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Thursday, April 15, 2010

Can You Spare some CHANGE????


“When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.” –John Muir, environmentalist.

Working as school psychologists we find ourselves as part of the “system”; collaborating with students, teachers, administrators, and parents a daily routine. In our discussions and readings the focus for school psychologists has been to shift our roles in that “system”. Are we prepared to be systems-change agents? What areas do we need to show competency in?

If we are prepared to be system-change agents, we must then consider the process by which we can initiate this change. In our readings, this is presented in terms of certain steps that need to be taken. Merrel, Ervin, & Gimpel (2006) state that “when creating readiness for change, the first consideration is the development of vision and leadership” (pg 235). Some may consider No Child Left Behind as an example of a systems change that requires a certain level of vision, so that others can see its potential for improving educational standards. What are you thoughts on this? Has this initiative met the goals it sets forth?

This Blog was created by Mark Newman & Anel DeJesus.

25 comments:

Alarys said...

I think that NCLB looks good on paper but when put into practice its really hurting the educational process. There are better approaches to evaluating a good teacher than by looking at student's test scores. This change means that many teachers are teaching to pass the test so students miss out on important information because of this focus.

As school psychologists we need to see this when we assess our children and learn to bridge that gap between information on the NJASK and curriculum based lessons.

Mark said...

I think that is a good point, are we really passing on knowledge and skills that better prepare students? Teachers seem to be more restricted in how they teach and if students aren't succeeding based on a standardized measure that will expose those students that are possibly just not great test takers instead of academically at-risk students.

Rebeccca said...

I too believe that NCLB is a good idea (much like Communism) but once instilled it does not work. It is hurting many schools that need the most help and it does not seem to consider that some students may never be able to accomplish certain tasks regardless of how skilled the teacher is.

Supposively, Obama is changing or removing NCLB and wants to look more at progress and how students are doing after graduation. This seems like a much better strategy since improvment should be the goal not completion of a general set of standards that may be too difficult or too easy for certain students.

As school psychs our job seems to be to role with the punches to a certain extent and help the child best learn and if need be past the appropriate tests until the laws are changed. In terms of changing laws, school psychs should speak out if they disagree with NCLB or other laws and act as an advocate for change.

One thing we should not do is fight to remove the system in place and have no alternative solution because that does not solve the problem. Just like you don't change a students behavior without giving him/her a replacment behavior because the behavior serves a purpose.

Danielle Allegra said...

i agree, i think NCLB sounds great but isn't really. i am taking a curriculum class now and i don't think teachers should be blamed for the students' test scores, what about race to the top? i mean it depends on the district a teacher works in, if there are any behavior problem children or children with learning disabilities in the class, and the motivation behind these students. teachers can teach and prepare these students, the test comes and the student puts their head down, is that the teachers fault? the teachers are goin to want their students to pass the standardized tests, and in turn the students will lose out on creativity in the classroom, and jus become, maybe, good test takers

Stefanie said...

NCLB is insane it was made by suits not teachers! They have no idea what is going on day to day in a classroom. Having fun and being a teacher no longer exists for most. Who cares what is in the textbooks or what today's lesson is because test prep is more important. I personally do not test well but I can learn something study it and do great. I never did well on standardized tests but was an honor roll student my whole life. It wasn't my teachers fault that I didn't do well it was the fact that I was nervous I felt under pressure I didn't want to get anything wrong. Today we are putting that pressure on the students. They can sense it they know what these tests do and do be perfectly honest I don't blame some of the kids for not caring. Kids especially younger ones have about a ten minute attention span before they start getting antsy. Bush decided to say I don't care have them sit down and take a 4 hour or more test in one day to assess them and the abilities of their teachers and ultimately their district. WHAT?!?!?!?!

Mark said...

I definitely agree with the last comment, teaching to test well does not make us smarter. Anyone can remember facts and numbers and the moment the test is done that knowledge is gone. The students are herded like sheep, only the strong and proficient receive the benefits which have nothing to do with becoming a well-rounded individual. There needs to be a more holistic and interactive component to learning.

Anel said...

