Blogging Bayport Alameda

December 10, 2015

Left behind

Filed under: Alameda — Lauren Do @ 6:00 am

Yesterday news broke that the US Senate had voted to leave No Child Left Behind, behind and authorize the Every Student Succeeds Act to replace the policy that failed the students it was attempting to not leave behind.  A few victims of NCLB in Alameda includes the former Chipman Middle School and Washington Elementary. Arguments could be made about whether the transformations of those schools equaled a better product, but the argument could also be made that those schools no longer serve exactly the same populations that they used to.

Anyway, from the Atlantic:

The new law returns significant power to the states to develop their own accountability standards for schools, repealing the requirement that schools demonstrate “adequate yearly progress.” But it doesn’t eviscerate the federal role entirely.

The legislation maintains the requirement for annual testing, and it requires the Department of Education to sign off on state-developed plans for improving when states fail to improve their lowest 5 percent performing schools and high school “dropout factories.” It prevents states from exempting more than 1 percent of students from their main annual tests, and it mandates that states report performance data broken out by subgroups based on factors like income, race, language barriers, and learning disabilities—a tool advocates consider crucial for addressing the achievement gap. And in a victory for the Obama administration and congressional Democrats, the law includes $250 million in annual funding for early childhood education, although it is housed not in the Department of Education but in Health and Human Services.

The bigger question is what this means for California and Alameda Unified in particular.  For California, we get a brief glimpse from the LA Times:

Unlike No Child Left Behind, though, the bill doesn’t specify performance goals or punishments for schools that underperform. That ESSA leaves states more room to be flexible has caused excitement in California, which, for the most part, has been creating its own education policy for the last few years.

California is already creating its own accountability system. The Board of Education suspended the state’s Academic Performance Index, a measure of rating schools based on test scores. Instead, the state is devising a new system that looks at different factors together, such as how quickly students who don’t speak English are becoming fluent, college readiness, dropout rates, suspensions and school climate.

State officials had hoped to finish creating this system by the summer, but ESSA might change that. California Board of Education President Mike Kirst said the board’s idea for a new accountability system looks more like the dashboard on a cheap car, where you constantly monitor different factors, such as the gas and the speedometer. In the case of schools, those factors include test scores in addition to college readiness, graduation rates, school climate, and suspension rates, among others.

Under ESSA, states have to devise a “system of meaningfully differentiating” schools by looking at academics in addition to at least one other factor, as long as the academics are given “much greater weight.” ESSA calls for states to intervene in the bottom 5% of their schools, in addition to schools where specific groups of students consistently underperform and high schools with graduation rates below 67%. States can determine what they do to those schools, as long as the interventions are “evidence-based.”

Personally I like the dashboard idea, but some folks are worried that the regulatory language in ESSA will require a API like one-size fits all number.  But if the argument is that a one number wrap up is required so that parents and guardians can understand at a glance how well their schools are doing, well, there is no one number that can tell you how competent the teaching is or a host of other things that contribute to the school in general.  A one-size fits all number is the worst way to judge the efficacy of the school.  If you really want to know how well your school is performing wouldn’t you want as many data points as possible to understand the weaknesses and/or strengths of the school?   I don’t disagree that the system shouldn’t be easy to understand, but easy to understand doesn’t mean an continual dumbing down of of the assessment into a context and content free number for which schools with the highest poverty levels are judged next to Atherton schools.

Personally, I am hopeful that ESSA ushers the demise of Program Improvement now that the Adequate Yearly Progress Federal Accountability System has now been dismantled and it’s up to the States to create their own accountability systems of measurements.  Hopefully there will be “reset” years for all schools in California to create a baseline for determining the bottom 5% of schools requiring intervention.   After all, as we’ve seen from the first wave of Smarter Balanced tests in Alameda, what matters from a testing perspective largely depends on socio-economics of the family and parent education.  That is probably the best predictor of how well students perform on standardized tests so  to really judge the school we should be concentrating on more than just tests to declare if a school is “good” or not.



  1. “what matters from a testing perspective largely depends on socio-economics of the family and parent education.”

    Just take the kids out of school entirely. Save us all the parcel taxes.

    Comment by vigi — December 10, 2015 @ 11:40 am

  2. Some families need to work in order to afford to live in the Bay Area, including all caregivers within the family, since we weren’t privileged enough to have inherited our homes..

    Comment by Lauren Do — December 10, 2015 @ 11:56 am

  3. To “vigi” (whatever that means…oh, you’re “vigi”-lant? How enchanting!): your comments here are consistently mean, small-minded, and give the overall impression that you’re a bitter little old biddie who’s a sticking-her-perpetually-up-turned-nose-in-everybody’s-business tittering old busy-body par excellance….like a toxic little Gladys Kravitz. Now run along and get yourself a blue rinse (roots are showing! tsk, tsk!) and leave everybody alone, would you?

    Comment by AlamedaIsALaughingStock — December 10, 2015 @ 12:07 pm

  4. 3. There’s more bitterness in your small-minded, ageist rant than in anything I’ve ever seen vigi post, and that’s saying something.

    Comment by Denise Shelton — December 10, 2015 @ 12:48 pm

  5. 2: I cannot comment much on your comment, since you have never said what your actual occupation is, apart from writing this blog. But you should click on the link I provided.

    IMO, the amount of time you have spent writing, and doing the research for writing, this blog could easily have been used to home-school your children. Why do you think strangers can educate your children better than you can?

