New Civilization News: Last Day Of School    
 Last Day Of School15 comments
picture3 Jun 2004 @ 03:31, by Richard Carlson

Do not wish to be anything but what you are, and try to be that perfectly.

---St. Francis De Sales

My life has been the poem I would have writ,
but I could not both live and utter it.

---Henry David Thoreau

Tear open the tree!
And can you see
The cherry flowers that yearly
Bloom on Yoshino?

---Ikkyu

Am I preaching to the choir? Oh well, I love a good rant!

Picture of Dave Eggers at a recent booksigning at Boston College.

Reading, Writing, and Landscaping
Mowing lawns, scrubbing bathrooms, selling stereos: How teachers make ends meet
Dave Eggers
May/June 2004 Issue of Mother Jones

As a nation, we're confused about how we see teachers. Most polls show that respect for the profession has risen in recent years, yet we have certain quietly entrenched ideas—that teaching is easy, that teachers get out at 3 p.m. every day—and these notions, all ludicrous, allow us to accept the injustice in teachers' dismally low salaries. We love teachers, we think they're saints, but most of us consider unavoidable the fact that they are underpaid and often have to work two or three extra jobs to maintain a middle-class existence.

The latest statistics put the average teacher's salary at about $46,000; some teachers earn a little more, some a little less (the average teacher's salary—not the starting salary—is $38,000 in Kansas, $36,000 in New Mexico, and $32,000 in South Dakota). Overall, that's about the same that we pay pile-driver operators ($45,980) and about $8,000 less than the average elevator repairman pulls down. Meanwhile, a San Francisco dockworker makes about $115,000, while the clerk who logs shipping records into the longshoreman's computer makes $136,000.

The first step to creating an education system full of the best teachers we can find is to pay them in line with their importance to their communities. We pay orthodontists an average of $350,000, and no one would say that their impact on the lives of kids is greater than a teacher's. But it seems difficult for everyone, from parents to politicians, to shake free of a tradition in which teaching was seen as something of a volunteer project for women whose husbands brought home the real money. Today's teachers need to, but very often can't, support a family on their salaries. They find it difficult or impossible to buy homes, to save money, to live comfortably, and, in wealthier areas, to live in or near the towns where they teach.

I vividly remember, while growing up in the Chicago suburbs in the '70s, knowing that my sixth-grade math teacher was also—even during the school year—a licensed and active travel agent, and I recall seeing a number of my high-school teachers, all with master's degrees or Ph.D.'s, painting houses and cutting lawns during the summer. This kind of thing still happens all over the country, and it's a disgrace. When teachers are forced to tend the yards of students' homes, to clean houses, or to sell stereos on nights and weekends, the quality of education is diminished, the profession is disrespected, and we parody the notion that we hold our schools and teachers in the highest regard. Teachers with two and three jobs are tired, their families are frustrated, and the students they teach, who want to—and should—consider their instructors exalted figures, learn instead to think of teaching as a part-time gig, the day job for the guy who sells Game Boys at Circuit City.

Erik Benner, 32
History
Cross Timbers Middle School
Grapevine, Texas

I've been teaching history for eight years now, and for the whole time, I've been working nights and week- ends at the local Circuit City. It pays decently. We've got 3-year-old twins and an 11-year-old, and without the second job, it would be extremely difficult. The irony is that the extra job takes me away from my kids on the weekends. I coach, too, and football season is pure chaos. It's Texas. Football's big. It's a 12-hour day if there's no games. And if there's no games, then I could go get four and a half or five hours at the store.

I have a buddy who started at Circuit City the same time as I did. He's a store manager now. He's making the same as I am working two jobs. By me working my second job, I'm making more money than [a teacher] with a master's and 20-plus years of experience, which is sad.

It bothers my wife more than it bothers me, just because I'm used to it. But she'd like me to have weekends off. She doesn't like having to go to church by herself.

Rachel Cross, 30
History and Algebra
Oneida Middle School
Oneida, Tennessee

I'm a single mom, and I did everything at school I could do, as far as tutoring and summer school. But it's gotten so bad that for almost a year, I cleaned houses. I'd just take my son with me and go clean houses. It's not that I think I'm too good for that. It didn't bother me to sweep, and it didn't bother me to mop. But every time I would scrub a toilet, I would think, "I went to school for four years and did very well, and I'm doing this."

