Friday, May 12, 2006

Alaska May Face Penalties Under "No Child Left Behind"

Today the Department of Education announced that Alaska is one of nine states plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico who could face the loss of federal aid because they didn't make enough effort to comply in time with the requirement to have 100% of their core teachers "highly-qualified" for the 2006-07 school year. See the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer for the full story. The other non-qualifiers are Delaware, Idaho, Iowa, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, North Carolina, and Washington state. Twelve other states are still under review and haven't been rated: Colorado, Connecticut, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Missouri, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Virginia, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

However, the 29 other states off the hook cannot rest on their laurels. They've made satisfactory progress but must improve further, since the Department of Education also stated that not a single state will have a "highly-qualified" teacher in every core class this school year as promised by President Bush's education law. The Education Department also ordered every state to explain how it will have 100 percent of its core teachers qualified - belatedly - in the 2006-07 school year. The 4-year-old No Child Left Behind law says teachers must have a bachelor's degree, a state license and proven competency in every subject they teach by this year. The first federal order of its kind, it applies to teachers of math, history and any other core class.

"At some point there was, I suspect, a little bit of notion that 'This too shall pass,'" said Henry Johnson, the assistant secretary over elementary and secondary education. "Well, the day of reckoning is here, and it's not going to pass." However, a much bigger reason is simply the sheer enormity of the challenge, particularly here in Alaska, where there's a large rural area off the state's road network, and the correspondingly higher cost of living making it difficult to attract any teachers period, never mind "highly-qualified" teachers. Furthermore, some teachers, particularly in small or rural areas, handle many subjects and have not met the law's details in each one. Many schools, urban and rural alike, struggle just to find teachers in math, science or special education. And turnover is common, often blamed on salary and stress.

Department officials would not say how much aid could be withheld from states to force compliance. But Johnson said, "In some cases, we're talking about large amounts of money."
States often fell short because they did not report accurate or complete data about the quality of the teacher corps, said Rene Islas, who oversees the department's review.

No matter which category they are in, all the states must submit a new plan of action.
Most states give themselves good grades on teacher quality; 33 states say 90 percent to 99 percent of their classes are taught by highly qualified teachers. Most of the rest put their numbers a tier below, in a range of 70 percent to 89 percent.

But what the agency wants to see most, Johnson said, is what states are doing to get experienced teachers into classrooms with large numbers of poor and minority children.

This story is so new that as of post time there's been no local media coverage nor official reaction from Alaska state officials.

Analysis: Here are a number of factors I believe contribute to the problem:

1). Mass Immigration: Too many foreign kids are emigrating to America, and far too many cannot speak English. Over 90 different languages are spoken in the Anchorage School District. So we must spend extensive resources teaching them to speak English. In principle, this is justified, but NCLB was underfunded to start with. I've previously addressed the impact of mass immigration on public education here.

2). Too Much Diversity: Too many of these foreign kids come from culturally and racially less-compatible areas of the world. Misunderstandings produce a volatile mix in our schools. In other cities, whites, blacks, and mestizos are actually fighting pitched battles with each other in the schools in a precursor of what Thomas W. Chittum referred to as "Civil War Two". To prevent this in Anchorage, we've has responded with the Cops on Campus program; the presence of two APD officers on each high school campus mitigate tensions.

3). Lack of Discipline: Too many kids act like they run the schools. I see kids taking skateboards and basketballs to school. School is a place to learn, first and foremost. The Anchorage School District makes a sincere effort to preserve discipline in the classroom, but this is offset by the open campus policies on our high school campuses. Until recently, junk food was sold in the schools (this is being corrected). Loose discipline creates a stressful environment for teacher - they don't feel they're being backed up by administrators. The bottom line - while the schools are for our kids, the adults, and only the adults should run them.

4). Lack of Parental Involvement: Too many parents look upon the schools as glorified babysitters. Other parents are "helicopter" parents, always hovering over and hyper-protecting their kids. These parents are so busy cocooning, nurturing, advocating, and lawyering for their kids they never get around to actually RAISING them. They fail to discipline their kids. They think they need a passport and visa to enter their kids' rooms, even though the kid's room is in the PARENT'S HOUSE. This is more prevalent in single-parent families, frequently headed by women who cannot cope with a teenage boy who grows to twice her size and intimidates her. "Love" makes a family, huh! What sappy New Age poppycock! Two parents married to and residing with each other make a family, and the failure to promote this ideal is costing us in terms of unwanted throwaway kids and attendant delinquency. And then the surging wave of pedophilia hysteria is scaring good men away from mentoring fatherless boys. We must also consider reinstating corporal punishment at the elementary school level.

5). Underfunded Federal requirements: Coupled with steadily rising labor and material costs (particularly skyrocketing health insurance and pension costs), this means the school districts have to constantly ask for more money. This gives them the reputation of panhandling. People understandably get tired of being constantly asked for money, and they respond by turning down perfectly good school bonds. Or they'll vote down a school bond not because it's bad, but to send a "political message" about high property taxes, yet they're stupid enough to re-elect the mayor who gave them the high taxes to being with. Of course, it doesn't help to have a neoconservative shock jock like Dan Fagan in your community who basically thinks public education is a thinly-disguised Communist plot.

6. Excessive Litigation: Tort reform is desperately needed so that schools can first consider necessity rather than expediency. The threat of a local ambulance-chaser like Dennis Maloney (a wannabe-crusading Anchorage lawyer who frequently sues the Anchorage School District) always lurking in the background stifles innovation and creativity; the district has to first worry about whether or not it is defensible in court.

1 comment:

  1. Dennis Maloney is a great man helping people because the school's try to ignore and hide problems. Don't accuse someone whose intentions are good for ruining the education system of Alaska. Maybe you should do some research before you type some ignorant blog.