    An enormous amount of time, money, and energy is wasted on the politics of public education; rather than on the education itself.

    Comment by vigi — December 10, 2015 @ 12:50 pm

  6. Why do you think strangers can educate your children better than you can?

    Because I don’t have a Masters degree in Education and all of my children’s teachers have.

    Comment by Lauren Do — December 10, 2015 @ 12:52 pm

  7. When did Alameda become “alaughingstock”, and in comparison to where?

    Comment by MP — December 10, 2015 @ 1:08 pm

  8. 6: Hmm…in 23 years of formal education, SJES + SJND + UCB + UCLA + UCI, not a single one of my teachers had a Masters degree in education–at least not while they were teaching me. And yet, I ended up with 2 doctorates anyway.

    I wonder why it is so important to you that teachers have that degree in education today..

    Comment by vigi — December 10, 2015 @ 2:13 pm

  9. Apparently your private school teachers weren’t required to have the same type of education that our public school teachers are required to today.

    Comment by Lauren Do — December 10, 2015 @ 2:25 pm

  10. 8. At what age does it become embarrassing and sad to keep referring to one’s educational attainment? Maybe 35? At some point, one’s achievements after graduation count more. But, well done, you’re very clever.

    Comment by BC — December 10, 2015 @ 4:02 pm

  11. When I was a little girl, I was sometimes embarrassed because my Daddy was so different than the other families in our neighborhood. He didn’t cook outdoors, and he didn’t work on cars or trucks in our driveway on the weekends. When I was about 5 years old – I asked him about it. And he said, “Doll, we have a wonderful set of tools in the kitchen for cooking food – I’m not about to undo a couple hundred years of progress by building a fire on the patio”. And when it came to working on cars and trucks, he said “When people need a bridge or a dam or a power plant – they call me, and when I need something for our car- I call an expert too.”
    He died when I was nine. But I took a powerful lesson from that conversation and I rely on it every day. When I need something done right, I rely on an expert, and I try to make sure they have the very best tools available to do their work. Equally important, being an expert in a particular field doesn’t mean you’re an expert in everything.
    I’m an expert in my field, at least as highly educated as anybody that posts on this blog, but not an expert at everything – and I am certainly not good at everything. So, when I have an important task, like educating my child, I rely on experts.
    And I want to be sure that those experts are working under the conditions that allow them to do their very best work. One-size-fits-all measurement, standards and rigid reporting – as implemented under the disastrous “no child left behind” have made it very very hard for the on-the-ground experts in our education system to do their best work. I’m hopeful that the changes Lauren is describing will start us on the road back from that disastrous course.

    Comment by Jordan1324 — December 10, 2015 @ 9:09 pm

  12. 11. nice anecdote.

    Comment by MI — December 10, 2015 @ 9:31 pm

  13. #11 -well said!

    Comment by Robby Kiley — December 11, 2015 @ 7:37 am

  14. #9 = Yeah, well, my “private school [SJES, SJND] teachers” were Sisters of Notre Dame and Dominican Brothers of St. Albert’s Priory. They didn’t get paid much. They didn’t need to be taught how to teach by some fancy Education degree. They taught me how to teach myself. It was a great school system. No unions, no parcel taxes, no political distractions for the parents. Best school system in Alameda.

    St. Joseph’s main goal was to teach to the admission standards of the University of California, not to a particular standardized test. I am not bragging–I didn’t study for the SATs and I don’t remember even worrying about it. I don’t remember others studying for their SATs either. Those were the days.

    By the time you get to the university level, you must be able to teach yourself. All your instructors are Ph.D.s or candidates in their fields.

    If your only criterion for being an expert teacher is a Masters in education…kinda like putting your car in cruise control and deciding you don’t have to watch the road. The ability to teach is a gift not automatically conveyed by a particular degree.

    Now-days, people are so obsessed with HOW they teach and What they teach, they aren’t noticing whether they have actually taught anyone anything anymore.

    Comment by vigi — December 11, 2015 @ 1:45 pm

  15. On the other hand, I’m not well educated at all. But I do know this, vigi is never wrong and never at fault.

    Comment by John P. — December 12, 2015 @ 10:04 am

  16. so some highly educated dumb ass is going to rely on experts to do everything that’s needed because the dumb ass can’t do anything except follow what its dumb dead embarrassing dad told it to do and that means do nothing except follow dreams from its father. I think we may have a future president here.

    Comment by jack — December 12, 2015 @ 10:19 am

  17. #11 = ” I rely on an expert, and I try to make sure they have the very best tools available to do their work.” Uh..if you already know what the very best tools are..wouldn’t that make you more of an expert than the expert you hire?

    Comment by vigi — December 12, 2015 @ 12:32 pm

  18. Durrr…”I know what a hammer and chisel are so obviously I’m as great a sculptor as Michelangelo.”

    Not many logic courses in all that fancy schoolin’ I guess.

    Comment by brock — December 13, 2015 @ 1:10 pm

  19. I’m beginning to understand how the commentary here sometimes seems to slip so quickly into personalized attacks and invective. I don’t really want to dignify the comments made by #16 – but you’ve succeeded in insulting me if that was your intent. My father was neither dumb, nor embarrassing although you may find my anecdote to be both. He is definitely dead.

    Comment by Jordan1324 — December 14, 2015 @ 11:34 am

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

Blog at