A New War on Poverty

On March 16, 1964 in a special address to Congress, Pres. Lyndon Johnson said: “Because it is right, because it is wise and because for the first time in our history, it is possible to conquer poverty, I submit, for the consideration of Congress and the country, the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964.” Let me submit to the readers of San Jose Inside that the only means for us to eliminate poverty is to build a first class public education system for all America’s children.

It will not pay dividends for America to be first in military might and near the bottom of the list of first tier countries on education. Not to mention in California we are allowing our UC and CSU systems of higher education, the best in the world, to crumble.

Pres. Johnson had it 100 percent correct in 1964 to place emphasis on Head Start preschool education, and to introduce the Elementary and Secondary Education Act in 1965 as part of his War on Poverty. The ESEA was the most extensive education bill ever enacted. Within its core was the Title 1 provision that supplemented state and local funding for low-achieving children, especially in high poverty neighborhoods. It is arguable whether or not Title 1 has worked for increasing achievement for underperforming and poor youth. Nearly $14 billion dollars was spent nationally in 2008 on Title 1, Part A.

President George W. Bush signed the Reauthorization of the ESEA in January 2002 and renamed it No Child Left Behind. NCLB has tried to offer more choice to parents, allow local education agencies more flexibility on utilizing federal money, highlight best practices to increase student achievement based on scientific research. Its most important goal was to increase accountability for all schools and districts. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan last week in Washington asserted that President Bush should receive credit for NCLB “exposing achievement gaps and for requiring that we measure our efforts to improve education by looking at outcomes, rather than inputs.”

ESEA/NCLB was to be reauthorized every five years. We are now three years behind schedule on its reauthorization. We can make decisions about fighting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan expeditiously (and some would say imprudently), spending upwards of 2 trillion dollars, yet when it comes to the one of the most important roles of government—to ensure a high quality free and public education for every American child—we are 3 years late.

Education Secretary Duncan has been traveling around to states seeking input from all stakeholders on what the 2010 reauthorization of NCLB should contain in its initial language prior to its introduction to Congress. He has stated that the reauthorization of the ESEA law should minimally contain these provisions:

• Hire effective teachers and principals for underperforming schools.
• Expand learning time for all students by increasing the school year and hours in a school day.
• Pay teachers for performance based on how well their students progress during the year.
• Use data to inform instruction and teacher evaluation.

I think Duncan is on to something with these new provisions. Each one of the new intended outcomes would further our goal of building a first class education system for all children, ending the achievement gap, competing once again successfully with the world on education, and finally eliminating poverty. It is okay to lose the Olympic bid to Rio, but not okay to be last in education.

The current NCLB legislation relies too heavily on fill-in-the-bubble testing for assessing student achievement and teacher efficacy. The new law must provide new tools for assessing music, visual and performing arts, critical thinking skills, and physical education for all American students.

Perhaps after we get a Health Care Bill through Congress and to the President’s desk for signature, Pres. Obama can work on the 2010 State of the Union speech. Perhaps in part it could read, “Because it is right, because it is wise,… I submit, for the consideration of Congress and the country, the Education Opportunity Act of 2010.” If we can fund two wars we most assuredly can provide a world-class education for all children, not just for those lucky enough to be in affluent districts. This is our challenge and we must meet it.

Joseph Di Salvo is a member of the Santa Clara County Office of Education’s Board of Trustees. He is a San Jose native. His columns reflect his personal opinion.

46 Comments

  1. I gots to have free movies, and will not dare to read any book carried in a plastic bag.  I am green all the way, never donate blood, and work hard to avoid studying at all.  I thinks or thanks that grades cause strees and wearing clothing harms the planet and them animals.

    So if I pay more for these classes, so what?

    My parents pay because, well, bicardi shots cost money.  Spartan Squad, yay!!! Don’t vote, well, did vote this time for that Obama girl guy!

    • Can anybody explain why we need so many school districts in SC County, plus Mr. DiSalvo’s county-wide organization?

      Other than providing a jumping off place for budding politicians, it’s just a lost of highly paid administrative overlay/redundancy.

    • The same setup is found in most states. I think it came out of some federal govt. funding policies from 100 years ago or more.

      The idea is that UC is a research-oriented institution that caters to only the top students, and CSU focuses on teaching the rest.

