Sunday, October 30, 2011

Issue #31 October 30, 2011- Good Intentions, Education Reform and More

Issue #31- October 30, 2011
In this issue: More on the Economy, Recalls, Occupy, Education Reform and Good Intentions

It's the Economy, Stupid…
As we get closer to the anticipated kick-off of the effort to recall Governor Walker it becomes more important that news about the effects of his policies are made available to the general public.  For those of us who are public workers or who live in communities like Madison the information is readily accessible.  However, there are large numbers of Wisconsin citizens who never get the full picture of what is happening here.  This is true in all areas of the state and is a fact for a number of reasons. 

Whatever the reasons for lack of information the fact remains that a majority of voters will either not vote in the recall or will vote based on a few issues.  It is vital to the success of the recall that progressives are able to assertively frame the debate and call attention to the ways that Walker's policies impact common citizens.  We know that both sides will be flooding the airwaves with ads and the candidates will be trying to find that sound-bite to capture the voter's support.
Because the incumbent has an advantage in the media and Walker will get huge amounts of money for advertising we must start early in our efforts to educate the population of Wisconsin about the realities of the Walker Agenda.

As in any election, the economy will be the primary issue in the minds of the voters in the recall election.  People vote for the candidates that they feel will give them the best chance of being successful in efforts to support themselves and improve their economic standing.  To be sure, there are other issues on the minds of voters, but a look at election results through history show that the other issues don't have the same impact as the economy does.

This poll shows some interesting results about what Wisconsin voters think as we head towards the recall and the 2012 Presidential Election.  The poll shows a division in opinion and the importance of educating the public before the elections occur.          

Education and access to information is vital because the message that will be shared by Republicans is simple, things will be fine for everyone if we just cut taxes and government regulation.  It is also important to get a variety of reports out to the public because we know that economic data can be manipulated to show virtually anything. 

One are where this is especially true is the area of public education.  The WPRI poll shows that many Wisconsinites feel that their schools haven't been adversely affected by the Walker Budget.  In some places that is true for this year, but the fact is that most districts are looking at long term budget issues that won't be addressed by the tools available to them.  At least not without significantly impacting the services and programs provided by the schools.  The same facts hold true in most other areas of public service as well. 

The Merrill Courier reported on September 23rd, that the 2012 Lincoln County budget will be about $300,000 short of their goal to have a no-dollar tax increase.  This is true even though they got a $1.8 million dollar boost from employees who pay more for their benefits.  As Finance Director Dan Leydet said, "Even with all of those savings we only lowered the mil by 1/3 of a cent."  Supervisor Jim Alber said, "We're out of tools in our race to the bottom."  County Supervisor Ron Mittelsteadt commented, "Next year is going to be the worst year of our lives."  I thought the tools provided by Walker were supposed to fix these problems.

How will we attract quality employees for public service jobs if there is no financial incentive to work for the state?

The connections between big money and political actions need to be made clear for everyone. 

Walker's policies aren't working as well as he said they would, and I don't see that changing much in the future either.

Good News Anyone?…
There is positive news from around the nation.

As always keep an eye out for places to spend money that are progressive.

Here's another way to protest that anyone with a mailing address can do.

Here's a well thought out, simple and irreverent idea to keep Wall Street occupied. Send back their junk mail. It provides a little revenue to the postal service, allows for "dialog," and might eventually do something to slow the waste of trees we call "direct marketing."!

Recall Walker…
Recalls shouldn't become common political actions, but there are a lot of positives from the current politics here in Wisconsin.  The level of political participation needs to increase for our democracy to continue to be successful.  The recall movements have gotten more citizens involved in talking about, thinking about and acting in politics.

Keep an eye out for ways to get involved in the recalls.

Obviously Walker has started campaigning already.

Intent vs. Result…
Many voters are confused.  They hear Republican candidates talking about…
-Giving people more money to spend by reducing taxes.
-Making it easier for small businesses to function by cutting red tape.
-Patriotism and public safety.
-Holding public employees accountable in a variety of ways.
-Making all citizens be accountable for being productive and positive members of society.

On the surface there isn't anything wrong with any of these concepts.  No one wants excessive regulation or wasteful spending.  People want to be safe and feel good about their country/state/municipality.  Everyone should have an opportunity to improve their socio-economic status and should do their best to take advantage of their opportunities. 

