Multiprong approach would help No Child act
I ATTENDED the Hawaii State Teachers Association Legislative Conference Jan. 14, where Governor Lingle discussed some proposals she has for improving public education in Hawaii. For the first time since she ran for and has taken office, I was thrilled to hear suggestions which were not just political proposals but which were actually based on some real data and understanding of the situation facing our public schools. I am even more encouraged to hear her willing to use her position to help the public truly understand where Hawaii public school students are in meeting expectations.
To help this understanding we need to go back a few years to see how we got here. In the 1990 Hawaii Public Schools moved into the standards movement. Standards were developed and assessments were created to align to the standards. Teachers began to adjust their curriculums to these standards. Those of us in education knew these standards were high but the thinking (by the powers that be) was we were to reach for the stars, and that way our kids would be able to compete in a global society.
Hawaii was well on its way in developing a standards-based curriculum with assessments scheduled for grades 3, 5, 8 and 10. Along comes the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which has been called the No Child Left Behind Act by the national administration. It requires testing in grades 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 10 and 11. States must develop and pay for these additional assessments. NCLB superimposes a testing accountability system over each state's assessment system.
NCLB does not take into consideration how high each state's standards and assessment are. It requires children to meet the state set standards through the state set assessments. It requires higher and higher percentages of children to meet these standards until all children meet these standards by 2014. These ever-increasing percentages do not just apply to the total number of children in a school, but are also required for each disaggregated subgroup as defined by NCLB. In addition, poor attendance on the test date could put a school into the "failure" category. Schools not meeting the superimposed criteria for each category are deemed as failing and corrective action is applied. If a school is deficit in one area or all areas, it doesn't matter. No distinction is made. They all are considered as "failing."
I applaud adjusting the standards, as the governor suggests. It is, however, only part of the solution. In order to give our children and schools a fair chance at competing in our ever-changing society, we need a multiprong approach. The state needs realistic standards and assessments, proven curriculums, high quality teaching, adequate staffing, facilities and infrastructure support AND we need a clear message to the administration and Congress in Washington, D.C., by our governor, and all the other powers that be, that NCLB needs to be fixed and funded by Congress. Continuing to superimpose an arbitrary accountability system on Hawaii's excessively high standards will not serve our children well.
Karolyn Mossman is the state director of the National Education Association.