      Unless there were campuses that were only partly full and could be combined, there is not really much redundancy between systems. But CSU is, for the first time, turning away qualified students for lack of teaching resources, so this is clearly not the case.

  2. Joseph,

    Not being politically correct to the point of insanity, I ask you this question: do you believe that foreign born children of illegal immigrants have any bearing on our ability to deliver a quality education?

    • I do believe that the school days do need to increase.  However, if school days increase then teacher’s salaries also need to be increased as well.  You can’t expect someone to work more without being paid more…actually that’s happening now!!

  3. NCLB needs to be updated asap to ensure that ALL students are receiving a high-quality education.  It is essential that students not only be tested through multiple choice test, but through other methods.  As you said, other options could be tools for assessing music, critical thinking, phys ed, and the arts.  Not every student performs well in fill-in-the-bubble tests, which limits student achievement.

  4. Can anybody explain to me why we need so many layers of oversight in our school system? District Board, County Board, State Board, Federal…there’s at least one too many layers of bee watch watchers sucking bucks out of the classroom!

    • I also agree with this statement! To me, I bring in the fact that schools have Principals, assistant Prinicples, and then the assistan to that principle. Not including the assistants to the assistants in the office and then the assistants to the aides in the classrooms. There are jobs that seem to be wasting money when it could be going into activities and a better education. Get one good person and you don’t need 6 assistants to do his or her job.

  5. Education is the MOST important element in creating a successful society. If we do not implement a proper education system, we will be unable to develop and advance in the future. This idea is so fundamental that people seem to ignore it, or take the remarkable power of education for granted. As Americans, regardless of political affiliations, we need to ban together to create a system of education that truly serves the needs of our students now and in the future.  I agree that Duncan’s provisions sound very appealing, though I do worry about how some of the terms (e.g. “effective teachers” and “student progress”) will be measured. Furthermore, I am anxiously awaiting some sort of substantial revision to NCLB. I do now want to wait until we are removed from the wars, or until the Health Care Bill gets passed. It needs to happen now. The negative effects of NCLB are well-documented, yet it continues to pervade our school system. The exclusive use of fill-in-the-bubble tests is not only broadening the achievement gap and re-segregating our society, its emphasis is also making it increasingly challenging for teachers to instill a love of learning in their students, which is a real travesty.

    • Kaela, you took the words right out of my mouth.  I also want to add that with NCLB and the increase focus on fill in the bubble tests, we are also taking focus away from students social and emotional well being.  One of the real focuses should be on making happy, healthy, kind, good citizens.  The knowledge they learn means nothing if they can’t think critically about how to use it.  Kids seem to resent their education more and more.  I only see this through first hand accounts but it just shocks me to see how much these kids don’t like school. 
      I do think that we need to be accountable for student learning, but the way that NCLB is having schools do this is way off track.  As Professor Di Salvo says, “The new law must provide new tools for assessing music, visual and performing arts, critical thinking skills, and physical education for all American students.”  Hopefully this would also place more emphasis on including these aspects in the curriculum.

  6. I have no comment about Bush. All I have to say is that I am glad I did NOT vote for him. I completely agree with your article. The only concern I have is as follows:
    • Pay teachers for performance based on how well their students progress during the year.
    I am concerned about this bullet point because what if you have students with learning disabilities or students who do not speak English? What will the evaluation of progress be for a teacher regarding their students? Would they evaluate the teacher on the students progress of the level that they entered the class with? or will they evaluate the teacher on the level the student should be at?

    • Tiffany,
      As far as I know, teachers would be evaluated on the progress of their students for the period in which they have the students in their class.  It would be crazy to have performance based pay work any other way.  But I have to admit that I’m not quite sure how I feel about the idea of paying teachers based on how well their students perform.  I don’t necessarily believe that it is wrong to assess teachers based on their students’ achievements, but I am not sure there is an accurate way of doing this. One thing I know for sure is that fill in the bubble tests are not the way to go.  It’s obvious that children have their strengths and weaknesses and that each child is very different from the next.  So, is it fair to evaluate a student on an entire year’s worth of work in a series of test?  Particularly if the student generally does poorly on such tests?  I think not.  There is so much more to learning than having the ability to fill in bubbles.  Yet, any other type of testing would be far too expensive, especially in this economy. So, for the moment, I think keeping things the way they are, that is not having performance based pay, is a good idea.