Measures like the NCLB certainly hinder teachers in many ways. Teaching to the test, without taking into account the difficulties that many students have with standardized testing, may not be the best way to ensure that students are learning appropriately.

As school psychologists, one of the challenges we will face will be ensure that students with learning disabilities are not lost in this process. According to our Merell et al text, scores must be reported for 95% of the students, and this includes those with learning disabilities. But it is unfair to judge those students against standards used for students in regular education.

Prattima Kaulessar said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Prattima Kaulessar said...

I believe NCLB has the noblest of intentions; however, like all of you have already pointed out, it falls short in key areas. You have talked about some of the issues that make NCLB an ineffective educational legislative reform. However, there is another issue of importance to consider when speaking of NCLB and that is education as it relates to impoverished areas across the United States.

Currently, I work in an inner-city environment where there is a lack of emphasis placed on education in the home environment. Scores of children show a lack of motivation to achieve academic excellence in the educational setting. Parents are simply uninvolved in their children’s lives. Often times, these children come to school unclean, famished, and ill, yet we, as educators, are expected to move mountains. This is an almost impossible task given the circumstances surrounding these student’s lives. In addition, it is important to note that many families’ first priority is not education; it is survival. Countless students go through the motions each year until they reach sixteen years of age and can then legally sign themselves out of school.

Though unfortunate, this is the reality of today’s inner-city schools. As educators, we may reach a few, but without positive parental and environmental supports, it is impossible to reach all. This, in my opinion, is a societal issue not an issue of professional competence on the part of educators which makes NCLB an unfair measure of the education process if we are solely relying on test scores to assess whether a child is learning.

Ana said...

I think that Prattima brought up one of the most disturbing aspects of NCLB. I agree that NCLB does indeed make teachers "teach to the test" and because of that our students are not being taught things that they will need in everyday life. For those of us that plan on working in inner city/ urban school districts, Prattima's point is very very important to be aware of. NCLB has good intentions, but for those children living in an urban environment, they are in a disadvantage. There is a weak (if any) connection with the home aspect and education is not prioritized. Recently, there was an excellent documentary on HBO called "Tough Times at Douglass High" that demonstrated the impact that NCLB has had on inner city schools. The film demonstrates the inequality the law has on minority students. Keeping in mind that most urban areas consist of minority students!

Rebeccca said...

Another problem I have seen in NCLB is that the tests, as many have mentioned, do not assess all types of knowledge. I work in a rural area and many students really excell at things like automotive and farming knowledge. Many of these students miss half the school day to attend things like Votech where they learn about agriculture or fixing cars that will lead them to be very successful. However this type of knowledge counts for nothing in terms of NCLB.

Alaafia said...

As others have said, NCLB was set up with good intentions, but is causing real harm. Yesterday, I saw a educational documentary that CNN showed on how some school administrators were so fearful of their school falling below the target of showing evidence of progress made by the students that the school principal and two other teachers collaborated to change the answers on multiple choice answer sheets to the extent that the school was now showing signs of progress under NCLB rules and guidelines. Of course, the principal and the two teachers were caught, and this just shows the amount of pressure that the law has put on school administrators to show that their schools are improving when actually they are not. As others have said before, they are just teaching students to pass standardized tests, and not how to prepare for life in general.

Alarys said...

I agree with you Alaafia, I read an article in school law, that discussed the first schools in Texas to initiate the development of NCLB, and it was later found that those schools fudged the numbers to raise test scores.

Alarys said...

I agree with you Alaafia, I read an article in school law, that discussed the first schools in Texas to initiate the development of NCLB, and it was later found that those schools fudged the numbers to raise test scores.

AmandaBish said...

This blog has been giving me a problem so sorry if this comment is too late. But I wanted to bring up the fact that we have become a nation who's educational system is based on normative testing, and NCLB proves this. This isn't directly related, but I just found out that my cousins' K-12 private school starts practice for the SATs in KINDERGARTEN! how is that even possible?? they informed me that last week the ENTIRE school had SAT practice testing. i understand the importance of starting young so in the end it's easier, but does anyone else find this a little bit overboard??

