From Duane Tron, August 31, 2007
Subject: My, my...look who came out of the woodwork and is speaking about "accountability!"
I propose two new laws. The first will be the NCLB. This will now stand for "No Congressman Left Behind." We should start holding members of Congress to the same high standards they think public schools should practice. The second is NPLB. This is "No Politician Left Behind." This doesn't mean the ongoing use of earmarks like King John Murtha (D) and King Ted Stevens (R), or Mike DeWine and Bob Taft accepting positions as college professors. Heck, they couldn't even govern so how do they think they can teach! Some can't even go into an airport restroom without being arrested (R). And they talk at us about accountability? These are the same people who have a job approval rating with the American people of 18%. And they think they possess the knowledge to be able tell us how to teach? Some hide large sums of money begot from bribery in their freezers at home (D). Others have their names indelibly imprinted in the record books of the DC Madam (R).
I wish to point out to every politician the following points with respect to educational accountability:
1. Franklin Roosevelt was dyslexic and couldn't learn to read in school. He couldn't function in a public or private school with present standards of educational accountability. The only way he was able to learn was for his wealthy parents to hire private tutors and teach him one on one. There aren't any lawmakers who would agree to this methodology in public schools because of the extreme cost.
2. Thomas Edison was declared uneducable by his public school teacher in the second grade and forced to leave school. He was educated by his teacher mother. He would have never passed any proficiency test required today.
3. Orville and Wilbur Wright both dropped out of school and never finished. Neither passed any proficiency exam and neither held a high school diploma.
4. Winston Churchill was declared to be an average student and his test scores were low throughout his schooling. He would have never measured up by today's proficiency standards that politicians want in place.
5. Albert Einstein couldn't pass any proficiency test we give in this country today and would be declared deficient in most areas. Except for math! He would have probably failed at least three out of five areas. He was denied admission to one of the most prestigious schools in Europe because he didn't meet their academic standards.
6. Interesting! Bill Gates dropped out of college but required college degrees from people who came to work for Microsoft. Come on Bill!
7. I would have never passed any of the proficiency tests if I had been required to take them when I was in school. I failed the English Entrance Exam when I applied to college. I had to take a remedial English correspondence course to be able to pass the exam and be accepted to college. True! I completed graduate school with a 3.897 GPA.
My point? Proficiency tests don't prove quality anything! They aren't a true measure of knowledge, skill, or even learning for that matter. I have had students who could pass any test and they lacked the common sense to be able to pound sand in a rat hole. I have had students who struggled with reading and they possessed tremendous skill in using their hands to build things.
My own father struggled with reading and writing. He lacked basic skills in grammar and his handwriting was almost illegible. My father? He could build anything from scratch without any instructions or schematics. I used to watch him build transmitters and receivers using military surplus parts he bought. He could transmit and receive all over the world with his radio equipment. He became an amateur radio operator when he was 19 years old and he could use a Morse key, and a jitterbug key, with greater expertise, skill, and speed than almost anyone in the world. He would work for hours soldering and wiring equipment that was awesome and without any formal training or education. He became a triple A tool and die maker and was one of the best in the world. He was offered jobs with Lockheed and Boeing because of his reputation working and building machines. My father would have never passed proficiency and he would have never graduated from high school today.
So much for all the bullshit about what tests prove or disprove? Huh! All proficiency tests prove is that some students are better at taking tests than others. As I alluded earlier, they don't prove or measure knowledge, skill, or anything except that a person can take a test and pass it.
My final suggestion in this discourse is that we require every Congressman and Senator, all 535, to take their state's proficiency tests, and require them to pass all parts with the required scores established. We should also require every state lawmaker to take the tests and post their scores and rankings. I'm willing to bet everything I own that the majority wouldn't pass the test! These being the same tests they think make schools accountable for the education of children. Let's ask them to step up and take the tests and see how they do.