However, before everyone rushes out to vote Republican it is important to look at the results of their actions.  I won't begin to argue intent, I'm simply going to assume that most political figures do believe in what they are trying to do.  I want to believe that our elected officials have the best interests of the people they represent at heart.  The argument can be made that they may be representing other interests, but that is difficult to prove and in some ways counterproductive. 

The fact remains that political actions and policies have impacts on our lives, some are intended and some are not.  While it is acceptable and expected for a nation as large and diverse as ours to have many different viewpoints, what matters is that we have ways to express our views and be heard.  It is this process of debate that (while frequently slow and frustrating) allows our leadership to make informed decisions and avoid potential negative consequences that may have been unforeseen.  

There are countless examples of legislation and how unintended effects have adversely affected individuals, groups and the environment.  Here are a few from recent reports.

The main concern that I have with the current state of politics in Wisconsin isn't the policies proposed by the Republican majority.  I strongly disagree with much of what they are doing, but the real problem for me is the lack of respect for dissenting voices and the uniting of so much power in the executive branch of government.  If only one side has any power to make decisions we no longer have a democracy.  Just look at how the GOP wants to change the legal system.

Wall St. and Protests…
I would be remiss if I didn't comment on recent actions regarding the Occupy protests.  I'm sure all of us are concerned that the protests provide opportunities for violence.  The news from Oakland shows just how dangerous a situation we have developing around our nation.  Our history is full of violent protests, especially centered around workers rights and social classes.  As the frustration with our ever growing social and economic inequity continues to build it only seems more likely that violent interactions will escalate as well.

To date most of the violence has been instigated by the authorities.  We need to be sure to keep it that way.  The use of violence will only inflame situations that are already volatile.  Now is the time where we need true leadership in our government and our grassroots movements. 

Once again information and education is vital to a productive protest.  Common citizens need to understand why the Occupy Movement is a real protest and not just a collection of "deadbeats" and "whiners".  To quote Martin Luther King Jr.,
"Public relations is a very necessary part of any protest…  The main objective is to bring moral pressure to bear upon an unjust system or a particularly unjust law.  The public at large must be aware of the inequities involved in such a system.  In effect, in the absence of justice in the established courts of the region, non-violent protesters are asking for a hearing in the court of world opinion."

Education "Reform"…
The compatriot of the testing and accountability reforms to education is the idea of school choice.  There are a wide range of educational methods, philosophies and strategies that exist for educators to use.  Different skills and ideas are valued in these approaches to educating students.  The idea that different schools would employ these different approaches is not a new one.  America has had a wide range of public and private schools in place for our whole history. 

Over time we developed a system of public education that was accessible to all families and this system has grown into one that is familiar to most Americans.  This is not a perfect scheme for educating all children.  Many families have opted out for a variety of reasons.  These families chose to send their children to other schools that may have been religious or perhaps provided some alternative programming not readily available in the public school system. 

The debate that has increased in intensity recently is the idea that families should be given public money (vouchers) to attend these private schools.  As more pressure has been brought to bear on public schools, the idea that our public school system is "failing" has increased the call to give families more choice in their children's educational opportunities.  Families should be able to send their children to a school where they will be most successful.
That idea of choice is not in itself an unreasonable idea.  Supporters of school choice will talk about the rights of all people to attend any school they want.  They point to the inequity where wealthy families send children to private schools that poorer families can't afford.  However, this is one area where the intent clearly doesn't match up with the results.   

Choice is as much a market driven reform as the idea of testing is.  The idea that schools of differing philosophies should compete for students is every bit as flawed as the idea that we can measure a schools "bottom-line" success rate by a number.  Educating children is a very unusual endeavor.  Success and failure is difficult to define and children don't simply learn skills in a linear progression until success is reached.  Data from studies of schools is inconclusive and usually biased towards achieving a particular political goal.   

How are parents to know what school is best for their child?  If testing data is inconclusive, what results do we use?  Who will apply to what schools and how will students be selected for different schools?  What about students who have learning or behavior issues?  What impact does taking money from public schools and putting it into private schools have on all children?  What impact does the dismantling of neighborhood public schools have on our society as a whole?  Clearly school choice isn't as simple as handing out vouchers.

The same folks who want to dismantle the public school system also want to deregulate education.  They often look at weakening the teacher licensing system, changing standards and breaking up teacher unions as tools to make a more successful education system.  We have seen the results of deregulating the banking industry and deregulating industry.  Why would the deregulation of education be any different?