I was doing it two to three times a week at night and on Saturdays, probably four to five hours, and making about $30 to $40—about $100 a week total. I would get off work and go clean houses and then get home at 10. And it's like, you're on your knees in front of this toilet, and you're almost praying, praying that it'll get better, that you won't have to do this forever. But at the same time, you've got to be thankful, because this'll be 30 extra dollars. It's a tank of gas, or it may be part of your co-pay if your child gets sick.

There's always something; that's the nature of having a child. One afternoon, he was riding home with my mother. And she gave him a couple of dollars because we were going to go to the movies or something, and he said, "I'm going to give this to my mommy, because even though she doesn't tell me, I know she doesn't have a lot of money." That just broke my heart. He was probably four at the time.

Dan Beutner, 38
Fifth Grade
Sureño Elementary School
Phoenix, Arizona

My first teaching contract was in 1988 and I got paid $19,500. I thought I could do that, I could make it work, I'm not material- istic. As time went on, I got married, I had two kids, I realized, "Wow, bills add up." We were having all kinds of problems because my wife was a teacher, too. So I started taking on part-time jobs.

I landscaped during the summer for a parent who owned a landscape company. I was one of the guys making five bucks an hour pushing a lawn mower. They had contracts with local strip malls.

Then, the next school year, I started doing it on my own, just getting lawns I would cut. Every weekend for 10 years, I would go out and cut people's grass and install sprinklers and that kind of thing. I reached the point where I realized I could make more money as a landscaper than I could as a teacher. But I didn't want to do that—I wanted to teach.

When I would cut lawns, the kids would come out and say, "Mr. Beutner's here!" It was a big exciting thing. And I just said, "Hey, how's it going?" and I figured I'm showing them a good work ethic. At one point, I was working three jobs. I was working as a teacher, I had my own landscaping company, and I would deliver newspapers. I would get up at 3 a.m. and get in my car and go down to the high school where the newspaper truck would be. If the truck was late, I would sit there in the parking lot and grade papers while I was waiting.

Steve Herraiz, 40
Kindergarten
John Muir Elementary School
San Francisco, California

I work 16 hours a week at a bar. I spend about 50 hours a week teaching. During summer, sometimes I travel to take a bit of a vacation, but I can't really afford to go too far because I still need that second income from the bar. What's really tragic is that when I first started teaching, I was making the same amount of money bartending two days a week as I was teaching five days a week.

I spent $3,900 of my own money last year on my classroom. And it's not anything extravagant. It's stuff like paper clips and art supplies and paint, and the things you would assume that the district provides and they don't. I was active in union work a couple of years ago, but I didn't feel like we were being heard. There are so many obstacles to being a good teacher that I just said, "What can I control myself?" I can have a second job and not have to worry about supplies.

The main thing about having two jobs was, I kept thinking that it's going to give me the extra money I need to be an effective teacher. In other words, I can buy snacks for my kids. For the last eight years, I've been buying the food that gets them through the morning because the school doesn't provide any sort of nutritious snack for the kids. And the kindergart- ners need to eat every few hours to get through the day.

© 2004 The Foundation for National Progress
[link]

At that lecture and booksigning (A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius) at Boston College, Dave Eggers quietly asked a group of students around him if any were education majors. (McSweeney's, of which he is editor, had just opened a nonprofit writing lab for underprivileged youth in San Francisco.) When one young man said he planned to teach high school English, Eggers took out what looked like his payment for the evening--a check for $1,500--and signed it. "You'll be underpaid your whole life," he said. And he endorsed the check over to the student.


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15 comments

3 Jun 2004 @ 14:02 by martha : Yes jazz our priorities
are a bit screwed up in this country. Not only are teachers under paid but many students get passed just so the school system doesn't have to deal with irate parents. On a lighter note I thought you might enjoy the following.
THE PAOMNNEHAL PWEOR OF THE HMUAN MNID

Aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn't
mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoatnt tihng is
taht the frist and lsat ltteer be in the rghit pclae. The rset can be a
taotl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae
the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a
wlohe.

