Monday, December 29, 2008

UDL Tools Need to Play Role in NCLB Reform

What would the inclusion of Universal design for Learning tools in testing and all-around learning school-wide do to our AYP and School Report Cards?
In a U.S. News and World Report Article, entitled: Education Reformers Tackle NCLB Flaws, the head chancellors of education for New York City, Washington D.C., Chicago (Arne Duncan - nominated by Obama to be the new Secretary of Education) and others, shared their input last July, on what reforms should take place in NCLB. This was in preparation for a revision of the NCLB document.

In a nutshell, this is what I saw as the recommendations before the committee:
1. A higher set of standards based on global content and comparisons - getting us to move from state standards to an national set of standards that reflect an even higher global based set of educational objectives - the one world school approach is on its way.
2. Merit pay for student scores - bonuses for leaps in achievement and higher scores.

Nothing was said about remediation, comparing students to their own past personal best and weighing personal achievement vs. a standardized average score. If we teach students how to accommodate their learning styles and give them the tools to read, write and do math, higher test scores will follow as a natural by-product. One of the problems is that UDL tools on a computer aren't allowed to interface with the standardized test online programs for security reasons without penalty of being considered a modified test.
As to introducing a global set of standards, beyond language differences, words and numbers are used the same way world-wide whether we have a national set of standards or global ones. Let's address how we assess academic success and look at the content as it applies to real life problem solving and skills - not content to pass a test.
Most of the comments from educators after the blog post from US News and World report, showed concerns about merit pay based on scores. The concensus was that teachers will push to teach to the test only - forget about anything else. Concern was that stress would fill the schools as teachers try and squeeze out student performance in higher scores.

I wrote this comment at the bottom of the blog:

"I am scared to see us go from comparing ourselves to each other state-wide with our "school report cards" based on standardized test score for meeting AYP, to a movement of comparing our country to other countries. Since all trends economic and political seem to point to a globalistic society with one "ruling committee", now we see the trend moving into our actual education hearings in D.C. before an overhaul of NCLB- surptise, surprise - no surprise.
My guess is that the powers at the top will just dilute our education system's potency by getting us to teach to more standardized testing rigor and drop off two things:
1. Teaching real content, skills and lifelong learning tools.
2. Basing student achievement on individual past year scores vs. comparing with an ever higher bar standard.
There are many universal design for learning tools that can support learning and accommodate HUGE print disability issues that many students have that are pulling down achievement scores, but they have to be implemented. We need to be allowed to give remediation and real life learning strategies for students - not global comparisons and teaching to tests. We also need to allow students with print diabilities the opportunity to use their tools in the testing process without penalty. If that is what they will use for real life in their world, let them use them now too. We are not getting it right yet by comparing ourselves to each other at home let alone the rest if the world."

I know I am just addressing the tip of the iceberg here, but there needs to be some changes to what we are doing and how we are doing it to see real student success - not just a passing score.

All the best to you...



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