accountable. Sound like Oakland!

  • Jon Simon

    Let’s focus on 100% of the kids. Focusing on the bottom 60% screws the upper 40%. I prefer equal opportunity for all since it’s much more fair. Every kid deserves a chance, but there’s no use throwing extra money after bad money when there are others in need who give a much greater return on investment. My god, we’ve got GATE programs disappearing or consisting of next to nothing while we’re hyperfocused on educating kids who have no interest in being educated.

  • Nextset

    Dave Johnston: You underestimate what “dull” kids – and people – are capable of. The Motel Maid thing is an extreme useful for illustration. I want those who now are consigned by OUSD to be drug addicts and prison inmates to have motel maiding available to them as a floor. We can’t even do that for them under this regime.

    Have you seen the CA prison guards? They are making $100k a year with overtime – and I assure you, they aren not algebra 2 material. The difference between these people who have homes and families and pay taxes and the wreckage of the public school education factory is discipline, not raw cognitive ability.

    We teach indiscipline in our urban schools. We especially teach it to the blacks. That education of indiscipline is why the black population is largely consigned to premature death and institutionalization.

    We teach indiscipline in english class, civics class, social studies, science class – every aspect of OUSD and the other urban schools reinforces indiscipline while nominally trying to teach academics. It’s ironic to me that what little discipline we offer blacks and minorities in urban schools might be on the football team – and that can use some work also.

    Don’ think I’m writing off a bunch of the student population as too stupid to make something out of. Quite the contrary. By saving them from the white liberal disaster of an “academic” program – such as this hopeless new algebra requirement – and working their strenghts, we can take the bottom half of public school students and make something of them from motel maids to prison guards to $100k technicians on heavy equipment, to crane operators to bus drivers to whatever their burnished native skills can lead them to – which is not what happens currently.

    This is why I push voc ed and iron fisted discipline in the schools for the proletariat. At least until age 18 and we throw them to the economy on their own. We can get more for the bottom half of our schoolkids. But not by continuation of NCLB in it’s present form.

  • Sharon

    I agree that a system which looks at the yearly progress of each student makes much more sense than the current system and I’ve read that we might eventually go in that direction. I also agree that schools could probably do some things better. In fact, the local $27,000/year private college prep school could probably do some things better, as could my governor, my nation, my grocery store, my health plan, and myself. I believe that most people, and organizations, are aware that they could do better and are constantly trying to improve themselves. For most it is an eternal project.

    The problem with dwelling on data from afar is that one can only see that small part of the entire picture. If you lived less than a mile from the American Indian Public Charter School, as I do, and had been paying attention to it over the years, as I have, you would understand that the school’s success has come about because it adopted a policy to attract and actively collect a set of students who are in a subgroup of low income families — the crabs who have become intent on escaping the barrel.

    The parents of the students are exceptionally wired. Even though they are poor, they are highly fixated on their children’s academic success and have been for years. They have programmed their kids to be compliant with the Mission of School, in general, and they support the techniques and mission of that school, in particular. AIPCS is very rigid and does not tolerate anything less.

    If AIPCS and other charter schools of its ilk weren’t so highly selective in this way, their test scores would be much lower. Dealing with a select group of students permits them to handle things a certain way. The school’s “success” wouldn’t be replicated if it was filled with students with parents who weren’t strongly supportive of the school, but they don’t have to worry because those parents don’t apply. This explains why these schools aren’t really the perfect models that they might claim themselves to be.

    As far as practices at other schools go, I know that early indoctrination of parents about the importance of school involvement is being done at some schools (I read that TCN has parent contracts) and I think this is great. Some parents just don’t know how to do certain things, or even that they should, and they need to be told. The problem is that OUSD has many, many parents who are so compromised by their own circumstances that they would be incapable of doing what the school expected them to do. Some would even be resentful and resistant.