    • I agree with Tiffany regarding her concerns about paying teachers for performance based on how well their students progress during the year. Children can all learn but they all have their own pace. Some students just need more time with particular subjects and unfortunately teachers are not allowed stop lessons just for a couple of student. Di Salvo once stated, “All children can learn but not in the same way or on the same day.”  We need to create classrooms where all learning styles and paces are valued. It is not right to place emphasis on standardized testing as a measure of learning or teacher effectiveness.

      A more effective way to assess progress would be to evaluate each student at the beginning and end of school year through a series of activities and not fill-in-the bubble tests. Then, this would create a collection of activity evaluations over the years that can be carried to the next teacher to help create continuity in a child’s learning. This would be a huge task to implement in schools but it would give each child the sense that they are appreciated no matter what and that it is okay that we all learn in different ways on different days. I am aware that what I am suggesting is extremely time consuming and costly but I believe it is something that should be worked towards.

  7. John and Pat,

    I think we all know that the amount of redundancy and outright waste in our school system will likely never be addressed.  One can certainly understand why an insider like Joseph would, at best, provide only a squishy answer.  My answer is this:  things are the way they are because we permit them to be so.

  8. I agree that NCLB needs to be updated as quickly as possible.  We should stray away from fill in the bubble test and start incorporating other testing measures to test our students.  I also agree with Tiffany about her concerns about this bullet point.
      Pay teachers for performance based on how well their students progress during the year.

    • I agree with Dalia.  We, as a country, are not benefiting from NCLB as planed.  It needs some changes in order to reach its potential.  I definitely am worried as well about the bullet point:
      • Pay teachers for performance based on how well their students progress during the year.
      I do think that teachers should have some sort of performance based pay, however, it should not be on progress of the students.  It is not a fair evaluation since there are all sorts of variables that can affect this outcome.

  9. There are many things that need to be changed regarding our shcool system. Even if minor revisions were made to NCLB, we as educators, can begin making slow progress to a better education for the youth of our country. Many teachers are “teaching to the test” in order for their students/schools to have high test scores; this is not how it should be. Students should not have to worry about taking tests and feel pressure that they need to perform well on them. I think that a slow process to change can happen and will be beneficial to all of us in the education field, most especially our students.

  10. The only good thing that I can see that came out NCLB is that it highlighted the fact there is an achievement gap that mirrors the socio-economic gap among our children.  So, at least we are narrowing in on the problem.  But, the solutions are still yet to be discovered.  How do we close the gap?!  That is a massive, complex problem to solve.  But we must.  I’ll tell you one thing, the answer is not found in scripted curriculum programs that focus on teaching children how to test and exclude social science, art, and science.  At my son’s program improvement school, his teacher said that she does not have time to teach social studies or science.  She said, “I will try to squeeze it in if can.  Sorry.”  When I went in to help in his class, 30 kindergartners were taking a bubble test.  She wasn’t assessing their knowledge; she was teaching them how to take a standardized test.

  11. Not only are we behind in reauthorizing the Education Act instituted in 1965/No Child Left Behind, we are a number of percentage points in the wrong direction in spending of our national budget. At last count military spending was at about 44% of the United States’ spending, with education at 7 %, according to World Military Spending (http://www.globalissues.org/article/75/world-military-spending – UsmilitarybudgetvsotherUSpriorities). It is ironic that this article should be called “A New War on Poverty.” Once we prioritize education rather than colonization as a social goal we can start to evaluate rather than test our students, giving them valuable feedback rather than percentages or letter grades. Evaluation takes time, patience and effort, resources that are in short supply in this day and age of little money and busy busy business.

    I would like to see evidence of a teacher performing well across the board with all of their students in a Title 1 school, where students of economically distressed, preoccupied or non-existent parenting, or English language learners is a factor of performance-based pay. Until I see it with my own eyes I will have a hard time believing that a teacher’s pay should be performance-based on how well their students are doing. I have already seen too many examples of well meaning, caring and experienced teachers being penalized for their low-achieving students’ test scores. It’s not fair.

    I agree that teachers need to meet a certain level of competence, and that standard needs to be met. I remain ignorant of what a teacher needs to do to meet the minimum standard. Enlighten me.

    As in my previous posts to this column, Proposition 13 needs to be overhauled and re-written.  The State won’t touch this. This will contribute to the disparity of poor districts. Oh well, we can continue to maintain the status quo and make a cynic out of me yet, despite my buoyant hopeful outlook.