Amzanig huh?  



4 Jun 2004 @ 03:27 by jazzolog : However, Reading Teachers Hasten
to remind us that comprehending the scrambled message depends on a firm foundation. Re: the parent thing~~~Certainly the past couple of years, in our special education experience, have been most clogged up and frustrated by parents dictating to our schools exactly what programs they will have for their challenged children. In each case with which we have had to deal, our analysis has been the parents are in desperate denial about what's going on with their children and are leading them into a fantasy world that will explode a decade or so down the road. However, all legislation these days in most states favors these deluded folks and administrations cave in under fear of lawsuit---even one of which can endanger a whole school system.

We had a perfect example of what I'm talking about this year, during which an MH senior in High School finally caught on that the so-called "friendships" he had developed since grade school, through mainstreaming his program mostly away from special education classes, were shallow hoaxes. Experiencing a sense of betrayal and loneliness, as the rest of his class dove into dating/mating rituals leaving him totally on the sidelines, and panicking about what job he might be able to hold down next year (his parents had humored along his dream of becoming a brain surgeon all these years) without many basic skills we teach in special ed classes, he finally blew a gasket and tore apart a classroom, destroying a few learning machines there. He was sent to "alternative school" (which is another potentially horrifying development in this country) for a period of time---and put on antipsychotic medications. Most of the inmates in American prisons have IQ scores in or close to mentally retarded range.  



4 Jun 2004 @ 07:40 by martha : I have a friend
who teaches in the Nevada school system and some of the stories she tells me are unbelievable. I put most of the problems square on the parents, like you said, for not taking responsibility for their actions and then blaming the school system if their children have problems learning or are just plain LAZY. A lot of denial out there with parents. Also some parents are very vindictive so this teacher always writes up something if she has had an unpleasant encounter with a parent to cover her ass. Also kids who parents are prominate in the communite or are big jocks on campus can get special privilages. But that is nothing new since I saw that in my own high school 36 years ago. That is why I becamse rather cynical of schools after several nasty incidents at both high school and college but because they were jocks, they got off very lightly where as if another student did what they did they would have been suspended. Saw this happen many times.  


5 Jun 2004 @ 14:32 by vaxen : You...
somehow forgot 'Washington' in your many equations. Why is this? Outcome based education? Global 2000? Iraqgate? Oh, you forgot about 'Iraqgate.' Sorry. A dumbed down society is so very easily manipulated. Oh but we are'nt manipulated! There is no 'Mind Control' going on. Nope. We're the smartest, bravest, freest, most wonderful society on earth! Yup. And where did you get those shabby statistics on the 'I.Q.' of prisoners? Oh yes, we also have more people in prison than any country on earth. Per capita it really smacks of 'Gulag' America. Yup, land of the free home of the knave. ;) Thanks jazzolog. I do 'sympathize' with your horrendous plight. Take a look at good ol honest Abe, be inspired by his white slaver genius and his overall 'White Supremacism.' Look what it got him. Wow...See ya bro. Glad school is out for you. Do you have a summer job? Truck drivers in Iraq, or maybe you'd prefer mercenary work, get paid huge sums of money. I do'nt think they need teachers there just yet...

[link]

And a nice interview, at 'Spectrum,' on the subject of Count Hans Kolvenbach. Just for your amusement as you while away those hours by the--wherever it is you while away those hours...

[link]

Prost!
Le HaYeeM!
Love ya jazzie.  



6 Jun 2004 @ 01:59 by jazzolog : Vaxen In Prison At Last
I believe I am not alone in finding this member's comments extremely difficult to deal with. What drips from every other word is such desperate cynicism and ambivalence that one might conclude the best approach is simply to throw up one's hands and ignore the whole thing. In fact, Vax sometimes laughingly mocks anyone who takes time to research and reply to him. He either has taken on another mood or declares he was kidding or doesn't give a damn what anybody else thinks anyway. Ask him a direct question for information from his vast knowledge and you very well may be told he has better things to do than bother with you. I say that's every other word. The rest is friendliness and good humor. Maddening character.

