Yesterday, President Bush talked about “blogs” for the first time ever (according to TV press sources today.) He encouraged U.S. citizens (and others) to read milblogs to get a broader perspective on what is happening in Iraq’s civil war. Here is an excerpt from the President’s speech, and his reference to blogs:

One of the things that we’ve got to value is the fact that we do have a media, free media, that’s able to do what they want to do. And I’m not going to — you’re asking me to say something in front of all the cameras here. (Laughter.) Help over there, will you? (Laughter.)

I just got to keep talking. And one of the — there’s word of mouth, there’s blogs, there’s Internet, there’s all kinds of ways to communicate which is literally changing the way people are getting their information. And so if you’re concerned, I would suggest that you reach out to some of the groups that are supporting the troops, that have got Internet sites, and just keep the word — keep the word moving. And that’s one way to deal with an issue without suppressing a free press. We will never do that in America. I mean, the minute we start trying to suppress our press, we look like the Taliban. The minute we start telling people how to worship, we look like the Taliban. And we’re not interested in that in America. We’re the opposite. We believe in freedom. And we believe in freedom in all its forms. And obviously, I know you’re frustrated with what you’re seeing, but there are ways in this new kind of age, being able to communicate, that you’ll be able to spread the message that you want to spread.

President Bush is correct in highlighting the importance for people of all ages to look at multiple sources of information when making up their minds or doing research about a particular issue. This is true for the war in Iraq and pretty much any other topic.

Sadly, NCLB offers no encouragement what-so-ever (at least as far as I know) for students to develop this vitally important literacy skill. Our “No Child Left Untested” program might have done a great job providing summative assessments for students in the 20th century, but it certainly does not encourage the formative, ongoing, as well as summative assessments of learning and literacy skills that our students need in the 21st century. It does not encourage teachers to help students prepare to solve the ill-structured problems of the real world (in contrast to the well-structured problems on multiple-choice examinations.) It does not encourage students to develop digital literacy skills, to create authentic representations of their learning and knowledge, to tell compelling stories and connect with digital tools with others around the country and the globe. No, NCLB encourages teachers to teach to a test. It perpetuates a myth most administrators seem to have bought into that quality education is defined by a scripted curriculum taught according to an inflexible pacing guide. This is a lie, yet most policymakers and administrators in education today seem to accept these ideas as articles of faith.

This environment may not constitute a crime against humanity (that would be an exaggeration), but it certainly is an injustice against our children and the future of our nation that we, as a free people able to speak out, should not tolerate. Our schools need to change, and the vision of NCLB is certainly NOT a child-centered vision. It is test centered, created primarily so politicians can congratulate themselves on taking action to improve education (which is everyone’s goal of course) while the students and teachers suffer on in our schools.

Am I speaking plainly enough about what I think on this subject?

I was very interested to learn today that in Denmark, the national assessment only counts for 50% of the overall learning assessment for individual students. The other 50% is locally determined based on the local curriculum that is followed, taught and assessed. Schools are free to develop authentic, performance-based assessments students can take to provide a more balanced perspective of their acquired knowledge and skills.

What a concept. I think we should learn from the educational leaders in Denmark on summative assessments. And we should stop being irrationally focused on summative assessments. We need to stop benchmark testing kids to death, and instead invite them into an engaged learning environment they would actually choose to be a part of if school wasn’t mandatory. Now that’s a revolutionary idea for you.

We do need to keep the word moving. And “the word” is that we need to prepare students for their future, not our past. NCLB is hurting kids more than it is helping them. And that injustice must stop.

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On this day..

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8 Responses to Bush on Blogs – NCLB reflections

  1. Here in Saskatchewan, we don’t have a provincial or national assessment. While our curriculum is more standardized, classroom assessment is the evaluation method. Our struggle is to develop assessment for learning rather than assessment of learning. We’re following the work of Rick Stiggins fairly closely. We have our share of struggles but are working hard at empowering teachers and community of learners to develop common assessments and use these not completely as a summative piece but as data that students and teachers can utilize to improve learning.

  2. astephens says:

    In “Test’um Texas” we certainly have standardized testing, and in my opinion, it is sucking the creativity and critical thinking out of teaching and learning. Teachers feel they must adhere to a rigid curriculum in order to prepare students for the TAKS. Not only do we hold teachers accountable for the scores, we also hold students accountable because they can’t graduate without passing all four exit-level tests. Since teachers feel such pressure to prepare students, many of the relevant and creative testing methods they might otherwise employ are set to the side until TAKS is over which leaves students unmotivated and bored because they do not see the real-world relevance of what they are learning (because there is none). It is a sad and vicious circle that will not change until the importance of standardized testing is lessened.

    If we must hold teachers and students accountable, then lets use some other method that allows students to not only use their multiple-choice testing skills but their creativity and talents as well.

  3. Wesley Fryer says:


    Great to chat with you last night! 🙂

    I think not putting your eggs in one basket is key, if there are multiple measures chances and some of the assessments are performance based, chances are thing can be more authentic. For us in Texas, and overall in the technocratic society in which we live, I think people are mainly looking for bar graphs in the newspaper unfortunately!