    How is this (funding/education effectiveness) going to be balanced and affected by an Education Opportunity Act of 2010? I don’t see that such an act or bill will be effective until the military’s budget gets compromised on a parity with the education budget, and assessment methods come out of the dark ages. Help me out here,  “throw me a bone, people” as Mike Meyers would say in his impersonation of Dr. Evil.

  12. Disalvo writes:
    “…when it comes to the one of the most important roles of government—to ensure a high quality free and public education for every American child—we are 3 years late.”

    I agree that every child deserves a high quality education from the public school system but should this promise be withheld from children who aren’t American citizens?

    For a humorous interlude and more on NCLB, the role of education, longer school days, and why people should care about public education from the Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, himself see his recent interview with Stephen Colbert (10/5/09).

    http://www.colbertnation.com/the-colbert-report-videos/251047/october-05-2009/arne-duncan

    Note: To bypass the sidewalk basketball intro, skip the video ahead to about 1 minute, 16 seconds.

  13. I, too, agree there is too much reliance on fill-in-the-bubble testing. It may be efficient, but it is neither a fair nor accurate method of assessing student achievement and teacher efficacy. Having been one who attended SAT prep classes during high school, I found myself learning test-taking skills, rather than test material. What does this mean? It means standardized testing is assessing students’ skills at picking the correct answer and not the content. That is not the purpose of standardized tests.

    But it does not mean fill-in-the-bubble testing is all together bad. I will honestly admit, attending SAT prep classes has drilled into my head the importance of “process of elimination”. It is the key to Multiple Choice Tests. It does not matter if you don’t know the answer, as long as you know what ISN’T the answer, it is likely you can arrive at the correct answer. I think “process of elimination” is an important skill to have, not just in terms of test-taking, but a skill in life. Problem solving.

    So, perhaps, fill-in-the-bubble testing may be good for teaching problem solving skills, but then we need a new standard test which truthfully assess our students and teachers. It is a shame we do not have the resources to assess each student properly, that we run scantrons and let a machine determine how “smart” our students are. “Smart” does not just mean smart academically. It applies to anything really. I think it would be wise to allow students to express their “smartness” in visual and performing arts, critical thinking skills, physical education, and other subjects that can not be assessed through fill-in-the-bubble. We are all smart in our own ways.

    And I also have a concern about paying teachers based on student achievment, particularly achievement assessed through fill-in-the-bubble. I think this may shift teacher’s focus from teaching the content to teaching what will be on tests, not to mention, our education system could possibly lose some quality teachers.

  14. I have been arguing these points for so long now. I have never understood why government can find money to fund wars, but they have to cut back on education because of a budget crisis. Does this make any sense? No. As far as NCLB there are many downfalls to the program, and I am happy that I will hopefully be teaching when there is some sort of reform done to the program. The education gap is not closing, which is the point of the program, which means something is wrong with the program. I wish that congress would take time to educate themselves and create an education bill that makes sense. We have created a system where the fun has been taken out of learning and teaching. It is based on testing scores and teaching to the test. There can be some creativity placed in the lessons if the teachers take the time to do it, but I think that stress of testing has taken the joy out of teaching for some teachers, and they just worry about covering all the material before the test. If the government would give more money to schools and teachers allowing them to purchase resources that will help them teach, and if the government would put funding into art and music and P.E. our school system would greatly improve. Students would work both sides of their brains, and become better all around students and people. That is what I want for my children. I want them to be able to experience everything that they are able to, improving apon themselves in all areas, and hopefully find something that they truely love and want to do. As a teacher I love standards, but I do believe that teachers should have more freedom with how they teach the subject matter and more resorces should be open up to them. These students are the future.