Let me answer 3 sort-of-questions I guess: First, I believe this will be my 3rd summer, since I began working in 1956, which I will enjoy as vacation. Like most teachers, I always have found something to do with those months, either out of necessity or because an opportunity for some kind of hands-on social project turned up that interested me. While I never did strictly "lawn work," I did work custodial and maintenance in schools during summer months. I recommend it for any teacher (at least once) just to discover what messy creatures we can be.

Second, I agree about the dumbed-down society---even think such a process may be official policy at the federal level...and for the very reasons Vax suspects. The stupider you are the more likely you will be to plop in front of the TV all day and eat your potato chips, learning to do whatever they tell you...especially if you and everyone in your family for the last 3 generations has no idea what's involved in holding a job. The vast population of laborers that mining, railroads and industry created in the last hundred years now threatens to take over the gene pool---and precisely may be the motivation that moves the neo-cons to business and residence offshore. The rich are building castles and fortresses again...often at taxpayer expense.

Third, what is "shabby" about IQ statistics is our dependence on them for early identification and designation of students into various learning programs---many of which I consider dead-end dumpsters to inevitable poverty, emotional disturbance and crime. Most of the students we work with in special education (and in Appalachia, that may involve the MAJORITY of a school population!) are so diverse and individual that an attempt to apply standardized IQ testing to them is impossible. Can you imagine an autistic person trying to fit his perception into an IQ test? So strictly speaking, Vax is correct to challenge my remark that most inmates are or close to retarded. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that most have special educations in either multihandicapped, developmentally handicapped or severe behavior disordered. Not all of those adults would be classified as retarded, but most would be charted as close---if they even were made to cooperate with such a test---adapted or otherwise. Let me just advise, on the parent side of things, that if your child is being considered for classification as a "student with special needs," become alert as a hawk as to what is happening! For an article on "People with Mental Retardation in the Criminal Justice System" that, alas, is rather out-of-date (given what the Bushies have done) see here~~~ [link]

P.S. Jeff Starrs has an interesting entry and thread going on IQ at his Log~~~ [link]  



6 Jun 2004 @ 06:31 by spells : education of our young...
I have to be honest and say I didn't read all of what you wrote. Why? ...I am against our school system, because it teaches one to ignore the body, learn a slave mentality by imposing schedules that ignore natural bodily functions and natural rhythms of the body. In other words it prepares you for the corporate/work world. And it doesn't even touch on the true essence of life, the soul, energy, our interconnectedness, our true genius and potential.

The testing of intellegence is based on arbitrary facts. Yes we all need to learn to read and write, but the creativity is killed with our souls and true naturalness being pushed down and ignored.

When one does a "research" paper, it is based soley or mostly on others conclusions. Yes it is good to learn from others, but creative thought is stifled.

If our school system were about true education, intuition would be enhanced, meditation would be taught in order to find answers (not based solely on others past results), flexibility in life would be encouraged and not the chaining to a clock, listening to one's body would be the norm instead of arbitrary schedules set around bells that ring and then the "rush" is on to get to the next class, subjects that are rarely if ever used in life would only be taught to those that are interested, (how many of you actually used that trigonometry you learned in High School?) etc etc etc...

Therefore it appears that teachers, most of them, are just mere puppets teaching the youth of our country to become puppets.

Just because it has been done in this way for a long time does not make it right.

Learning ought to be exciting, passionate, exploration, enhancement, uplifting (to just name a few)...our schools/educational system doesn't even come close. It is just very good at what it does...teaching our young to ignore their bodes, intuition, true genius and creativity in order to conform to an unnatural and slave mentality way of life.

Actually what is written here says it all, the teachers strive for a materialistic life therefore, it is all about money. Therefore, the cycle goes on and on and on. I guess I shouldn't expect more from the teachers, after all, they learned from others just like them when they were young. Being that the focus of life is on materialism and as a consequence there is the stifling of creative thought/intuition, true meaning of life etc, the cycle goes on and on...this is karma, cause and effect. Too bad most want to stay stuck in it.  



