Thursday, July 9, 2015

Leave No Child or Teacher Behind

Fort Lauderdale, Florida - It is remarkable the work that the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) makes to achieve the vision of not leaving a child behind. But is this what is really happening? Are we preparing our children accordingly in education for global competitiveness? The mission of the U.S. Department of Education is to promote student achievement by fostering educational excellence and to ensure that every child gets equal access to the best education possible. This effort is federal mandated by the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB) and the Obama Administration's blueprint for reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. The NCLB Act requires that schools close academic gaps between economically disadvantaged students and students who are from different racial, and ethnic backgrounds as well as students with disabilities. 

When I think about the “No Child Left Behind” Act, I am reminded of the heroic stories of the US soldiers described in the book of “Leave No Man Behind [LNMB]: The Saga of Combat Search and Rescue," written by George Galdorisi and Thomas Phillips in 2008. The NCLB title should inspire every administrator and educator to rescue and help each child in the classroom just as the LNMB moved our soldiers to rescue their fellow American soldiers who may have fallen injured and left behind during a combat mission.  

Once I read the title of the act “No Child Left Behind”, one would draw a fast conclusion that we are providing and exhausting all possible resources to help each child within their learning careers, according to the skills and abilities that they have been born with. Yet, the question remains, are we? The intention of this law is to improve each child’s learning growth. But is this really what is happening? In order to accomplish the U.S. Department of Education’s vision, the NCLB Act supports that each states’ public education enforces more rigors and accountability through the incorporation of high standards, standards based instruction, annual standardized assessments, teacher performance, and the establishment of measurable objectives. 

What perplexes most administrators is what types of resources can be used at the schools to ensure that the schools do not leave any child behind? The NCLB Act emphasizes the importance of using data to improve learning methods and meet student needs. Therefore, the incredible amount of testing data that we produce every year is the best leading source that we have available. The correct selection of data and technology may lead us to achieve the expected students learning results.

It has been proven that by using modern technology and the ingenuity of well-educated scientists and engineers, that we can reach the Moon, build a Space Station and connect the world electronically through the Internet, providing even more evidence that we, as society, can overcome the greatest of insurmountable tasks. We see stronger evidence of the effective use of data interpretation and analysis when used by award winning scientists who provide factual data of Einstein’s predictions of the theory of relativity and the gravitational waves; where the scientific community uses and relates this data with the origins of the universe.  If we, as society, can reach space and decipher the secrets of the universe, then we have proven that we have the factual potentiality to achieve better student academic outcomes. 

Now that the educational sector has sufficient student’s testing data, we can effectively analyze the data and use the outcomes to address each student’s yearly growth. Using data on student progress is crucial for schools and educators to make decisions regarding future growth, strategies implementation, and changes in learning intervention. Teacher evaluation tools such as those offered by have helped to simplify this process. The Coach One Teacher Evaluation system is a comprehensive, but easy to use tool that collects, harnesses and calculates student data through simple algorithms, which provides insight into each student’s growth outcome. The Coach One Teacher Evaluation system is designed to calculate each student’s yearly growth, making it possible to match students with growth deficiencies, with highly effective teachers while providing vertical growth data from the classroom to the state. 

The effective use of data will drive the changes in academic rigor and support the alignment of the standard-based reform. The Coach One System can be most reliable by empowering and aligning schools to meet NCLB requirements. Schools should address each child’s growth data and implement learning strategies based on the child’s needs. The emphasis is on the child’s growth and not the end scores of the child’s assessments, thus, it will drive improvement in learning. For example, a student’s end of the year assessment score that goes from 60% to 75% shows a 15% growth; while a student that goes from 80% to 81% reflects only 1% growth. These two students reflect big learning gain differences that show significant growth between them.  However, the first one shows greater growth than the second one, even if the second one has a better end of the year score.

It is clear that most states are reporting growth as is evidenced by the Adequate Year Progress (AYP) or Annual Measurable Objectives (AMOs) which is used as a yearly target in measuring the growth within reading and mathematics for each subgroup. This data is used in multiple states such as Florida and Washington State. If this data (per student basic and not subgroup) is used by schools and districts to track the annual growth of each child, then the school system will not leave any child behind. We are in urgent need of an educational evaluation system that can show great improvement and not one that only reports high scores as a measure of growth. Effectively, it can be compared to the growth of a business. A business is not only measured by how much you sell during the course of a year but also in the percentage of profit. The truly successful business is evidenced by its effective growth in terms of profit and not just the end of year sales.

In conclusion, in order to provide the effective education of each child, the state-districts-schools must establish a system to measure, track, and relate the data of both: Individual student academic growth and teacher’s academic growth performance.  The school can use historical data to address each student's growth, as well as a way to identify and assist each teacher's yearly performance growth. Creating a school environment in which students’ growth is expected to be achieved at high levels and where students are encouraged and supported in doing so is a critical means for preparing our students for the challenges of the future. Schools need to effectively analyze their data and change their practices and structures in order to provide sufficient intervention and support to all students. These interventions will lead the school to successfully achieve academic rigor. Ultimately, the student and teacher growth data should be used to fulfill the requirement of the law by not matching ineffective teachers with students who did not show adequate growth during the year. Multiple research studies agree that students’ learning is adversely affected when students do not have an effective teacher. Therefore, using accumulated growth data makes it possible to not only leave any child behind but to leave no teacher behind as well.