The Achievement gap was born from between the legs of No Child Left Behind…  That federal plan once reviled inside the educational field, because it forced the establishment of costly mandates without providing the means to fund them… is now looked back on fondly thanks to Race To The Top and Common Core.  Both which make educators remember the innocent times of No Child Left Behind…  now completely forgetting how nice things were before both.  NCLB began with our focus on closing the achievement gap…

Just for fun, Imagine an early Meso-American civilization that had a strong belief in some Almighty being and therefore assumed all bad came from his displeasure… When natural weather cycles were not favorable, they believed it was due to his displeasure over their sacrifices. The numbers of murdered citizens were ordered to be ramped up until the natural cycle swung to more favorable weather conditions…  Today we know there was no connection… however their civilization never realized it and in their limited way, they thought they were doing everything in their power to change reality.  Those in power never lost anything.  But those out of power suffered catastrophically, truly a “Hunger Games” mentality.

“The truth is that achievement-gap mania has led to education policy that has shortchanged many children. It has narrowed the scope of schooling.  It has hollowed out public support for school reform. It has stifled educational innovation. It has distorted the way we approach educational choice, accountability, and reform.”

Because of the way “achievement gaps” are measured — using scores on standardized reading and math tests — any effort to “close the achievement gap” must necessarily focus on instruction in reading and math. Hence many schools, particularly those at risk of getting failing grades under NCLB, have fixated on reading and math exclusively; other subjects — art and music, foreign language, history, even science — have been set aside to make more time and resources available for remedial instruction…

From inside Penny Schwinn’s  (Delaware’s Chief Accountability and Performance Officer) ) own home district, The New York Times has reported that in Sacramento, California, poorly performing students are permitted to enroll only in math, reading, and gym, in a mad dash to help close the achievement gap.

About 150 of one school’s 885 students spend five of their six class periods on math, reading and gym, leaving only one 55-minute period for all other subjects....

The intensive reading and math classes did raise test scores for several years running.  But in despite the progress on this artificial goal of achievement, the school’s scores on California state exams, used for compliance with the federal law, were increasing not nearly fast enough to allow the school to keep up with the rising test benchmarks! On the math exams 17.4 percent of students scored at the proficient level or above, and on the reading exams, only 14.9 percent….. This despite being drilled on it 5/6ths of every single day….

This is what we must expect to be slammed through six schools in Delaware, and as Kilroy well notes, the damage won’t become visible until after the “next” governor takes his oath of office.  But by the time it gets undone, It will mess up a minimum of 5 years worth of kids whose unlucky lot in life was to be at the wrong place at the wrong time.

Because of this single focus, between 1997 and 2008, the share of U.S. elementary schools offering foreign-language classes fell by roughly one-fifth…  Furthermore, in a 2010 survey, 70% of high-school social-studies teachers reported that civics has been marginalized by the focus on reading and math assessments… A narrow focus shortchanges all others in the pipeline. When asked which students were most likely to get one-on-one attention from teachers, 80% of the survey participants said academically struggling students, while just 5% said academically advanced students….

With NCLB all parties both liberal and conservative, agreed that school performance should be judged not by how well the schools did as a whole, but rather by achievement on reading and math assessments of the school’s worst-performing demographic “subgroup.” In other words, every public school in America would henceforth be judged primarily on its ability to drive up the reading and math scores of its most disadvantaged students. Indeed,
as Bush’s NCLB blueprint proposed, “Sanctions [would] be based on a state’s failure to narrow the achievement gap . . . in math and reading in grades 3 through 8.”

Consequences began piling up.

First, achievement-gap mania has signaled to the vast majority of American parents that school reform isn’t about their kids. They are now expected to support efforts to close the achievement gap simply because it’s “the right thing to do,”

Second, achievement-gap mania has created a dangerous complacency, giving suburban and middle-class Americans the false sense that things are just fine in their own schools. Thus it’s no surprise that professionals and suburbanites tend to regard “reforms” — from merit pay to charter schooling — as measures that they’ll tolerate as long as they’re reserved for urban schools, but that they won’t stand for in their own communities.