6 Jun 2004 @ 08:04 by jazzolog : Spells On The Outside
I did, and usually do, read all that you write, whether I agree or not---and I don't think it has hurt me a bit...nor even wasted my precious time. Many of the people at NCN have opted out of the "system," which is OK with me, but have extraordinary prejudices and resentments about those of us who choose to stay in and slug it out. I don't need your support because I'm not in there fighting for you particularly. Much of what you have to say here, Spells, I think is true...and certainly I confess I opted to private schools, including some alternative ones you probably would have liked, largely because of the stupid conversations about lawn mowers that I heard in public school teacher lunchrooms. Yes, maybe most teachers in the States are materialistic consumers, with more Republicans among the numbers than many folks realize. The point of the article has to do with the value of education as celebrated in this country. I presume much of the sludge in the teaching "industry" has to do partly with the crap wages that are offered to attract quality people.  


6 Jun 2004 @ 08:07 by martha : Not true
"Actually what is written here says it all, the teachers strive for a materialistic life therefore, it is all about money."- I think this is a very polarized statement spells and simply not true for the vast majority ot teachers. Many teachers are very dedicated to helping teach children and come from a place of committment and dedication to helping. And it is a well known fact that teachers don't do it for the money. Just because there are a few bad apples in the system doesn't make your statement true.
And contrary to what you might think there are teachers that make learning exciting. While I don't necessarily agree with what is being taught all the time and there needs to be a shift in priorities I think you are being grossly unfair to the profession.

Jazz I like your comments to Vaxen.  



6 Jun 2004 @ 09:38 by spells : not intended to hurt anyone
My reply/comment was not intended to "hurt" anyone. It was merely pointing out the important aspects of education for the whole being that are totally ignored, left out and denied to our children.

The educational system does work well towards it's own goal of stifling creative thinking and putting the focus on what the "business world" deems important ...this is obvious and substantiated, by the responses here that don't acknowledge the importance of creativity, intuition, the soul, listening to the body, being more natural and enhancing natural genius. These points were not even brought up in response to my post.

What is taught in our schools is about materialism, image and money. If it wasn't, the focus of today's youth would be for far more important aspects of life. pure and simple...  



6 Jun 2004 @ 11:25 by martha : Sandi
I didn't think you intended to hurt anyone. At least that is not the energy I picked up. And I do agree about much of the educational system like you . I have commented on it's wrong focus for over 30 years. But i also so believe there are good teachers that love to teach childen and are not doing it for the money. It is a very satisfying experience teaching and see the light pop on in a child's face when they finally "get" it. I just question some of the stuff that the "higher educated" administrators think need to be taught. I think the entire school system needs to be revamped. So we really are in agreement here.  


6 Jun 2004 @ 11:54 by jazzolog : Vote For A New Curriculum
What we teach in public education is mandated by politically administered commissions. Otherwise, why do we think we in Ohio now have to wonder how the dinosaurs did on Noah's ark? Or that English teachers just give up on whether the correct word is "it's" or "its"? Many of them don't know anymore, given how "market-based" education has become. Does it matter if it's "its" or "it's"? I suggest that when we give up on correct form in favor of idiomatic fashion, we head right over a cliff.

...which is the point of these comments and their pertinence to the article. I gather that most Americans are deciding they won't support with tax dollars anything they don't personally agree with. The hell with voting: if I don't like it I won't buy it. People don't only want meditation taught/allowed in the schools, they want their particular brand of meditation taught. Is the inbreath more important than the outbreath? Is half lotus OK? Do I have to bring my own mat? What if I pray instead? Outloud. Can I stand with my arms waving a handkerchief, or must I kneel? What's the school policy on prostration?

The point of free education for all, I seem to recall, was to provide a voting population with enough know-how to govern itself and provide leadership through election. As with citizenship itself, we have allowed ourselves to be shifted over into consumerism thinking. I won't support public education because they don't teach what I approve of. Consider: when you opt out of the system altogether (rather than express your views at board meetings, letters to the editor and all that other square stuff the republic depends on) you cheapen and weaken the very concept of free education. Should we get rid of it and let the dumbies kill each other off in mountain feuds? Too often the New Civilization philosophy looks like Return To The Tribal Cave to me.  