  • Jon Simon

    If someone can come up with a way to motivate parents to care for their kids’ education, then we’ll see a real closing of the achievement gap. In the meantime, we need to distribute effort fairly and efficiently. Focusing on the bottom dooms America to mediocrity, just as focus on the top dooms the bottom.

  • Nextset

    Jon Simon: We’re not going to close the achievement gap. We can’t change what people are. People are not equal, they are different. They are equal only before the law and nowhere else.

    Having said that it is not the job of the public schools to condition the progress on the students to the parent’s participation. It’s nice if the parents are able to support the child’s academic career but that is optional. Our public schools need to operate regardless of parental support and produce students ready for work, the military or for higher education.

    And yes, some students have better families and will do better in life, because some are better people than most. Lucky them. K-12 Public schooling is not here to polish up the professional class and their kids, public schooling is to provide a floor, a lowest common denominator below which all the students can’t fall.

    We’re not spending all this money per year per kid to have the schools say that the parent’s didn’t help with the homework so Johnny is going to San Quentin on his 3rd strike or Susie is a Crack addick with AIDS and 3 kids.

    NCLB should be changed to put emphasis on language, deportment and skill aquisition – and having a clear path set for the students from puberty on – as in the other industrialized nations such as the UK. NCLB should break up these aimless high schools where kids are held like cattle in holding pens for sale. Kids from broken homes and worthless parents should be assured of coming out of our public schools ready and able for more in life than they have at home. And that process will not be a comfortable one for them. Our schools keep everybody in their comfort zones now, doing what they want, wearing the clothes they want and saying whatever they want. That must end.

  • Jon Simon

    Taking a kid with unhelpful parents and having a high chance of turning them into a hard-working, productive citizen takes a heck of a lot more money than we’re spending right now. You’d have to hire a substitute parent. I’m talking at least an hour a day of one-on-one or two-on-one time with a trained adult, working on homework, reading together, and learning life skills, with more time for less intelligent kids. That’s several thousand per student just to cover 180 days. That’s what it would take.

    Where did you get this NCLB perspective, that schools should provide a floor? Shouldn’t we expect something of parents?

  • Isabel Rodriguez-Vega

    Speaking as a student of the OUSD, who has experienced firsthand the state testing every year and the consequences of NCLB, I have to say its a horrible program.

    These tests do not adequately determine the capabilities of students, or whether or not they are at “grade level standards.”

    Last year I took the state tests, and only two out of the four different tests I had to take were actually classes I was enrolled in. I had to take an Algebra II test, a class I took freshman year, and an Earth Science test (I was taking Environmental Science at the time). When I got my scores a few days ago, guess which tests I did the worst in? Algebra II and Earth Science. I actually scored Far Below Basic in Algebra II. So I find it ridiculous for NCLB to expect us to do well when they can’t even provide the correct tests. Then the school gets less funding because of this??

    I am one of those rare “college bound” students in OUSD, I blog for this site, and I am now supposedly “far below basic” grade level standards.

    How can you say this program is working??

  • Nextset

    Joe Simon: No. Parent support is nice but optional. The Urban schools should be expected to deal with the students as if they were orphans. Students should not be “left behind” because Mommie is a crack whore and Daddy is a Player (or vice versa). I’m not saying all the kids should be handled the same in the same room because they are not the same. I am saying that the large urban school districts should have campuses – or programs – to get the best results possible from each block of students.

    And I believe that on some campuses where the needs are greater the programs should run to 5pm or later and include cafeteria meals. And when the needs are greater there should be an emphasis on placing the students elsewhere at 18 – such as the military – so that children with nothing are sent on where they will have a place in the world.

    Friends of mine took in a foster child at 12 who was from druggie parents – he was failing school big time. They got him graduated from public school in 6 years and into the Navy at his 18th birthday. He stayed in the service 10 years, left, and is a Medical Technician now, married and self sufficient since 18. No Drama, just work and a lot of foreign travel. It was touch and go in High School. Tutors, remedial work. The foster parents organized everything and introduced him to the recruiter. He would have been just as dead as his parent from substance abuse by now if not for this.