  15. I agree with Mr. DiSalvo’s proposed changes to NCLB, but implementing these changes requires funding California simply doesn’t have.  Shockingly, an extensive Stanford-led study two years ago suggested that California needed to INCREASE funding by as much as $32 billion in 2007 dollars on top of the $ 35. billion the State currently spends to sufficiently fund its schools. *(1) This is obviously not going to happen. 
        So how do we get the results we want with less funding?  We do it by reforming the financial system that spends the incredible amount of money it takes to run the schools. We become smarter.  Its insane that there are over 80 revenue streams currently feeding into California school funding.  The incredible administrative overhead for this must be staggering.  These financial processes must be streamlined.  Only then we can start to look at better ways to fund the results we strive for.  Goodwin Liu, Associate Dean and Professor of Law at U.C. Berkeley’s School of Law, co-wrote a very interesting paper that proposes specific reforms aimed at targeting student needs rather than doling out funds based on head counts.  He has some very interesting takes on how we can achieve more through reform than we can trying to throw more money at schools.  Its a compelling read.*(2) There is also an excellent YouTube video*(3)that describes many of the issues facing policy makers looking for ways to keep schools properly funded. I would encourage anyone who is interested in seeking a brighter future for California’s children, to take the time and learn what some of these exceptional scholars propose.

    Suit looming against California over school funding
    *(1)http://www.mercurynews.com/breaking-news/ci_13474527

    GETTING BEYOND THE FACTS: REFORMING CALIFORNIA SCHOOL FINANCE
    *(2)http://www.edsource.org/assets/files/convening/BersinKirstLiu_brief.pdf

    Understanding California’s School Funding Crisis
    *(3)http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EHWqTMwZMiw

  16. I agree with many of the comments up here. Teaching to the test should not be the only concentration for teachers. This not only causes an immense amount for teachers, but also to the students. Anxiety levels rise along with performance levels decreasing. I don’t feel this is the answer to the problem! Also, in regards to teachers getting paid based off of their students performance is ridiculous. Yes, I understand if performance for the whole class is below level then there should be intervention, but if some students are performing below the level that should not affect pay. Perhaps we need to take a closer look at the students?

  17. Hiring effective teachers and principles for underperforming schools stood out to me the most on the list of what needs to change. There are many schools in the Bay Area that are struggling, and it cannot get better for them because they are stuck in an ugly cycle. The schools are getting bad testing scores, so they are getting less money, so they are paying their teachers less than the schools with high score and money. So the effective teachers are not wanting to go to a struggling school, because the pay is not a good. This also connects to paying teachers according to their performance, because the effective teachers would be paid well no matter where they teach. Both changes are very important, and I am interested to see the entire outcome and change for the legislation.

  18. I want to address a few points made by Joseph and some respondants; I too agree that the way in which we assess our students is settling them up for failure but at the same time understand that state mandated tests cannot be ‘graded’ as is done in classrooms. There is just too much room for error/differences in grading techniques from person to person.
    As far as funding wars and not education goes… it’s been this way for as long as I can remember. Wars come first. No I do not agree with or support (I support our troops)the war in which we are currently fighting, but it was our presidents’ (who we as Americans elected) decision that it was the ‘right’ thing to do for our safety as a nation. Education should be at the forefront of our concerns, but our safety tops that. Was the president right? I’m not going there.

    What we do need to focus on is the ability and the efforts our teachers are have in their classrooms to reach every single one of their students… regardless of their immigration status. Its our job as a community to educate and have level playing fields for children to develope into active, positive members of society.

  19. I concur with the author that our government should continue to improve education for Americans by providing opportunity and various types of support to those who are underprivileged.  While I agree with the major premise of the article, a few of the bullet points presented resonate more with me than others. 

    The first improvement that could definitely increase test scores, student accomplishment, and overall academic and emotional success in public schools would be to hire effective teachers and principals.  Of course, this strategy is most likely already in place in most districts.  It would bode quite poorly for the district that attempted to hire anyone other than the best candidate available. Successful instructors often gravitate to schools that have openings, areas in which they and their children feel safe, and districts that provide them with a commensurate financial incentive.  If these qualifications are not met, myriad new and experienced teachers will avoid these underprivileged areas and districts.

    I also think that compensating teachers for performance demonstrates a leap in the right direction.  Whatever form a new evaluation takes, I hope that it will include multiple criteria for assessing successful teachers.  Let me also state that I am not opposed to utilizing standardized tests to obtain data for this evaluation, but I prefer that it not be a principal contributor to the evaluation.

    Although the article offers the previously mentioned provisions as important factors in a successful reauthorization of NCLB, I do not agree that all children require longer academic years to be successful or to approximate the learning of children in other countries.  It is true that some children would benefit from extended programs or summer opportunities, but I think denying some children the opportunity to enjoy extended breaks to explore other educational possibilities, create new friends, and develop closer relationships with family members (where possible) would be a tragedy.

