Tuesday, September 20, 2005

The Seven Deadly Absurdities of No Child Left Behind

by Gerald W. Bracey from Susan O'Hanian

Briefly here are the seven:


1. The law uses the phrase scientifically based research 111 times and demands that such research support any educational programs that a school or district adopts...But there is no scientifically based research or any research to support the laws mandates...Indeed, research argues against the use of such high-stakes testing as an instrument of school reform. Tests that serve as useful monitors lose their credibility, validity and value when high stakes are attached...

...2. NCLB lacks research support because NCLB depends solely on punishment. As schools fail to make the arbitrary AYP, the law imposes punitive, increasingly harsh sanctions. The law follows the grand tradition of the beatings will continue until morale improves.

3. Even those who think punishment can motivate people would never use it as NCLB does. It punishes the entire school for the failures of the few, often the very few...Schools thus have 37 opportunities to fail, only one to succeed.

4. The law demands that all students must be proficient in reading, math, and science by 2014. In his 2003 presidential address to the American Educational Research Association, testing expert Robert Linn projected it would take 61 years, 66 years, and 166 years, respectively, to get fourth-, eighth-, and twelfth-graders to the proficient level in math. Alas, Linn's projections are wildly optimistic...

...5. As a consequence of #3 and #4 above, California projects that by the deadline year of 2014, NCLB will label 99 percent of its schools failing...A September, 2005 study estimated a 95% failure rate for six Great Lakes states, Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, Michigan and Minnesota.

6. Any school that fails to make AYP for two consecutive years must offer all students the option to transfer to a successful school. Thus, if a school's special education students or English Language Learners fail to make AYP two years in a row, the school must offer all students the choice option in spite of the fact that the school succeeded for the other 35 student categories...

...7. This is the biggie: Schools alone cannot possibly accomplish what NCLB demands. But this is what NCLB mandates. It commands schools, all by themselves, to close the achievement gap between affluent and poor, majority and minority. This is ridiculous. The gap appears before kids reach school...One study found that the three-year-olds of professional mothers used more words when interacting with their mothers than mothers on welfare used in interacting with their three-year-olds. That's right, three year old kids in one group used more words than adults in another group...

Some of my favorite stuff comes toward the end of the article...


...Some have always viewed NCLB as yet another Bush administration Orwellian Double Speak program doing the opposite of what its name implies like Clean Waters, Clear Skies, Healthy Forests. Behind the cover of its idealistic-sounding moniker, No Child Left Behind really intends to increase the use of vouchers, increase the privatization of public schools, transfer large sums of public funds to the private sector, reduce the size of the public sector, and weaken or destroy the teachers unions (two Democratic power bases). It is working...

...Although children and their teachers lose under the law, the testing companies have benefited mightily from it. F. Peter Jovanovich of the mammoth Pearson Education looked at NCLB and said, This reads almost like our business plan. Then-Educational Testing Service vice president, Sharon Robinson, reportedly called the law The Test Publishers Full Employment Act. The law gifts testing companies over $2 billion annually.

The hot properties currently, though, are those that provide tutoring and other instruction that the law designates as Supplementary Educational Services. Nationally, some 1800 providers can collect as much as $2 billion dollars a year. And, while the law holds public schools accountable for making progress or not, it visits no such sanctions on these private companies. The test preparation and tutoring companies have no obligation to prove that their programs actually work and no scientifically based research supports the contention that they do. No one is looking at the results of the Supplementary Educational Services. U. S. Department of Education spokespeople are on record saying that they merely want to create conditions such that the market [for providers] can be as vibrant as possible. (In fact, such services were not a part of the original plan. That plan called for vouchers to send students to private schools. The supplemental services were added when Congress rejected the voucher provisions. If FEMA had responded as quickly to Katrina as the administration turned to vouchers as part of its Katrina repair program, Michael Brown might still head the agency).

An enduring mystery of NCLB is that prominent Democrats such as Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts and George Miller of California supported its passage. In spring, 2004, Senator Kennedy and Representative Miller received information, both by email and postal service mail, explaining the logic of the outcomes described above. Senator Kennedy did not respond. From Representative Miller's office, a staffer emailed a single sentence: "I certainly hope not." From such a response one must conclude that Congress is not giving NCLB the critical scrutiny it requires.

The current law mandates annual testing for all children in grades three through eight in reading and math with science to be added in 2007. It also requires testing in one high school grade, to be decided by each state. President Bush has proposed extending the testing through the high school years. Given the chaos that the current law is producing in the lower grades, Bush's proposal constitutes the domestic equivalent of invading Iran.

1 comment:

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