    You are right Angela, I think it is a mistake to mix teacher and student assessment in the same bag. Dr. David Berliner at Arizona State and others have written a lot on this, I need to read their work so I am better versed on it. But an essential part seems to be yours: that we are not getting the outcomes we should want in educational settings through high stakes accountability..

  4. PJID says:

    Sadly, NCLB offers no encouragement what-so-ever (at least as far as I know) for students to develop this vitally important literacy skill.

    NCLB does allow for this, in two ways. First – and fundamentally – NCLB never defines what it is that a student should know. That is left to state governments to determine as part of their standards development process. So a state could incorporate information literacy as part of their reading standards. In fact, many states do – Arizona and PA for example.

    The second way NCLB promotes information literacy is through the Title II, Part D program which sets the goal of students becoming technology literate by the 8th grade.

  5. Wesley Fryer says:

    By making the accountability system focus 100% on the state assessment, I think NCLB does inherently narrow the field of skills that teachers focus on on class and students therefore learn in schools. Much of the digital literacy skills / 21st century learning skills that students need to acquire cannot be measured well by neat multiple choice exams. Problem solving scenarios on these tests tend to be all well-defined, rather than ill-defined, like many problems in the real world are. Real world problems generally have more than one acceptable answer, with multiple tradeoffs inherent to their complexity. High stakes testing and a focus on these assessments do not lead to environments of inquiry and student-directed learning, at least in my educational experiences here in Texas and the research I’ve done. The curriculum is narrowed, the time pressure is high, and the depth of student learning is therefore often quite shallow.

    Doug Johnson and Don Knezek are two individuals of whom I am aware that have endorsed this idea of states also adopting more standards for information literacy / technology literacy. I think that is a move in the wrong direction. More standards will not guarantee any improvements in educational quality, in fact they could serve to worsen the time-starved environment in which teachers and students now work. High quality teachers empowered to teach from their passions on subjects students can study in depth, with project-based / inquiry models of exploration, seem to be the answer. I don’t think NCLB helps us move in that direction, in fact I think it takes us backward.

    I do appreciate your comments, however, and would welcome further observations you have on this and other issues. I was not aware that Arizona and Pennsylvania were 2 states including info literacy in reading standards. We have Technology Application standards here in Texas, but (in large part) because they are not assessed, I think they are ignored by many teachers. Technocratic solutions like passing more standards or mandating more testing isn’t going to take us where we need to go, I’m afraid. High quality teachers (a term which is a black box of disagreement for most folks) are the only hope we have.

  6. PJID says:

    By making the accountability system focus 100% on the state assessment,
    That’s not entirely true. NCLB’s accountability includes more than just “100% assessments.” States are also required to measure another academic indicator – usually attendance in the elementary schools and graduation rates in high schools. The law also allows states to define additional academic indicators if they wish to do so. Hypothetically, a state could include portfolios in their accountability systems if they were able to overcome the validity and reliability hurdles.

    High quality teachers empowered to teach from their passions on subjects students can study in depth, with project-based / inquiry models of exploration, seem to be the answer. I don’t think NCLB helps us move in that direction, in fact I think it takes us backward.
    I agree with you that in depth, project-based learning is a potential answer. But here again, there is complete flexibility within NCLB to do that. If you visit High Tech High in San Diego, Henrico in VA, or the Met up in RI, you’ll see plenty of excitement, project-based learning, and inquiry models being used. You’ll also find that those same schools are at the top of the state’s test rankings.

    I’m wondering if you’re concern is less with NCLB itself and more with how schools are chosing to respond. Perhaps they don’t feel that they have a choice but I think High Tech High and others clearly show that they do.

  7. C says:

    Although NCLB does allow the state to set standards, it also itself defines standards that are frankly, unreachable. The first that comes to mind is the standards relating to the percentage of identified special education students, which is so low as to be almost unattainable. And it ignores some subpopulations entirely, so evidently they can be left behind, evidently.

    I do think it impedes innovation, though it may propel some school districts to do better. The reason is because the “focus” is on testing, and that is how principals and administrators perceive the importance of it.

    The score is the end all, be all. Administrators may not see innovation or experimentation with new technologies as a part of that.

    As I read more of the World is Flat, it becomes evident that what is needed is a strong education system, but also, flexibility and the ability to adapt to changing times. No Child Left Behind is already behind where we need to be. And frankly, because standards are left to the states, there is a huge varience in what is actually measured so if the intent is to bring the “nation” up to a certain level of standards, then by the very nature of it, it is not designed to do that.

    Also, how have testing and NCLB standards impacted the dropout rate? Have any studies been done? Are students who drop out because they struggle to pass the standard really benefiting society in the long run?
    Would they not be better served to stay in schools and learn, even if they are still not meeting the standards?

    The question really comes down to drive–the drive of students to succeed.
    How do we nurture that in order to compete in the 21st century world?
    I don’t think testing is necessarily the answer.

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