Nov. 12 -Dec. 2, 2004
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Report spotlights honor accusations
Christopher Brightman to head UVIMCO
Medical Center grapples with national nursing shortage
Standardized testing here to stay
State procurement rules expand
Take advantage of cost-saving flex spending accounts
A quarter-century of working for a sustainable Virginia and region
Environmental negotiation pioneer Richard Collins to retire
Drama presents 'the cherry orchard'

Resource fair welcomes new faculty and staff

Bookstore holiday open house Dec. 1
New metal could revolutionize industry


Standardized testing here to stay
Conference grades education goals: calls for educators to get more involved

Anne Bryant Lamar Alexander Gerry House
Gerald Baliles Rod Paige Richard Riley
John Sununu Mark Warner  

By Anne Bromley

National education and political leaders assessed various aspects of education at a U.Va. conference Nov. 4. They gave varying grades to the progress on education goals and the federal No Child Left Behind Act. But all speakers gave the national Education Summit, held at U.Va. in 1989, high marks for raising the issue of education from a state and local enterprise to a top national priority.

The goals set at the summit demanded high academic standards, required regular assessments of student achievement and urged greater accountability for failure to meet the achievement standards.

Sponsored by the Miller Center of Public Affairs and the Curry School of Education, with funding from the Microsoft Corp., the conference on re-evaluating the 1989 Education Summit covered the problems and challenges in today’s era of standardized testing.

Advice From Educators
• Paul Houston: Teachers and school administrators were not included in drafting No Child Left Behind. “That accounts for the lack of trust” from educators toward NCLB, said Houston, a former teacher and superintendent and executive director of the American Association of School Administrators since 1994. The law often feels more punitive toward schools and teachers than supportive. “Learning takes place in the classroom, not the statehouse.”
• Anne L. Bryant, executive director of the National School Boards Association, said the 1,100-page No Child Left Behind Act was drafted behind closed doors and, four years into the program, has prompted a national surge to amend it.
“I think Congress is going to be mandated by the public to fix this baby,” Bryant said.
• “Another high priority of the government should be to improve the socioeconomic conditions for poor and minority students that are hindrances to better school achievement,” said Gerry House, a former teacher and superintendent who now heads the Institute for Student Achievement.
• Strengthen teacher preparation and mentoring programs to help teachers educate all children in our diverse society, said Mary Hatwood Futrell, former president of the National Education Association and currently dean of the Graduate School of Education and Human Development at George Washington University. She also recommended using the National Board for Professional Teacher Standards to give the profession guidelines and incentives.

Virginia Gov. Mark Warner and others said that because standardized testing is here to stay, it’s time to get to the hard work it demands despite its flaws. Refinements must be made and educators need to get involved in the process, speakers said. Resources are needed to solve problems and make sure “No Child Left Behind is more than a political slogan,” Warner said.

U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige defended the No Child Left Behind Act and said many schools have shown progress. “We must remain steadfast, following the law’s principles and requirements,” he said.

In 1989, when George H. W. Bush convened all of the nation’s governors at a conference on U.Va.’s Grounds to discuss how to improve education, it was a controversial idea for the federal government to be involved in public education policy. But after reports were released during the 1980s that seemed to show American students were slipping in academic scores compared to other countries, politicians began to get more involved.

Paige said the goals of the No Child Left Behind Act, which he began working on for current President George W. Bush four years ago, are similar to those of 15 years ago.

“The No Child Left Behind law has been a salvation for schools,” Paige said. “Today, test scores are rising dramatically. Parents are more informed than ever, and our classrooms are more inclusive. [Everyone] is more accountable and responsible towards education. Of course there’s a lot more to do.”

He also said the No Child Left Behind Act is adequately funded for what it’s meant to do, although critics have claimed that it is under-funded.

Paige and other conference participants stressed the need for students to have equal access to a quality education. A new emphasis on high school, with plans for more improvements at that level, was a recurrent note sounded in nearly all of the speakers’ remarks. Several mentioned that an equally important government role is to improve young children’s school readiness.

Gov. Warner, who is serving as chairman of the National Governors’ Association, discussed new education programs in Virginia as an example of how states are working to meet NCLB requirements, while also furthering their own education goals.

Warner has initiated new programs to beef up the senior year of high school, so that more seniors will be able to earn college credits or pursue job skills — things that are useful in their future. He also is focusing on improving leadership in schools, teacher preparation and meaningful remediation for failing students.

