For new readers, I'm a laid off teacher looking for input and stories of others around the nation that I can share on my blogs. This article contains most of my post originally written on March 15th, but worth sharing on Huffington Post as well.
I received an email from my friend Josh. Josh and I went to college together, and have had similar career paths. We both started teaching at inner city schools in Milwaukee, WI and our current jobs both serve large populations of low income students, though I have since left Wisconsin. He currently teaches at Milwaukee Montessori IB High School, a school which he helped open, and is now a part of the team of leaders there as well as a classroom history teacher. His successes in education make me proud to be his friend. In fact, his school was recently the subject of a positive article in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. He is the type of person who will always have a discussion with you about education, but most likely the discussion will also include the word "reform".
He wrote me this:
"I have crafted a new theory recently while wondering, where did all of the money go?
I started with the realization that the political right has only made two significant contributions to the education discussion in the past two decades: choice schools (private schools that receive public funding) and No Child Left Behind. As the Left has spent the past decades creating and studying different educational models: project-based learning, differentiated instruction, constructivism, the Montessori approach, direct instruction, integrated curriculum through regular public and charter schools (public schools with greater autonomy over curriculum and instruction in exchange from greater accountability for results).
How does NCLB affect the funding of public schools?
Slowly, over the last decade, money has been siphoned from local districts to buy and expand the testing services from the test companies. Then the local districts need to buy the new text books aligned to the new tests, and hire the consultants (who always seem to be Texans) that will help the schools teach the kids the skills to pass the new tests. In Wisconsin in 2009, the Department of Public Instruction declared that the tests did not accurately reflect what the kids know, and since it took six to nine months to get the results, it was too late to do anything about the findings anyway. A new test is being developed, but it will not be ready for three to five years. Sounds like a pretty nice contract for the testing company who develop the new tests, as well as the consulting firm who facilitate the process. Wait, and then the entire state will have to buy all new text books from a company in Texas to allow the kiddies to learn algebra in a new way so that it can be reflected on the new test. Looks like another round of consultants will have to be brought in to teach the teachers how to teach the new textbooks so the kids do well on the new tests.
Even more laughable is Illinois's version of the high school test, the ACT. Illinois uses a college entrance standardized test to assess the quality of the state's high schools. To my knowledge, Illinois high schools are tasked to teach the state standards of education, not the content of the ACT. This would be like assessing the effectiveness of a driving school with a boater's safety exam. Sort of related, but not the material taught or applicable to all participants. I cannot wait to read about the contracts to redesign Illinois's testing system. So, No Child Left Behind is an unfunded mandate for continuous improvement, which requires significant funding from local districts to the Testing Industry, the Textbook Industry, and the Educational Consultant Industry.
Tom, I guarantee you can find a job in one of those three industries because they are always hiring and always expanding. And, I hear Texas is beautiful this time of year."
Ah, Josh, never one to shy away from an opinion. He makes some valid points (though I don't want this blog to become a conversation on politics -- if you are laid off, you are laid off whether Democrat or Republican, and the fact is while I sit jobless for next year, I haven't heard any politician offer anything other than garbage talking points about what we "need to do" instead of actually doing something). It bothers me that there isn't more investigative journalism into how much money states actually spend on standardized tests. There are a lot of people that are getting rich on public education, and just the fact that I had to write that statement makes me disgusted by how wrong it is.
At least it looks like NCLB is on the way out the door. I'm going to dedicate a later blog post to this article.
Thanks for sharing your opinion, Josh. I look forward to more people sharing their views with me so that I can post them on this blog.