Monday, February 11, 2008

Remediation High: Home of the Lawsuits

"No Child Left Behind" continues its inexorable march toward Lawsuit City.

Andrea Schoellkopf has a story in the Journal this morning on remedial classes soon to be required of high school students who aren't "proficient" in Reading or Math on the standardized tests. That "Failing" students would have to take these remedial classes instead of an "elective" is the gist of the story.

The implications of such a move could be vast, and highly "actionable" as the lawyerly types like to say. A few reasons why:
  • A very high percentage of those who aren't "proficient" are Special Education students and what we call "English Language Learners". Penalizing these students by requiring them to take remedial classes instead of electives is certainly going to lead to lawsuits, both from Special Education advocates and civil rights activists when they start to see the terribly high percentage of second-language learners in remedial classes.
  • The trend toward a two-class system of public high school education will reach apogee, especially at "failing" schools with 50/60/70% rates of non-"proficiency". A small number of students will be eligible for electives while the majority will not. As this already present situation becomes more pronounced, look for lawsuits to start flowing along these lines.
  • High schools will almost certainly go to "block schedules" to accommodate more classes, and thus try to keep "failing" students eligible for electives. This will have impacts on the quality of all classes, especially if a significant portion of the day now has to be dedicated to these remedial classes.
  • Subjects like Science and History will, necessarily, be treated as second-class citizens in a such an arrangement because remediation is based on scores only in Reading and Math. More time of the school day spent remediating Reading/Math means less time and, perhaps more importantly, money going to these other subjects.
Oh, there are a ton of other ramifications, but let's just stop there and notice how great our K-12 administrators are at thinking up negative consequences (if you don't pass you will have remediation) and not mentioning much in the way of positive consequences (if you pass you get a tangible asset like a brand new car, or maybe a lollipop).

One other thing these stories often fail to mention. There is a significant delay between the taking of the standardized tests and the announcement of scores (several months). That means 8th graders at my school will take this test in late February/early March and the scores won't even come out until the first few weeks of Fall Semester. does the high school schedule an incoming 9th grader for Fall given this reality?

I feel my inner-wonk really starting to come out on this thing....

Oh, and another thing, aren't many of the Reading/Math classes at APS high schools already "remedial"?

P.S.: Alot of people, teachers especially, look to Election '08 as a magic wand that will cure us of this evil "No Child Left Behind". I'm not so sure. Especially given the Democratic performance when taking over both house of Congress I'm not sure a FDR "First 100 Days" of sweeping immediate reform is possible. Also, school "accountability" is still a popular subject, and I could see "NCLB" survive in some form for some time.

At least until the lawsuits start.


Kelsey Atherton said...

Neither democratic candidate has any intention of doing away with No Child Left Behind, and both intend to reform the law. Obama's going for a version that helps failing schools catch up, and Hillary wants to better reward those who succeed. They both like the idea of accountability, and tests as a way to assess how to distribute federal education dollars. As for McCain, last time I checked he said nothing about education.

frannyzoo said...


At times Sen. Clinton has used the words "abolish" and "scrap" in regards to NCLB, and her husband has used the term "train wreck" to describe it. From what I can tell, Obama has used the word "reform" just about exclusively.

Campaign rhetoric aside, let me bring one bad and one good reason K-12 teachers may have for feeling a Democratic sweep will end NCLB.

The bad reason is the simplistic thinking that: If Democrat in White House, then NCLB will be instantly abolished in a signing ceremony on January 21, 2009. We can all pretty much agree that's kinda silly.

The good reason is that once reform starts taking place the interlocking stupidity of NCLB will make it necessary for "reform" to look like the "remodel" of Dukes Stadium here in ABQ to build Isotopes Park

Accountability will not die, but an unfunded mandate to require that a swiftly increasing percentage (100% by 2014, if I recall) of students must be "proficient", whether second-language learners, special ed., etc., under threat of unfunded penalties and wholesale elimination of classes that do not address the passage of a test with highly questionable academic and statistical validity...that can die.

Just not on day one, and only after a significant fight, imho. And then there's the question of another Republican administration....

Anonymous said...

John McCain doesn't even have education on his "issue" agenda. Hillary and Obama do ... Obama even has a link asking for your input. Here are their websites if anyone is interested.

Kelsey Atherton said...

Alright, I missed the Clinton's statements when dismissing the Bush administration potshots on her education page.

Certainly, both Democrats will change the nature of the law, and it will no longer be designed as a slow death for public education.