6 Jun 2004 @ 12:08 by martha : Now Jazzy
I agree that proper English, critical thinking, math and many other concepts are important. What I don't agree with is such nonsense as memorizing battles, hailing jocks for special treatment, reading literature mainly written by men, etc. And where is psychology taught? This should be taught from the earliest grades. After all, we all need to get along, understand and help each other. There are many areas lacking in education and quite frankly much that is taught is old style male thinking because they are the one's in power. English and math are no more important then understanding about the human psyche or understanding the beauty of the arts to help teach a balanced education. You need to question higher education and what their priorities are. Is it to teach or push their own agenda? Much of what I learned in school bored me and felt it was out of touch with what is really happening in the world. Also much that is taught is learning about what men did or wrote. Women are still not represented adequately.
So yes the public grumbles about the inadequate school system but I still believe that the decisions and recommendations made by the administration are biased.
And furthermore didn't it ever occur to you that the "masses" had unpleasant experiences in school and this has been going on for many generations. So who's fault is that and is it any wonder many Americans are sour on the school system. And I have no doubt that I will be accused of male bashing once again. There needs to be a complete shift in education and that is part of what will create a new civilization.  



6 Jun 2004 @ 13:56 by jazzolog : Whose Fault Is It
and who's to blame? Well, it's its own mystery for sure. I remember being taught that nothing was so important than learning square root. I'd have to know the square root of something everyday of my life! Hmmmm... Yeah, it's all biased and a mess...and we haven't even gotten into the mass testing and No Child Left Behind---which is driving everyone nuts. But politics is involved in the brains behind it...and participation in that process is vital!  


7 Jun 2004 @ 03:11 by jazzolog : How Do You Provide EVIDENCE Of Learning?
Coincidentally, The New York Times is carrying a story today that is of vital interest to all of us in the States involved in the education of multihandicapped students~~~
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
The New York Times
June 7, 2004
States' End Run Dilutes Burden for Special Ed
By DIANA JEAN SCHEMO

SILVER SPRING, Md., June 6 — Every afternoon, a half-dozen fourth and fifth graders with learning disabilities gather in Julie Grant's classroom at Broad Acres Elementary. Some struggle to turn the words they see and hear into coherent thoughts, others to concentrate.

For now, the future of Broad Acres could depend on how well Ms. Grant's tiny class does on the state's achievement tests. Under the federal No Child Left Behind law, every category of student at Broad Acres — including special education — must show improvement or the entire school can face penalties.

But like a dozen other states, Maryland is hoping to circumvent those rules, asking to count students like Ms. Grant's only as children of poverty, a big group that would hide any lack of academic growth.

Maryland officials say their proposals would avoid large numbers of schools being labeled "in need of improvement" when only small numbers of students are doing poorly. If changes are not made, said Nancy Grasmick, Maryland's superintendent of schools, "there'll be a lot of anger on the part of the community," some of it possibly directed at the special education students.

So far, the federal government seems receptive to the states' concerns. It is already allowing four states, in addition to Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico, to require schools to have larger numbers of disabled or non-English-speaking children in order to be judged by their performance, and it is expected to approve similar proposals from at least five more.

But many parents of children with disabilities, who embraced No Child Left Behind because of its pledge to rate schools by the performance of all kinds of students, say they are outraged by the special allowances. "The purpose of the law is to see what's what," said Ricki Sabia, associate director of the National Policy Center at the National Down Syndrome Society. "It's not to make schools look good."

"Those of us who know the potential of the law are trying to cling to it," said Ms. Sabia, who is the mother of a child with Down syndrome here in Montgomery County.

Under the law, high-poverty schools labeled "in need of improvement" for more than two years must spend up to 20 percent of their federal aid to send students to more successful schools and to tutor students who do not transfer. After four years of unsatisfactory progress, a school could be closed and reopened under new management.

The changes Maryland is proposing in relabeling special ed students would not only obscure some numbers, but would likely increase the scores for special ed, since the children remaining in that category would largely be white students from affluent families who generally do better on tests.

But even they may not be counted. Maryland is also proposing to exclude any group that makes up less than 15 percent of the student population at the district and state levels, a threshold that would largely eliminate both disabled children and those learning English from the federal law's accountability system. The state estimates that under the proposed rules, marginal schools would shrink to 26 percent, from 36 percent, and only 9 school districts, rather than all 24, would fall short .