Third, achievement-gap mania has prompted reformers to treat schools as instruments to be used in crafting desired social outcomes, capable of being “fixed” simply through legislative solutions and federal policies. This tendency is hardly surprising, given that most of the thinking about achievement gaps is done in the context not of education reform but of “social justice.”

Fourth, the achievement-gap mindset stifles innovation. When a nation focuses all its energies on boosting the reading and math scores of the most vulnerable students, there is neither much cause nor much appetite for developing and pursuing education strategies capable of improving American schools overall.

Fifth, in a terrible irony, achievement-gap mania has indirectly made it more difficult for reformers to promote integrated schools. Philanthropic foundations that support education causes are interested in serving as many poor and minority children as possible; when 30% to 40% of a student body is made up of white or affluent students, the
school is deemed suspect; reform-minded foundations see such programs as “wasting” a third of their seats.

The problem with achievement-gap mania is not that it is necessarily wrong; the problem is that its self-confident purveyors have been uniformly uninterested in the cost, complications, or consequences of their crusade. The result has been to effectively stifle debate, alienate most parents from the school-reform agenda, and insist that a flawed, mechanistic vision of schooling ought to steer our course in the 21st century.

The correct solution is to ensure that these claims are placed in their proper context — weighed against the competing claims of other children and of society at large. The obligation of the new breed of serious reformers, then, is to rekindle debate. They have a responsibility to help lawmakers, educators, and foundations understand that, while achievement gaps are important, they are just one challenge in a vast education landscape. We, who are the new Reformers,… must challenge ourselves to insist that the demands of gap-closing crusaders be subjected to rigorous, careful scrutiny….

The new or post-reformers insist on a decentralized method of education, albeit one flush with resources.  Almost no one mentions the alleged collapse in educational excellence transpired exactly step by step, along the same time frame that coincided with tax revolt politics… When we cut the money, we lost educational excellence.  This is the prime lesson that must be drilled into heads… Money works.

The new post-Reformers insist on de-centralized control, with adequate funding available to insure all students individually get the educational tools required to thrive….

Their framework consists of the following…

A)  11:1 student teacher ratio in all schools under 50% reduced lunch, grades k-5 and in 9th grade.

B)  Sub groups of 11 students in a team working together with similar tested levels and abilities, all having one teacher held accountable for promoting those 11 children into the next level.

C)  After-school daycare programs for all school ages to provide those in need, a safe, nutritious environment and allow for continued educational stimuli to contradict the vacuum they would face at home.

D)  Clip teacher-performance apart from testing data which simply tested the poverty levels of those students, and not the educational prowess of individual teachers.   Continue the tests as great diagnostic toolsbut free schools and teachers from being fired over the results.  Doing this will give more honest feedback of individual points missed by individual students across the spans of their education.

E)  Cut Charter Schools from per-student funding.  Have them instead funded by line items in the state budget as would any other contractor hoping to provide a service to the state.  The problem with Charter Schools is that for every student they might help by providing a better environment, they hurt 4 others who through no fault of their own get left behind.  Negative 4 plus positive one equals a negative 3… It’s  hard to move the needle forward when you cause more hurt than help.

F)  The bulk of student funding, comes from property taxes on those parents themselves.  Ultimate control must be given to them, through their elected school boards to determine issues relevant to their constituents, and not be dictated from the Federal who funds 10% or the state who funds 30%…  The Federal and States have different agendas, as opposed to the locals, who prime focus is just on their kids…  The proper role of state and Federal authorities should be as sales people, promoting a cause or a way, and not as dictator, demanding that their personal friends and political cronies get paid with some of the local’s hard earned money.

G)  Finally realize that on a larger scale we need fair taxation.  Which means that those who make most of the money, should bear most of the costs… We need to finally raise tax revenues coming from the top 1% and mega-corporations enabling us to have the necessary funding required to create an across the board society educated so well, that we no longer will have to stand and argue that we need a “world class education”.

Other nations will plea they need an “American class education”….