Whether the intent behind reforming education is to improve the opportunities for all students or some other more sinister intention is a valid one.  Remember that most union members in the United States are public workers and educators make up a substantial number of those union members.  Public schools also are required to teach subjects in a more balanced way than private schools are.  Public educators have mandated ways to address controversial issues that don't exist for private educators.  Education is one of the key indicators of a person's potential for economic success and control of education would control to a large degree who is successful in America.  Finally, dismantling public education would also finish the re-segregation of America and further divide our population. 

Wisconsin is a central battleground in the fight over education. 

Madison is joining the fray as well.

It seems clear that we need to continue to work to improve the overall quality of education that we provide our students.  What the best way to do that is, certainly is open to debate.  Over the next couple of weeks I'll look at the school choice movement and how it has impacted our education system.  I'll also look at why teacher unions are so necessary to protect our students, families and our nation's future.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Issue #30 October 23, 2011- The Economy, Recall Unions and Testing

Issue #30- October 23, 2011
In this issue: The Economy, Recall, Union Building, Occupy, and the Effects of Testing

It's the Economy, Stupid…
As we move further into the presidential election cycle the differences in economic philosophy between the two parties becomes clearer.  I won't pretend to believe that the Democrats are exempt from the influence of big money.  We all know that both parties are heavily lobbied and that the 1% have a huge say in the actions of politicians at all levels and from both major parties.  That being said, there is at least a small difference between the parties and what they are proposing to help our country's economy recover.

The major difference centers on the role of government in the economy.  The Republicans continue to move farther and farther down the path of less government and a more unregulated business/industrial environment.  The idea that we should be taxed less and have more freedom plays well to the sound bite crowd.  Yet, there is a different underlying (or is it underlieing) reality at work here.  When you look closely at most Republican ideas there is a specific group that benefits from their proposals.  For example…

It's true in Washington D.C. and it's true in Wisconsin.

Guess what, the trickle down idea doesn't work and should be fully discredited by now.

While politicians argue details and position themselves for electoral success, the American Public suffers.

Recall Walker…
The excitement in Wisconsin is growing as we near the November 15th recall kickoff date.  The reasons for recall continue to multiply (unlike the jobs available in WI).

Be sure to keep your eye out for opportunities to work towards a successful recall.  This is a high stakes political move for the progressives in Wisconsin and deserves everyone's best effort.  We know the conservatives will be pulling out all the stops to save Walker.  State election law allows for unlimited fundraising for elected officials targeted in a recall.  The spending in this race should be astronomical and progressives will need to rely on volunteer efforts to combat the corporate money.  Remember that even with the "fat-cat" unions giving money to the summer recalls the Republican candidates still outspent Democrats by a relatively slim margin.  With the centerpiece of their attack on the middle class under attack I imagine the contributions to Walker's campaign will flood in.

We can't forget that we need to get enough signatures to recall Walker first.  Another issue is to make sure that all people have the necessary documentation to vote.  Organization becomes vital and progressives must use the strong networks they built over the summer to make this effort a success.

Union Building
With all the "big picture" political and economic issues taking the forefront, it can be easy to forget the common everyday individual.  As unions and other organizations gear up for the recall of Walker and the presidential elections they can't turn their attention away from their membership.  Look at the data from all the actions Republicans have been implementing and it is clear that the workers on the lower end of the pay scale have been hit the hardest.  These workers typically have the fewest resources and rely on the safety nets currently being slashed. 

Unions exist to protect their membership and provide hope and opportunity for their members.  They work to create safe and positive work environments for the workers.  The political activism that unions are engaged in is very important.  Without a positive political climate unions will struggle to  engage in the necessary actions to improve the status of their membership.  Nowhere is that more clear than here in Wisconsin.

At the same time union leadership must remember that many of their members are under significant financial and emotional stress.  They must work to maintain the safety nets and social networking that help workers make it through tough times, like those that currently exist.  This is a critical time period for labor unions in America.  By joining together and supporting workers the union movement can rejuvenate and even gain strength.  However, the possibility also exists that unions could suffer serious setbacks and even be destroyed in the current climate.

It is not just union leadership that is responsible for the success or failure of the union movement here.  All union members must work to support each other and promote their union.  A union is its members and all of us must work together to rebuild the power of the worker in the political and economic spheres.  We must look for ways to support each other and build for a positive resolution to our current crisis.  Now is the time for all workers who want to preserve their rights to step forward and get involved in rebuilding the labor movement.  It starts with each individual and the movement will not succeed without active worker participation.       