Virginia is looking at different ways to distribute good teachers and pay them better, Warner said. “Often the [newest and] least prepared teachers are hired into the harder-to-staff schools,” he said.

Former governors and national secretaries of education Richard Riley and Lamar Alexander, and former Virginia Gov. Gerald L. Baliles, who co-hosted the 1989 summit at the University, also gave perspectives on education reform. Another speaker, John Sununu, former governor of New Hampshire and Chief of Staff under former President George H.W. Bush, recommended Alexander for the Secretary of Education post. Alexander and Riley provided the context for the first summit and the decade that followed, and emphasized the historical significance of bringing together the governors to work on a bipartisan initiative.

Federal goals were meant to maintain the states’ authority and responsibility for filling in the details in education programs, Alexander and Riley said.

The year 2005 will be significant, Warner and others pointed out. NCLB, Head Start, which provides educational development for children of low-income families, and other federal programs will come up for reauthorization.

That makes it a good time for teachers and administrators to appeal to Congress for reforms they think would work better, several administrators said, such as developing ways to reward schools and teachers for students’ progress, recommending budget changes so that resource allocation goes where it’s needed and identifying broader measures of success than test scores yield.

Paige called for education to once again become a goal that brings the country together. It is clear that school administrators and teachers want to be included and have many ideas on how to implement the goals first identified in 1989.

Education researcher:
High-stakes standardized testing brings out the worst in the system
david berliner
By Anne Bromley
The problem with American education is not that the school system was ever failing — one of the main criteria for using standardized testing to measure a school’s success — but that the education of children in different parts of the United States is “embarrassingly” unequal, said David Berliner (right), an educational psychologist at Arizona State University, speaking Oct. 29 at the Curry School of Education.

With federal policies such as President Bush’s No Child Left Behind Act and most of the states using standardized testing, Berliner said the United States is building a system for academic accountability based on measures that are known not to work. Not only do the measures fail, but their consequences put enormous pressure on schools to make the grade. This pressure creates a situation that opens the door to corruption — of the system and the people involved — and causes “a good deal of collateral damage,” according to Berliner, who has been studying high-stakes testing and analyzing survey data from other studies for several years.

For example, one Virginia principal resigned after it was found that some students’ test answers had been changed. At least 20 percent of teachers reported breaking standardization in some way. In one school outside of Boston, the tests were delivered by armored car, complete with a sealable plastic bag and latex gloves. Instructions explained that these were provided in case a student vomited on the test, so it could still be sent in.

The first speaker in a yearlong series marking the Curry School’s 100th anniversary, Berliner had a wealth of data to support his assertion that inequality in the American education system is to blame for what are interpreted as low test scores. In addition, high school dropout rates are climbing throughout the U.S., and he and many researchers hold high-stakes tests at least partly to blame.

Berliner said that the achievement gap between white students compared to poor and minority students shows up in all kinds of tests, nationally and internationally. If you take the U.S. scores and break them down into ethnic groups and economic groups, the more affluent white students continue to outperform minority and poor students. Nevertheless, the latter groups have made significant gains compared to the 1980s and ’90s. Too many things have been changing in education, such as curriculum reform and professional training, to attribute gains to mandated testing, he said.

Do high-stakes testing policies lead to increased student motivation to learn? And do these policies lead to increased student learning? No, Berliner said.

He does not mean that tests should be thrown out and the status quo is fine. Assessment tests provide important data and are less prone to corruption if there aren’t strings attached, he said. Teachers should be more involved in what standards of achievements they expect from their students, and officials should give them a chance to design assessment alternatives.

Teachers say that “teaching to the test” narrows the focus of learning, and Berliner warned it may lead to mediocrity.

In America, 80 percent of households do not have children in school, but they need to be reminded of their obligations to their communities and to future generations, he said. Schools are but a small part of the effort.
  • The next speaker in the Curry 100 series:
    Dec. 3, 10 a.m., Ruffner Hall Auditorium
    William Pelham, professor of psychology, pediatrics and psychology at the State University of New York-Stony Brook. “Comprehensive, Evidence-based Treatment for ADHD: Just Say ‘Yes’ to Drugs?”
Archival photos by Katherine Kayser
Archival photos by Katherine Kayser
Former President George H.W. Bush (above at podium) convened the 1989 Education Summit at U.Va. with the nation’s governors, 49 of whom attended the event.
Former President Bill Clinton (at podium), then chairman of the National Governor’s Association, led the states’ leaders at the Education Summit. As then-Governor of Arkansas, Clinton wrote the new education plan based on the results of the summit.




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