Thursday, March 10, 2011

Arne Duncan: 80% of America’s Schools Are Failing

For once it appears that Ed Deformer in Chief, Arne Duncan, is saying something honest about Ed Deform: NCLB is an utter failure. On Wednesday, Duncan told Congress that over 80,000 of the nation’s 100,000 public schools could be labeled as failing under No Child Left Behind (NCLB). Duncan said that this statistic, based on an analysis of testing trends and the law’s pass-fail school rating system, was the latest evidence of the law’s shortcomings, and called for an overhaul of the law.

According to Duncan, 82% of schools could fail to meet their Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) goals, compared with 37% last year. This would seem like an astonishing jump, except for the fact that not only do schools as a whole need to improve, but each sub-group within the school (e.g., special education, English language learners, low-income, Asian, African-American, Latino, etc.) must also make significant gains.

Even if failure rates remained flat at 37%, the law would still be a failure since its goal was to achieve 100% proficiency by 2014. In actuality, increasing numbers of schools have seen declining proficiency. Take California, for example, where 39% of elementary schools failed to meet their AYP in 2009, while 60% failed in 2010. Nationwide, the number of schools failing to meet their AYP has increased from 28% in the 2006-7 school year, to 37% last year.

Schools face sanctions if they are deemed failures for two or more years. After four consecutive years of failure, they can be forced to convert to charter schools or forced to fire their entire teaching staffs. After three years, they can be forced to hire private outside consulting firms or tutoring services for their students. After only two years, parents have the option of transferring their children to better schools in the area, a process that tends to be utilized mostly by the more economically privileged families, resulting in a worsening of stratification within school districts and exacerbating the downward spiral of test scores at the increasingly poor low income schools.

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