You and I know what their answer is going to be. Why? Because the overwhelming majority know they couldn't pass the very same tests they require children to pass to graduate from high school. My, the truth can be painful at times. You see the tests don't take into account home life, poverty, community issues, social issues, poor parenting, and a multitude of other external factors which are beyond the control of those us involved in the process of educating children. Politicians present a simplistic, or what I describe as "a simple minded," approach to a very complicated set of problems. This means most politicians are simple minded people who passed a bunch of tests to get them where they are but lack the God given sense to pound sand into a rat hole.
The worst politicians in the world are those who think one size fits all and we have a lot of them who have been elected. Oh! If only life were that simple! Ah! We need to do a better job of selecting and electing people to represent us don't we?
I do apologize if my one slip of profanity offends but I couldn't come up with a word that would adequately provide the same impact as required in that review. Must be the result of my limited education and background. Sorry if I offended you! I must admit I hear worse on Leno and Letterman but I guess that doesn't provide justification does it? Oh Well! In conclusion, I sure hope 100% of our Congressmen are proficient by the year 2014.
Duane Tron Champaign County
Bob Taft: School 'report cards' are due for an upgrade
Timing is right to make state and federal evaluations complement one another.
By BOB TAFT, COMMENTARY
Dayton Daily News, August 30, 2007
The latest school report cards are out, and confusion abounds. It is clearly time for Ohio and policymakers in Washington to design a more coherent, less confusing system of accountability for individual schools and school districts.
The current system, a combination of state and federal measures, is confusing to parents and the public. And it doesn't offer a sound method for determining when the state should intervene in failing districts.
Ratings created by the state are based primarily on scores and the percent of students proficient on statewide assessments taken in different subjects at different grade levels. Except for 11th-grade pass rates on the Ohio Graduation Test, schools and districts meet the standard if 75 percent of students receive "proficient" scores on an assessment.
Under the federal No Child Left Behind Act, schools and districts must make "adequate yearly progress" on math and reading in grades 3-8 for all students, as well as each of 10 student subgroups classified by race, language, income and learning disabilities.
Under the federal law, 100 percent of students in all categories are expected to be proficient by 2014, with the annual targets increasing until that year.
The performance of schools and districts is moving in opposite directions on state and federal measures. Except for the most recent school year, when results were adversely affected by new science and social studies tests, scores and results on the statewide assessments have been steadily improving.
This year 80 percent of Ohio districts are rated in the top two categories, either "excellent" or "effective." The performance index, which measures the scores of all students on all tests, has risen from 73.7 percent to more than 90 percent during the past eight years.
In contrast, the trend line for the federal standard has been declining.
Four years ago, two out of every three districts in Ohio made "adequate yearly progress." This year fewer than one out of three met the target. In the Dayton region, the number of districts meeting the standard has plummeted almost by half, from 42 four years ago to 24 this year.
More and more districts are likely to fall short next year and thereafter as the goals ratchet up toward 100 percent in 2014. For example, the target student pass rate on third-grade reading will rise from 71.2 percent this year to 77 percent next year. There also will be more tests subject to "adequate yearly progress" targets next year.
Ohio's efforts to partially integrate the federal standards into its school district rating system can produce results that are also confusing. For example, due to its "adequate yearly progress" performance for two subgroups, Worthington, a district near Columbus, was downgraded two levels this year, from "excellent" to "continuous improvement."
This occurred even though Worthington met 29 of 30 indicators under the state system, with more than 90 percent of students proficient on the majority of assessments.
Consequences for failure differ between the state and federally mandated systems, as noted in a recent assessment of Ohio's school reform progress by Achieve Inc. Under the state's rating system, the state will not intervene unless a district is stuck in "academic emergency." No districts are currently in that status, yet 47 districts are in federal "corrective action," which calls for strong state intervention. These are schools that have not met "adequate yearly progress" for four straight years.
As a single indicator based on the somewhat arbitrary 2014 federal goal of 100 percent proficiency for all student groups, the federal standard is not necessarily the best method of triggering state intervention.
Now is the right time to create a better system of holding schools accountable for results. Congress is rewriting the No Child Left Behind Act, and the state is implementing a more precise measure of student progress within a given school year. This "value added" yardstick should be a central part of a new system of accountability.
Former Ohio Gov. Bob Taft, a Republican, is a distinguished research associate at the University of Dayton.