    The schools can put this kind of thought in the students future and turn thought to action in their programs. Not everyone with problems at home has good foster parents. The schools should be a floor that holds students above ruination. A good number of urban kids don’t have parents, they stay with Grandma and a host of different places – and one overwhelmed parent.

  • Jon Simon

    That kid had exactly what I said, lots of one-on-one attention. That’s what it takes to rescue kids from bad situations and that costs a lot more money than we currently put in to our schools. If prop 13 were revised to bring up all property taxes to equal property values, we’d have enough money.

    Which blog is yours? The schools don’t exactly lose money after low scores. They face punishments though, eventually including teacher firing and school takeovers by the state. And yes, you’re right, it isn’t working at all.

  • Katy Murphy

    Jon Simon: If you scroll down the main page of The Education Report, you’ll see a list of blog categories along the right margin. You should be able to find all of Isabel’s posts by clicking on the category with her name on it.

    Same goes for the other student-bloggers: Jesse Dutton-Kenny, Diamond Broussard and Bryant Phan.

  • Cranky Teacher

    Nextset, as Jon pointed out, you just described EXACTLY how an at-risk youth can be expected succeed: Through intensive parental support.

    I really do believe you dream of a quasi-totalitarian “utopia” where children from sub-rosa homes are made wards of Tough Love state. Consider this: Almost every public school ALREADY HAS the after-school programs you are talking about, and they are free or nearly so for low-income families. At our school, while 75% of the students NEED to avail themselves of the daily tutoring offered FREE after school, only about a tenth or a twentieth of them do. Should we make them? We’ve already made school mandatory. Maybe they should have to sleep on campus? And yet, all this would cost phenomenal amounts of money and a cosmic shift in our approach to individual rights.

    Last night I was at Walgreen’s on a Sunday night at 11:30, getting my dad some meds. I was thinking, crap, I’ve gotta get to bed because I’ve got to teach in the morning. Then I look around and see five grammar-school-age kids hanging out with mom and grandma in the lotions aisle. Why aren’t these kids in bed? Could these be the kinds of kids who fall asleep on their desk before the first bell even rings?

    Frankly, everybody pisses me off, you and the “progressive” educators and the charter and anti-union nuts and NCLB and everybody else, because you have these SIMPLE answers to these incredibly COMPLEX issues.


    My own belief is it will never be fixed until we agree as a culture/nation on what its purpose is and that we care enough to do it right.

  • Cranky Teacher

    Nobody asked, but here would be some STARTING points if you want urban and rural education to be anything more than grim triage:

    — Double the state fund for education so that our per capita expenditures catch up to New York and New Jersey.

    — Raise salaries by 50%, at least for teachers in their first 10 years, to staunch the DEVASTATING turnover rate. Raise them more in counties with high cost of living.

    — Every five years, offer a BUYOUT (package of cash, pension benefits, health care, etc.) to older teachers who aren’t feeling it anymore but are just hanging on out of fear and poverty.

    — Throw out the state standards and make new ones that are SKILLS- and THINKING-based rather than the gross memorization and “kitchen sink” monstrosities we have now. Go read the high school history or science standards if you don’t believe me — they’re online.

    — Create a functioning management model for schools. Currently, weak overworked department chairs serve as the link between teachers and a clutch of overworked administrators. This is nonsensical, breeding inefficiency, poor communication and resentment. “Middle management” is a dirty word, but it was created for a reason.

    — PAY teachers to work a month in the summer, building curriculum and getting professional development.

    — Shorten the school day and lengthen the year so that undernourished and underrested students don’t get run into the ground and teachers can plan, colloborate and assess student work.

    — Double the pay and end tenure in the state-run credential schools and internship programs so teachers are taught by great teachers, not the profession’s rejects or burnouts.

    — Provide working technology and plants to ALL students. Security is part of this. We are not talking about insane cutting edge stuff: Projectors and screens, basic computers, working water fountains, clean bathrooms, etc.