    A few individuals have commented on this article by recognizing the United States’ low standing among other countries in regard to education (among other things).  I agree that there is always ample need for self-evaluation for progress and improvement, but we must also recognize the progress, innovation, and opportunity that flourish in the United States.  I have spent enough time abroad to be cognizant of the fact that despite this need for improvement, the United States is not as pitiful as some profess.

    • While I agree with you that not all children would benefit from extended summer programs,I would like to add that as the minority becomes the majority and with unemployment on the rise, I believe it would be in the best interest of the majority of students to extend the school year.  Too many children are “left behind” in the summer months.  They are lacking in food and nutrition that the school provides during the school year as well as lacking in mental and possibly physical stimulation.  While this would deny other kids of the benefits of the summer breaks, who is to say the parents couldn’t take the child out of school for a vacation.

      • Many students could possibly benefit from added educational experiences in schools or other locations.  This we can agree on.  The question is however, should this be a mandatory extension of the academic year for all students or a choice for those who desire a place and extra opportunity for their child over summer months.  Being left behind in summer months is an occurrence that befalls a multitude of students from elementary school to the university level.  I thoroughly enjoy having the option to study in the summer if I choose to while not being required to by the state.  Some parents will likely feel similarly.  Hopefully they will have a say in the matter instead of having this important decision taken by someone who may not see them as fit to make the decision.  Also, it is easy to say, “Who would require students to stay throughout the full year” or “Anyone could take a vacation.  Having had parents who desired to take me on vacations during an academic year, I can tell that it is rather difficult to accomplish.  The homework alone is sufficient to influence a child to just stay in class.  When you add the fact that teachers often dissuade parents and students from engaging in this type of activity, you can imagine that it is almost completely distinguished entirely.
        I agree with you that some children are not provide the optimal amount of food, nutrition, mental, and physical stimulation needed, but at the same time recognize that there are various parents of children that make meal and nutritional decisions based on selfish reasons or uninformed choices.  I work at an underprivileged school.  I desire the best for all of my students, but I can tell you that some parents have enough funds to drive nice vehicles and take extended vacations while their child is receiving free lunch.  This is all right with me, but I do consider it rather interesting.  One other thing, let’s not consider all of the foods provided by school cafeterias to be nutritionally beneficial to students or anyone else.  I often eat there too and can tell you that it is probably only a level above fast food.

  20. I would like to touch on two points.  First, I do think that working on America’s educational system would help to eliminate much of our poverty.  Education is such a huge stepping stone to jobs, higher education and not being, well, homeless.  It won’t fully eliminate it, but it would definitely help.  Second, I think that there is too much priority put on the war and not enough on education.  It is obvious that NCLB badly needs a reauthorization and it is sad that it is three years behind on that promise.

  21. It is very interesting how just yesterday I was having a conversation about crime and education. Someone at my work by the name of Ben Hemphill was discussing the correlation between low education levels and crime rates. Apparently you can statistically predict crime levels by doing a calculation with a populations’ education level. In essence; the less educated, the more violence is present. This makes total sense but I think that economic status would defiantly have to be calculated into this statistic knowing how correlated poverty and violence are as well. In regards to building up education to reduce poverty, I would have to say that it is true. The statistics prove that education is the key to success.
    My “capstone” class, my senior year at SJSU, was about domestic violence. In this class we discussed the benefits of primary prevention. “Primary prevention” is preventing bad things from happening (reducing poverty) rather than “tertiary prevention” which is building prisons. As a society, it would be best for us to capitalize on ending poverty to eliminate the struggles and stresses from an entire class of people which creates negative actions in our society. The amount of tragedy that occurs to guilty and innocent people because of this ignorance to correct our wrongs as a society is more than enough to make a change.

  22. Disalvo writes:
    “…when it comes to the one of the most important roles of government—to ensure a high quality free and public education for every American child—we are 3 years late.”
    I agree that every child deserves a high quality education from the public school system but should this promise be withheld from children who aren’t American citizens?

    For a humorous interlude and more on NCLB, the role of education, longer school days, and why people should care about public education from the Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, himself see his recent interview with Stephen Colbert (10/5/09).

    http://www.colbertnation.com/the-colbert-report-videos/251047/october-05-2009/arne-duncan

    Note: To bypass the sidewalk basketball intro, skip the video ahead to about 1 minute, 16 seconds.