Wall St. and Protests…
The "Occupy" movements continue to experience growing pains, yet are still an increasing force in political and economic discussions.  In many ways the movement looks like Wisconsin in February.  People gather together and protest in a positive and peaceful manner.  What appears different is the fact that the Wisconsin protests started with a relatively specific focus, to preserve collective bargaining rights for public employees.  It's true that the Wisconsin movement grew to encompass many more issues and groups, but the initial efforts focused on that central point. 

It appears that the "Occupy" protestors have a more wide ranging set of concerns.  Much has been made of the supposed lack of focus in the media.  Reports paint the protesters as a group of people who are simply upset with current conditions in America.  At worst they label the protesters as lazy, unmotivated people who want the government to provide for them what they won't work for.  Once again, we can draw parallels to what has been said about public workers in Wisconsin.

The protests are drawing attention toward the widening gap between classes in America.  We are becoming a nation of a small number of elite "haves", and a large number of "have nots".  Every issue raised by the protesters comes back to the central point, our nation is divided on class lines.  The examples of this are too numerous to even begin to mention.

When one looks at the vast amount of information that is being shared about the stratification of our society it is difficult to understand why anyone could possibly support the agenda that is currently being promoted by legislators and executives in all 50 states and at the Federal level.  How is it that the American public can buy into deregulation of the financial and industrial sectors?  How can the people support privatization of vital services? 

The general public is being mislead by the use of fear and hope.  Fear of the unknown, fear of those different from "us", fear of change, fear of…  These fears lead to a response where individuals try to hold on to what they have and know.  They cause division between groups and make it easier to control the masses.  Hope is used to counter the fear and provide the idea that anyone can become one of the elite.  It is interesting that the very wealthy are portrayed as regular hard working types and the middle class public worker is portrayed as lazy and un-American.

I feel that one of the major impacts that mass protests can have is to force the media to begin to discuss the current problems we face in America.  Without mass movements it is too easy to simply sweep our challenges under the rug.  A typical news report could just mention an unpleasant item and then move on to a human interest story.  With mass protests the media is slowly being forced  to continue mentioning the unpleasant reality of the current social, economic and political situations in our nation.
Testing and Teacher Accountability…
There is no question that high-stakes testing has changed the way we educate our children here in the United States.  I really want to believe in the good intentions of the legislators who passed laws like NCLB.  I hope that their motivation was truly to improve the quality of the educational system here in America.  In many ways, their intentions don't really matter, what matters is the reality that educators are being forced to deal with in the present day.

That reality is one where schools are being forced to have all children reach a level of proficiency that is unattainable.  If schools and school districts don't meet that goal of 100% proficiency then they face a serious of increasing punishments.  Schools must spend valuable time preparing for and administering tests.  The curriculum must be altered to provide students with the best opportunity to succeed in testing.        

The debate over testing has been raging for many years.  Those who favor testing speak of the need to hold schools and educators accountable for making sure our students are prepared to compete in the global marketplace.  They argue that it is the educators who are standing in the way of progress and true reform of our antiquated school systems.  Schools should be run like a business with clearly defined goals and measurement tools available to demonstrate our success or failure in educating children.  The cornerstone of the business model is testing.  Test scores become the bottom line in education, they show our "profit" or our "loss" for any given student.

The results have not been positive.  Using the "bottom line" of test scores, American schools are clearly failures.  Gains in test scores have been marginal and identified problems like the achievement gap between different groups has remained wide.  These results are then used to document the "crisis" in our educational system and are used to push for reforms.  These reforms take the shape of sanctions and choice. 

Once again, there are many, more scholarly, works out there that document the statistics around the effects of testing and NCLB.  I risk sounding like Herman Cain with his, "I don't have facts to back this up," statement, but I encourage anyone interested to research the facts about testing and the numbers associated with it.  I do have facts to back up my statements about testing but in the interest of brevity simply want to share what I know and what I've seen (in my 16+ years of teaching) to be the destructive effects of testing on our schools.

Standardized Testing and Its Victims

The major complaint that I have about testing is that it has become the only measuring stick used to evaluate a school.  Debate over what or how to teach now ends with whether we will see gains in student test scores.  We worry about the effect that a new idea will have on test scores and fail to worry about what should really matter.  Whenever I see any information about schools, test scores are almost always used to determine if a school is "good" or "bad".   

