NCLB waivers: Where's the beef?
February 14th, 2012
01:19 PM ET

NCLB waivers: Where's the beef?

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."
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Filed under: NCLB • Policy • Testing
Gardening with class
November 29th, 2011
07:38 AM ET

School garden cultivates more than vegetables

By Paul Frysh, CNN

Arugula, radishes, kale, pomegranates, persimmons, figs and quince - these are just some of the varieties of produce tended by students at Burgess-Peterson Elementary school, an urban school on the east side of Atlanta.

When the garden started three years ago, students hadn't even heard of - much less grown and eaten - a lot of the food now grown on school grounds.

And yet on the day CNN visited the school, fifth-graders ate quiche made with fresh spinach from the school garden, and fourth-graders chomped happily on slices of persimmon, an unusual orange-colored fruit, harvested from the school's fruit orchard.

You'd be surprised, said fifth-grade teacher Megan Kiser, what foods students are willing to try if they grow it themselves.

In the school's courtyard in November, students tended their plants - each class is responsible for a particular section of a particular bed. The students look in on their plants a few times a week, watering them as needed and harvesting them when the time is right. Each class from first to fifth grade weighs the produce for a friendly contest. The class that harvests the most weight by the end of the season wins a cooking demonstration from a local chef.

The garden is not just for looks: Eight pounds of produce from Friday alone went home with teachers for the Thanksgiving holiday.

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Filed under: Elementary school • Lunch • Practice