Other states are making different statistical moves, but all would ease the rigor of the federal law, which says that schools must break down test scores for every subgroup above a certain size — by race, poverty, ethnicity, disability and English-learners — and that each group must make adequate progress on annual tests. Under the federal law, states get to choose the minimum size necessary to produce statistically reliable gauge of school quality.

Most commonly, states want to raise the minimum group size for including children who are either disabled or deficient in English in school accountability profiles. In Missouri, for example, there must be 30 children in a given subgroup for a school to be held responsible for their performance, unless they are disabled or have limited English. Then there must be 50.

Raymond J. Simon, the federal Education Department assistant secretary for elementary and secondary education, said states were right to wrest the maximum flexibility from the law.

State officials maintain that there are sound statistical reasons for their requests. The range of disabilities among special ed students makes the group's membership highly variable, they say, and so a larger number of test-takers is needed to produce statistically reliable results.

Such steps have been approved in Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio, Wisconsin, Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C., and five more states have requests pending. About 26 states are also using a statistical device known as a confidence interval, a cushion for error based on the size of the sample, and 7 more have asked to follow suit. The effect of using a 99 percent confidence interval is significant, if seemingly technical: For a class of 30 minority students at a school where 40 percent of each group must pass a given exam, the cushion grants the school victory if only 17 percent, or 5 rather than 12 students, succeed.

In those states, raising the minimum number of disabled or foreign-born students to judge a school does not heighten reliability, since the confidence interval already compensates for smaller populations by giving wide berth for error. The effect, rather, is to exclude schools with lower numbers of poor, disabled or non-English-speaking children from being judged by how well they educate those groups.

In addition, some statisticians — like William H. Schmidt of Michigan State University, who is the national research coordinator for the Third International Mathematics and Science Study — question the validity of using confidence intervals for this purpose. The cushions are most often used to allow for variations in statistical sampling, but schools are reporting on actual students, not samples of them.

James H. Wendorf, executive director of the National Center for Learning Disabilities, said: "We're very concerned that students with disabilities are being hidden, pushed into corners and closets and not really brought into the assessment process. I'm afraid that these numbers games are another way for schools to say, `We just can't educate students with disabilities.' "

Advocates for children with limited English are also unhappy about the changes.

Raul Gonzalez, legislative director for the National Council of La Raza, said he was initially hopeful about the law's potential, but has grown "deeply disappointed."

"The administration's really greased the wheels for this law to be a spectacular failure in the very minority communities that it's supposed to benefit," Mr. Gonzalez said.

The efforts by states to lessen No Child Left Behind's reach has not come as a surprise to many education analysts.

"The law is unworkable, and so states have figured out clever ways to keep it from being the case that all schools are going to end up in the `needs improvement' category," said Robert L. Linn, co-director of the National Center for Research on Evaluation, Student Standards and Testing.

Here in Montgomery County, parents of disabled children said they were bracing for disappointment. In recent years, many disabled students took the same standardized reading tests as other children, but Maryland never reported thousands of their scores, saying special accommodations for their disabilities invalidated the results. Officials say they have now fixed the problem and are reporting test scores for those children.

"We have school systems tweaking these rules endlessly because they're desperate to show improvement," said Robert Astrove, the father of two disabled boys in Rockville. "And the kids are the ones who suffer for it."

At Broad Acres Elementary, where Ms. Grant teaches, the state's tough accountability system was instrumental in revitalizing the school. Faced with the threat of takeover, the principal, Jody Leleck, formulated a plan to raise achievement, and won a reprieve.

She asked teachers for a three-year commitment to the school and persuaded them to stay late on Wednesday afternoons to compare notes, and plan short-term targets for each subject. Ms. Grant attends the same meetings and shares the same goals as the rest of the faculty.

Occasionally, she said, her students outdo other children on the weekly targets. She confessed dismay at the prospect that their achievements would not be reported separately in the school's rating. Knowing that her children's scores would affect the school's profile would keep her focused on their progress, she said.

"If the expectation is not there for special education students, then what are their teachers teaching them?" she asked. "Are we just writing them off?"

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company
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