 The other side to this is that the tests that we use fail to meet the criteria I established to be effective.  Educators don't see the results of state testing until the end of the year.  The data we receive takes significant time to evaluate and is usually simply given as a raw score that is of little value.  The timing of the testing in Wisconsin (November) means that students are tested on material that they may not have studied in depth yet.  Students are tested in a format that they aren't as comfortable with. 

Many students are "bored" by the testing.  It is a long process that disrupts almost 2 weeks of their school year.  My most creative students struggle with multiple choice answers and often try to think about the answers in different ways.  They don't like being forced to accept one answer, especially when answering questions about their reading.  A great example of what a creative student did during testing happened in my room a few years ago.  A student spent a great deal of time computing the amount of paper wasted in the test booklets.  They added all the pages that were "intentionally left blank" in their booklet and figured out how many 4th graders were in the school.  Then they estimated how many schools there were in Madison and proceeded to try and figure out the waste for the whole state.  I doubt this activity improved their test score, but I could certainly see the educational merit in their pursuit.  It involved more mathematical thinking than anything that appeared on the test.  We actually did some more research after the test and the student was engaged in their extra project for over a week.

The questions are often either culturally insensitive or misleading.  A question on a past math test showed this clearly.  The graph asked students to name the most reasonable range for the age of a 4th graders grandparent.  Many students of poverty got that one wrong on the test, but correct based on their personal experiences.  Test questions that are biased and this can cause "minority" students to do worse than their "majority" counterparts.  Different cultures put emphasis on testing in different ways.  Language barriers also present a challenge to accurately assessing a student's knowledge.  Idioms and other figures of speech can be misleading for students who either don't understand the context or who lack experience in using language in the manner they are being tested in. 

Somehow, we have lost sight of the reason we are educating our students.  We are educating students so that they can become happy and productive members of society.  We are giving them the background and the skills to live a successful life.  This success is measured to a great extent by the individual.  Each student is a human being with different strengths, skills and interests.  Not every student is going to be successful on a standardized test, and this is true for many different reasons.  It is sad to note that those who speak strongly about the need for individual freedom seem to want to define success for others in such a coercive way.

As testing has become more widespread and entrenched in our educational system we have seen a decline in the amount of teaching done in areas outside the ones that "count".  Reading, language arts and math are the content areas used to evaluate schools.  Not surprisingly these are the areas that are emphasized in terms of time and training.  We now have so much time mandated for these areas that many teachers don't have time to teach science, social studies or other topics on a regular basis.  The arts, physical education and other areas also are devalued by testing. 

The format for teaching students becomes more and more geared to teaching basic skills.  Students can decode words, find details in a story, solve computation problems in math, etc.  But, they don't get as much exposure to creative problem solving and issues that exist in the "real world".  The students who struggle the most and who have the fewest (typically) out of classroom educational opportunities are penalized the most.  They are drilled and their interest in learning is killed as their teachers prepare them for testing and not learning.

In the end, whatever the intentions of the proponents of testing intended, the overall effect of standardized testing has been destructive for our schools.  We have devoted a huge amount of energy toward solving a problem that we've created.  The amount of time and effort used to try and improve test scores (and not succeed in the attempt) could have been better used by educators in the classroom.  Some of our best education policy minds have devoted their energy to testing and not to education.  We have spent the better part of two decades "Tilting at Windmills" and have not used our resources to work for the betterment of all students.

While I truly believe that the effects of NCLB and standardized testing have been harmful to our schools, I don't believe that our schools are failing.  Whether a school is failing or not is a very difficult thing to assess.  A school, teacher, curriculum, etc. may have a positive effect on one student and a negative effect on another.  It is the fact that we don't have any real quantifiable statistics to measure school success that causes our policy makers such difficulty.  Test scores, graduation rates, etc. are all statistics that are easily manipulated to show any result.  Once again I direct you to look at the data available and see how different studies use the same data to reach different conclusions.  These conclusions are typically based on the researcher's bias and are used to justify a certain point of view. 

We do have significant difficulties in our education system.  However, the majority of those difficulties are mirror images of the challenges in our larger society.  Poverty, race issues, gender issues, etc. all make educating students more difficult and also "test" our society as a whole.  We all want a quick fix that will make everything work smoothly for everyone.  That just doesn't exist.  No amount of testing will ever make a difference when it is used to punish the people who are working to help someone out of a challenging situation.

