Thursday, August 16, 2007

No Child Left Behind - Jim Lehrer's News Hour, Part I

If you still don't believe me that NCLB stinks, read this.

The first part of this very interesting three-part series on NCLB talks about how schools (and districts and states) are trying to get around the law, by using track and field analogies.

One interesting point is that schools have to raise the percentage of kids passing the tests each year. My school got to the point three years into NCLB where it was statistically impossible to meet the NCLB benchmarks the following years. You can see how this increased the "why bother?" mentality. Some schools and districts are setting the early benchmarks very low to get around this.

There are other ways that districts are fudging the numbers. Some states are just setting the pass rates lower. Illinois lowered the score on an 8th grade math test and the pass rates rose from 54 to 78 percent. Mississippi has the highest passing rate for the fourth grade test in the country... on the state test. On the federal test, they have the second lowest passing rate in the country. Hmmm... statistically valid?

So much time, energy, and money is going into trying to figure out how to get around the crippling law that we're possibly leaving more children behind.

Interestingly, Chester Finn, assistant secretary of education in the REAGAN administration (not known for liberal politics) and advocate for HIGHER standards in education says this about NCLB: "There's not an educator in the country that thinks that it's [100% proficiency by 2014] real or can happen, not one. Unfortunately, it breeds cynicism among educators. They say, "Well, why shouldn't we take advantage of every angle we can take advantage of so we don't look bad in the process of not achieving that goal?"

This is not a crazy liberal teacher trying to get out of being held accountable. This is someone who WANTS higher educational standards and worked in the Reagan administration. And he says the law is broken. More about Parts II and III soon. I can't listen to/read too much about NCLB in one day because it makes me hate the president and his cabinet and I don't think Jesus wants me to hate people. (I'm working on changing that.)

[Side note: the Secretary of Education for the United States should be able to avoid saying "you bet" about fifty times in a short interview. Also, "heck yeah" could be done away with.]

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