By Paul Frysh, CNN
(CNN) The Obama administration's announcement that 10 states are being granted waivers from some demands of the federal government’s controversial No Child Left Behind policy has some experts asking: Where's the beef?
"It's not that different from the previous policy," said Tina Trujillo, an education policy expert at University of California.
School and teacher assessment for the waiver-versions of NCLB "still centers on standardized test scores because it mandates that teacher evaluations be based largely on test scores." This can be destructive because by focusing on test scores, teachers are penalized for choosing to work with the students who are most in need - encouraging teachers, even those who want to work with more at-risk kids, to move to higher scoring districts, said Trujillo.
NCLB requires schools to hit certain benchmarks measured by standardized test scores in order to receive certain kinds of funding. Assessments are required of the states to show they have reached the benchmarks - one of which was to reach 100% proficiency in math and reading by 2014, a requirement almost unanimously maligned by education experts. Though the waiver removes the 2014 proficiency-for-all deadline, the focus on assessment through standardized testing remains.
"The Obama administration says it wants more innovative and passionate and creative teaching but anytime you tie the consequences to school performance on test scores, you encourage narrowing of the curriculum."
Ian Stewart is a mathematician at the University of Warwick in the United Kingdom. His new book "In Pursuit of the Unknown" is published by Basic Books in the United States in March. In the United Kingdom it is available from Profile Books with the title "Seventeen Equations That Changed the World."
I was one of those annoying kids who actually liked equations. I collected them in a notebook. I loved the way you could plug a few numbers into an equation and find out how bright the Sun would be if you were standing on Pluto. Or work out how big a rainbow looks from the refractive index of water and the time of day.
I realize I am a rarity in that respect. Stephen Hawking’s publishers allegedly told him that every equation he put into his runaway bestseller "A Brief History of Time" would halve its sales. So, if he’d left out Einstein’s E=mc2, he would have sold another 10 million copies. But his publishers had a point. Although the great equations have had more impact on humanity than all the kings and queens in the history books put together, they can look very off-putting.
That’s why I wrote "In Pursuit of the Unknown: Seventeen Equations That Changed the World." We need to stop being put off, and learn to value our equations. It’s hard to write a book about equations without including any, so I decided to follow the age-old theatrical advice: ‘if you’ve got a wooden leg, wave it.’ Make equations the main characters in a story of the rise — and occasional fall — of humanity.FULL STORY
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