What testing does do, is force large numbers of students who were already struggling to either conform to a monolithic way of learning or else leave the system.  Students who enter school already must make extra progress or be identified as "in need of improvement".  Once again, we are using test scores and not necessarily using a true measure of their ability.  As the years go by those students are continually remediated and taught the basics.  Their counterparts who are testing at an acceptable level are given more opportunities to experience real world situations and learn in more creative ways.  I have seen students who can solve very difficult problems using appropriate strategies in their classroom work struggle with the format of a test.  Maybe it is a single word that trips them up, maybe they think in a different way about the problem, whatever the case their score doesn't reflect their overall knowledge and progress. 

What testing also does is work to create an atmosphere where we are preparing students for work that isn't engaging or creative.  Once again, schools exist to get students ready for their lives and to provide them with the basic knowledge and skills that will allow them to have choices in their futures.  It is interesting to note that our national discussions on education focuses so much on the "fact" that American children aren't prepared to compete in a global economy, yet our tests don't prepare them to become entrepreneurs.  Our testing system prepares them to follow instructions and to try and identify what others think is important.

I could add much more about the concept of competition with schools internationally.  However, once again everything that is published is skewed by the bias of the researcher or author.  We also have limited, and I believe invalid data to base our comparisons on.  I would simply say that comparisons between schools in the United States and those in other countries are typically comparisons of apples to oranges using different units of measurement (perhaps metric and standard?).

I always try to provide some potential solutions when I discuss a problem.  I can certainly complain with the best, but simply stating a problem doesn't help us make progress toward solving it.  The issues confronting education are vital to our long term success as a society and must be addressed in positive ways.  So what can be done to "fix" the current system?

Testing must be returned to its proper place in education.  It can't be used as the sole evaluation of educational progress, nor can it be used as a way to identify schools for punishment.  Instead assessments must be used by the educators on site to identify areas that schools need to address when improving the overall education of all students.  Administrators and educational leaders should help use their expertise to develop appropriate and useful assessments.  The atmosphere of a school or district must be one where teachers are allowed to admit the shortcomings of their curricula so that they can be addressed.       

Unfortunately, here in Wisconsin we seem to be headed in the wrong direction.

How can we get the policy makers and the general public to change their attitude about testing?

There is an existing movement to have families opt out of testing.  Could a mass boycott of testing be a way to attract attention to the issue?  Certainly organized protesting seems to be a wave that is sweeping through many areas of our society.  What would happen if a majority of families requested that their children aren't tested? 
From the Wisconsin DPI website:
When is parent opt-out allowable?

When a parent or guardian requests that the student be excused from participating in the WKCE or the WAA-SwD, this request must be honored at grades 4, 8, and 10, per Wis. Stats. 118.30 (1r) 2.3. This request may come at anytime during the testing window. While not directly addressed by state statutes, districts may choose to honor parent requests to excuse their child from the WKCE or the WAA-SwD testing at grades 3, 5, 6, and 7, at their discretion on an individual basis. All students excused by parent opt-out count as “not tested” students for determining Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP). The parent opt-out excuses the student from participation in the entire WKCE or WAA-SwD.

You may notice that opting out of the testing will impact the school and the school district.  A school with a high number of students opting out will be targeted for sanctions under the current system.  However, opting out is an option that could be used effectively as a method of drawing attention to the ills of testing. 

      Back to School Advice: Opt out of Standardized Tests - emPower ...

At the very least educators and families need to work together to begin to shape our nation's education policy in more positive ways.  Given President Obama's current ideas for reform there is some potential for us to have an effect on policy.  However, the current administration still seems to have a reliance on testing and choice that continues to give educators reason to doubt Obama's credibility regarding education policy.

Obama Announces No Child Left Behind State Waivers : NPR

 No Child Left Behind Bills Proliferate After Obama Announces ...

 Now is the time for all citizens to become informed about our education system and be ready to vote for candidates that understand what is necessary to support and improve our schools.  School board elections, long overlooked, become very important.  Citizens who are informed and who truly want to improve our schools need to be advocates for the students and families who rely on our public education system to improve their economic and social situations.  Too many politicians and uniformed citizens have had their say in shaping education policy for our country.  There is no way to "de-politify" public education, but there is a need to have informed, committed leadership making policy for American schools.    

As citizens are educated about education they will begin to see the absurd nature of comparing schools to businesses.  That analogy has been used to try and justify the reforms to education and the need for competition between schools.  Schools are the opposite of business in almost all ways.  The idea that a business model will work for education has moved education backwards and will continue to decimate public education.  Our educational policies must reflect a total change in thinking and only then will true "reform" occur.  Until then it is the job of all educators and families to work to make sure each child is respected and educated.