    — Dramatically reorient schools to a bottom-up model where teachers are given both more responsibility while being held more accountable. Currently the model is closer to communism: “You pretend to pay us and we pretend to do what you say.”

    — Get rid of NCLB unless the Feds are going to PAY to make it work. It is basically just a giant unfunded mandate.

    All this, and more, would only be a START. And almost all of it costs MONEY. Aircraft-carrier kind of money. Nuclear submarine kind of money. Medicare kind of money. Nobody wants to pay that — many of them are already irritated they have to pay for other people’s children to learn. Hell, half the state budget is already education and we are short on that bill.

    So, yeah, I’m not so optimistic.

  • Sharon

    Thank you Cranky Teacher. A lot of what you are saying makes sense.

    For years this deprived urban public school world has reminded me of a hospice: a sense of hopelessness, the acceptance of a terminal future, and the intentional withholding of interventions. At least in hospitals, the neediest are placed in Intensive Care, where lavish resources are spent and their care becomes the top priority of the whole system.

  • Catherine

    Mr. Johnston:

    I know that one-third of the children at my daughter’s school are dull. I know this because I have been in the classroom. I have watched teachers dumb down lessons to try to close the achievement GAP. I have witnessed our school’s parents paying for one-on-one tutors and have watched these children barely get a glimpse of grade level work only to have the summer come and the grade level work slips from their sights.

    These children do not have access to books, meaningful conversation, strong parenting, or the ability to control their impulses. The walk around the school wearing “Juicy” on their bottoms or “Sean John” across their chests and don’t want to get their clothes dirty when digging in the dirt for their science projects.

    The same children do not know how to use words to solve conflicts and continually speak of “disrespect” when someone (either another child or an adult) corrects their misinformation or their incoherent language.

    It’s extremely frustrating. What is even more frustrating is that although we do not fund for NCLB adequately, we do not fund ANYTHING for Gifted Children. Nothing, nada – hell, the teachers at our school have specifically told parents they do not want children learning material in advance of their grade because it makes it harder on the teacher the following year.

    So, I used to believe that all or nearly all children were capable of learning grade level material. After grade 4, I see that no matter how much one-on-one tutoring, small class sizes, hands on learning, reinforcement from the teachers, aides, principals, parents and community, there is going to be about one third of the students that will NEVER achieve grade level.

    Our school spends about $100,000 per year of parents money to cater to the one-third of the students for whom I am addressing – our results 20 points on the tests – making these children achieving somewhere in the neighborhood of 675 on standardized tests – while the other two-thirds, with less time, money, energy, focus and attention are averaging over 900.

    It’s a shame, but it’s a fact.

  • Nextset

    Joe Simon: We are spending too much money on education as it is. There is no reason to raise taxes to spend any more.

    Cranky: We teach more in Boot Camp than in the urban public schools and it costs less. And you’re right about one thing, I have no problem with running secondary schools as totalitarian states. Complete with hands on corporal punishment. But I do believe in strong unions.

    My “answers” may sound simple… They’re really not so simple. It takes a lot to run a school full of adolescents. That is never simple. What is simple is sorting them, separating them, tracking them, and not wasting time on those students who belong in prison camps or mental hospitals – send them to prison camps and mental hospitals not schools if that is where they place on the triage.

    When it’s sink or swim time, people take lessons very well.