  23. I am sure former Presidents Lyndon Johnson and George W. Bush had good intentions when they introduced the ESEA act and later NCLB. With time comes change and we have to make sure that we keep up with the times and make sure that we update and also upgrade things when deemed necessary. Education Secretary Duncan is on the right track with the provisions he has planned for the 2010 reauthorization of NCLB, especially to hire effective teacher and principals for the underperforming schools in our state. Some will argue it is not their job or problem to worry about the future of the kids that attend underperforming schools since it won’t affect them, but it will. These kids are our countries future and will be future leaders and members of our society later on in our lives- shouldn’t they deserve to have effective teachers that will help them prosper- help US prosper as a nation?
    Another of Duncan’s provisions is to use data to inform instruction and teacher evolution…exactly what kind of data is he talking about? The current NCLB relies too much on standardized testing for assessing student and teacher achievement and efficacy, we need to come up with other methods to gain this information to help our students in a positive way.  I’m not sure if the current method of filling in the bubbles test is cutting it. Also, I agree with Erika’s point about acquiring the proper test taking skills before filling out a test like this. There is a skill that needs to be attained before taking a test like this, and it most definitely involves “process of elimination”. Are the kids being taught this skill before taking the tests that are handed to them…I think not.

  24. I agree that education should be a top priority when it comes to funding.  Generally I am anti-violence and would prefer to stay out of wars, however, I am not a world leader, and if I was in that position, perhaps I would think war was sometimes necessary.  Although, if I (the world leader) had gone through a better-funded education system, perhaps I could think of a better way to solve world conflict than by war.  Hmm…

  25. I think that the most important point in this post is at the very beginning: LBJ knew that in order to fight poverty in this country, he had to start from the bottom- with the kids. What a brave politician to back a program that wouldn’t start showing results until those first kindergarteners and head-start program participants reached 18 and graduated from high school and could start showing the world what they could do. It is unfortunate that LBJ’s legacy is overshadowed by the Vietnam War, because he had revolutionary ideas for changing the face of domestic America.
    NCLB brings up some important points. First, we have to have good, qualified teachers in our schools. Until we have equal learning opportunities in the classrooms, education as the great equalizer is a joke. Second, we must somehow hold teachers and schools responsible for what happens in the classroom.
    However, the one thing that NCLB lacks that the ESEA had is a long timeline. NCLB wants immediate results. Lose 10 pounds a day! Eat what you want and lose inches from your waist! NCLB expects immediate and dramatic results for as little input as possible. Not only is school funding not increasing to fund better teachers and better resources, but it is being cut when undersupported students fail fill-in-the-bubble tests.
    The education problems cannot all be solved in a single presidential term, and perhaps this is why there is such a rush to find the insta-cure. Why spend money on an initiative that won’t bear fruit in time for a re-election campaign? Wars are easy to start and provide constant fuel for soundbites. That is why they are better funded.
    On the sunny side, I think that the provisions proposed by Education Secretary Duncan are all good ones. However, a new educational bill must be passed with the understanding that learning is a process, that improvement takes time, and that both of these take hard work and resources.

  26. Joseph,

    Your article brings up many arguments that some of us have been scratching our heads at for years.  Americans seem so obsessed (like much of the world) with economics, but they can’t see that their greatest investment is education.  I’d love to find an answer as to why this country spends billions of dollars on wars and weapons while cutting education.  I understand that we must defend ourselves and prevent terrorism.  However, I think that we’ve forgotten the “terrors” that lie within our country when we ignore education: ignorance, greed and what some refer to as plain old “stupidity”.

    Kirk

  27. It is easy to theorize about what could happen if there was reform in the education system, and NCLB was revamped, but until education is actually made a priority (and by that I mean adequately funded) it feels a lot like wishful thinking. A little less talk, a lot more action….