Mark said...

Prattima brought up a good point, who cares if a get an A if I no place to sleep or food to eat. Again, we are taking on roles that not only foster academic development but also community outreach and emotional growth( a lot to take on!) In order to change the system we have to identify all areas that may be deficient.

Mike said...

While NCLB may have been a step in the right direction for reform, many of the changes it caused were more political than anything. Our struggle as a school psychologist will be that we can only work within the parameters of the system that we are under. As far as our responsibilities to the students, it is our greatest task to stay ahead of the legislation. We must be educated not only when it comes to testing, evaluating, and counseling, but also need to be familiar with the shifts within communities and cultures. School systems are not cookie cut images of each other, and the system that was in place thirty years ago is failing our students today. While we have an obligation to the school district that employs us, we have a larger responsibility for the greater good of the students we serve. This is why learning to juggle the changing legislation with the changing school populations is so vital.

Ana said...

Amanda, I feel that it has certainly gone overboard when it comes to testing young children. I taught Kindergarten a few years ago and I remember the principal coming into the classroom to remind us that for about 3 weeks straight our job was to prepare the children for the ELAS! We have flooded young children with testing materials, that they have developed an unhealthy relationship with school. By this I mean that more and more young children have starting saying things like, "I hate school!" I've heard plenty of Kindergarten students saying this! It's very sad to see!

Alaafia said...

As Mike stated, being competent in testing, counseling, crisis intervention is not going to be enough. Every school district is unique in its own right, and we must know the workings of the school district we find ourselves, but not forget as Mike said, we are mainly there for the kids and not just to carry out the directives of the school district. To be system-change agents, we must know the system to work it in order to bring lasting change.

Prattima Kaulessar said...

Ana, that is so true! Also, Rebecca made a good point in that standardized testing materials do not assess all areas of a student’s life. In addition, assessments do not measure the “little things” that amount to so much (e.g. self-esteem, self-worth, confidence, etc.) when considering a child’s progress. These things are so important yet no emphasis is placed on relatively immeasurable yet observable successes in a child’s life.

Danielle Allegra said...

we have all stated the NCLB looks great on paper but is actually hurting the educational process, not fit for all students, and causes teachers to just "teach", which i agree with.. without standardized testing though how would colleges select students? if they just looked at grades the selection process would be harder and more broad.. with standardized testing even honor roll students do not do well on tests, so the process may be a little easier but also more unfair.. why is that students can work 4 years at a college and earn A's but do poorly on the SAT's and not get accepted to the school of their choice?

Anel said...

Danielle, your question in regards to college admissions is something I have been thinking about as well. I agree that the NCLB places such an emphasis on the numbers, that it fails to look at some of the underlying issues that are preventing students from learning.

However, the unfortunate reality is that we are a country that still uses standardized testing as a measure of our competence across so many different fields. It starts with the SAT, and continues with the GRE, MCAT, LSAT, GMAT, and on and on. Since there is no indication that this will change in the foreseeable future, how can we ensure that our students are fully prepared academically ?

Danielle Muhammad said...

In order to be system change agents we must be competent in all areas of educating the whole child. We must be prepared to deal with academic concerns, but also social/emotional concerns. As school psychologist, in order to change our roles we must be seen in other roles. Many of the students in my school don't know the school psychologist? You will find that many school psychologists only interact with children when testing them. This is the first thing I would change. My system would include me being seen around the school building. Also, I will interact with students on a regular basis.

Rebeccca said...

One thing we have neglected somewhat is that even though classes do test prep now they dont do it all the time. In the elementary school I work at on occasion the math and english teachers of 3rd to 8th grade adminsiter practice tests in math and english once a week. Each test takes about half an hour...this is alot of time in the long run but there is still plenty of time to teach other things. You can do both, though it is not easy it is our job and teachers job to help students get into good schools by doing well on tests as well as learn how to be good members of society.

Mark said...

Danielle brought up a good example of establishing who we are in the school. Sometimes it can be a simple walk through the halls or establishing rapport with a guidance counselor. We have to be diligent it won't just happen.