  • Katherine Cox

    I am both a parent and a teacher and it is true that some children should be steered into vocations. It is ridiculous to be testing them in Algebra I. Almost nobody except those that go in to the sciences or higher math will need it. Why not make them take a test to see if they know how their government is elected instead? Teach them how to dress and talk in an interview. There are quite a few children in the Oakland schools who are lacking the desire to learn and get an education, and there are those who are just not bright enough to ever get to college. At 15, send those that aren’t college material to vocational schools. Why can’t Oakland have a school like Lowell, where kids have to apply to get in? Oh yeah I forgot, that is considered racist. Then the bright, wealthier kids wouldn’t all be going to private schools when they get to high school. In the Oakland Hills, the majority of kids aren’t at Skyline; they are at O’Dowd and St. Mary’s or Holy Names. What is wrong with being a plumber? They make more than teachers.
    Teachers in most schools are told they can’t control their class because they want to send the kid who calls them a 12-letter word to the office. Calling home doesn’t work because the kid’s parent calls them the same name. I have worked in schools where the security guards refuse to take the student to the office because they think the teacher is picking on him – meanwhile that kid has just thrown a book at him. The reason the American Indian Charter school has such high scores is because they don’t put up with any crap from the students or the parents. The schools shouldn’t be doing the parents’ job. What about sending the really unruly ones to an Outward Bound kind of camp, a really big one, where the kids do all the work such as cooking so it doesn’t cost too much. Or if a child doesn’t graduate, mandatory military service would be a good idea.

  • Jon Simon


    It’s Jon, not Joe.

    Stalin would be proud of your ideals. I’m curious about your educational and professional background. I’m unclear how someone would think your ideas acceptable.

  • Nextset

    Jon Simon:

    You first. I suppose you are an Educrat.

    As far as Stalinism, choice doesn’t exactly go along with that. The true Stalinists nowadays are the left wing of the Democratic Party who want to use government power to remove choice from everything regardless of the Bill of Rights. And I think the San Francisco’s “democratic” machine rivals anything Stalin’s party ever ran – ask Carol Ruth Silver and other such politicians what happens when you buck the machine.

    The hallmark of the “enlightened” on the left is the suppression of public discourse because of their reaction to heresy. They can’t take it. Just like Stalin.

    You used the term “ideals” – did you mean Ideas? Nothing new about any idea I have. Invisible hand, severe limits on federal power, limited welfare, free markets free ideas, states rights, that kind of thing. Pretty old actually. As far as the schools go, Children are not little adults, period. Schools exist to get results not to be holding pens. Simple, really.

    My ideas will never be acceptable to the extreme left. They wouldn’t survive very long in such a society. To exist the extreme left requires government power to fund bread and circus and suppress speech and inquiry. Remember this when you read of leftist officials refusing access to government records. I could make similar observations about the extreme right except that CA doesn’t currently feature them in power.

    A right wing dictatorship will come to power when the left finishes running things into the ground. That seems to be the lesson of history. Not that there is so much difference between the two at the extremes.

    School policy is vital in all of this because it’s the public schools that produce the electorate. Both extremes need a dumb and compliant electorate to go to town. Thus all the tampering with schools policy, I suppose.

    Brave New World!

  • cranky teacher

    So, Nextset: You are saying we are currently living in a Leftist Nation or even Leftist Dictatorship? Huh. Interesting claim. What’s your warrant?

  • Nextset

    Let’s see, this thread is on NCLB. Not the place for dialog on how I see the nation. I can say that NCLB is typical of Federal encroachment into areas that are none of it’s business at the expense of State Authority.

    As far as CA politics, I don’t believe the poll numbers from machine cities like SF are accurate and they’ll be less so if we go to electronic balloting which doesn’t use cards that can be read by the naked eye. Do I believe local machines would steal elections and falsify balloting, in a heartbeat. And it’s likely already going on in some cities.

    An educated electorate provides some protection from this – thus the dumbing down of the schools.

    NCLB is interesting because it does so many things other than improve any schools. Where it all ends remains to be seen. There will be major unexpected consequences – at least unexpected by some people.

  • http://www.myschool.org/oaklandcharters Denis

    One set of schools that are getting outstanding results on state standardized tests in Oakland are the public charter schools. In the past two years, Oakland charter schools outperformed traditional public schools at all grade levels (median API Growth score). Oakland’s charter middle schools are particularly impressive, outscoring Oakland’s traditional middle schools by more than 125 points on 2007 state tests (API). For more information on Oakland’s charter schools, visit http://www.myschool.org/oaklandcharters