  28. Let’s use Federal Dollars to reinvent and reinvest in the greatest public education system in America, California’s public schools from K-16+

    Let’s build 5 new UC campuses, 10 new CSU campuses and 100 new Community College campuses. Then let’s create challenge grants that reward students in middle school, junior high and high school with admissions and scholarships.  Do well in middle school, we’ll pay for your community college.  Do well in Junior High, we’ll pay for your junior year in college.  Do well in High School, and we’ll take you all the way through a Bachelors.  Then do well in college, and we’ll pay for your Master’s or Doctorate, and in return, you’ll give back with some teaching or other public service.  We can actually do this ourselves, California has it within our power, but with a supportive climate in DC, we can do it faster, bigger and better.  These kinds of investment in human capital actually pay off 10 fold in terms of reduced demand for social services / criminal justice as well as in wealth and job creation.  An educated workforce that provides the doctors, engineers, teachers, nurses, artists and journalists we need would be a stimulus for generations of our economic growth.  Let’s not treat UC and CSU campus sites choices like pork barrel projects and stick them in bad locations to please popular politicians.  Every Prison bed built in the last 20 years should now be matched with a college seat.  And let’s make teaching part of the mission.  People can repay the financial aid they’ve been given by mentoring others behind them.  Let’s remember how hard it was and repay the gifts we’ve received by making it easier for the next generation to rise higher than we did.

  29. i agree that the law needs to include PE, the arts, etc.  It is such an important part of students learning.  I think we all agree on that, will it happen in the question.

  30. First I have to say that the American school system is not doing THAT poorly.  There are many other countries where the students pay for their whole education.  American children are very fortunate to have a free public education system, and many also receive free lunches.  But I can’t help myself to wonder how the attitude towards education in America would change if parents were forced to pay for it.  Perhaps then parents would be more involved in the system and in their childrens’ performance and improvement. 

    I also agree that there are always room for improvement.  And one of the things that need to change, as mentioned is bubble tests!!  Our children are not forced to think critically anymore.  They are trained to choose the best answer and not how to get to the right answer themselves.

  31. I think most people recognize that education is important and that our educational institutions are failing, but the thing is that many in see the issues as something that can continue to be put off.  Because of this we are now in position that is very difficult to fix.  I also think that part of the reason nothing gets done or improved is because politicians are too afraid of being wrong or trying radically new things such as progressive ideas or models so the same things keep being done.

  32. I agree with Mr. DiSalvo’s proposed changes to NCLB, but implementing these changes requires funding California simply doesn’t have.  Shockingly, an extensive Stanford-led study two years ago suggested that California needed to INCREASE funding by as much as $32 billion in 2007 dollars on top of the $ 35. billion the State currently spends to sufficiently fund its schools. *(1) This is obviously not going to happen.
        So how do we get the results we want with less funding?  We do it by reforming the financial system that spends the incredible amount of money it takes to run the schools. We become smarter.  Its insane that there are over 80 revenue streams currently feeding into California school funding.  The incredible administrative overhead for this must be staggering.  These financial processes must be streamlined.  Only then we can start to look at better ways to fund the results we strive for.  Goodwin Liu, Associate Dean and Professor of Law at U.C. Berkeley’s School of Law, co-wrote a very interesting paper that proposes specific reforms aimed at targeting student needs rather than doling out funds based on head counts.  He has some very interesting takes on how we can achieve more through reform than we can trying to throw more money at schools.  Its a compelling read.*(2) There is also an excellent YouTube video*(3)that describes many of the issues facing policy makers looking for ways to keep schools properly funded. I would encourage anyone who is interested in seeking a brighter future for California’s children, to take the time and learn what some of these exceptional scholars propose.

    Suit looming against California over school funding

    *(1)http://www.mercurynews.com/breaking-news/ci_13474527

    GETTING BEYOND THE FACTS: REFORMING CALIFORNIA SCHOOL FINANCE

    *(2)http://www.edsource.org/assets/files/convening/BersinKirstLiu_brief.pdf

    Understanding California’s School Funding Crisis

    *(3)http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EHWqTMwZMiw

  33. I don’t think the right question is “how can we close the gap”. 

    It’s better to ask “how can we improve the achievement of all students?”.

  34. I would also like to state that poverty will never be eliminated. Even if we had the most amazing schools there are so many other factors that play into poverty like home life, drugs, gangs etc. However, if the schools that are now run down and unsafe were given the money to repair and upkeep the school, the students would feel that someone actually cared about their well-being. If the school was a safe place for them to learn they might be more inclined to stay in school, and if the teachers opened up their classroom after school for help, students might be more inclined to stay in the classroom instead of roaming the streets.

  35. The best way to eliminate poverty is not to have children.  In a hundred years the human race would be extinct.  Poverty and global warming would be solved.

    It isn’t grizzly bears, mountain lions or salmon causing the world’s problems.

    So long drug dealers, goodbye gangbangers, good riddance crooked politician, so long welfare queens.