Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Why “No Child Left Behind” Is Nuts

A reader who teaches math in a public high school in northern Orange County, California recounted the following dialogue with one of his students:

Student: "My mom is 28 years old."

Teacher: "How old are you?"

Student: "Fifteen."

Teacher: "So, your mother had you when she was thirteen?"

Student: "Wow! You can do that in your head that fast?"

Teacher: "Uh, well, uh, don't worry about it. That's why I'm a math teacher!"

And his student went away happy, self-esteem reassured by knowing that only nerdy math teachers can quickly subtract 15 from 28.

Meanwhile, America's Great and Good carry on making plans for America's schools based on assumptions that wouldn't survive an hour in an average classroom. (Not that they would ever send their kids to a typical school.)

The Aspen Institute's bipartisan Commission on No Child Left Behind, co-chaired by former governors Tommy Thompson and Roy E. Barnes and paid for by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (among others), has just issued 75 recommendations for improving the NCLB legislation when it comes up for renewal by Congress this year.

Despite the many small reforms advocated in the Commission's report "Beyond NCLB: Fulfilling the Promise to Our Nation’s Children" (222 page PDF), not one word of criticism is uttered against the original legislation's most important and implausible requirement: "that all children should reach a proficient level of academic achievement by 2014" in math and reading.

The report declares this goal of 100 percent proficiency by 2014 to be "audacious … morally right … and attainable."

What they don't mention about this demand: It's nuts...


In other words, the Commission is so clueless that it didn't realize that the fraud built into the NCLB wasn't a problem, it was a solution. Bald-faced swindling on a colossal scale is the only imaginable way of reaching the NCLB's goal of making every kid in the country into a B student by 2014. Requiring states to achieve an impossible level of performance, but not providing any system for disinterested outsiders to measure the states' performance, was a massive hint that the states were supposed to cheat.

You can see just how much bamboozling is necessary by looking at the NAEP results. On the federal government's 2005 National Assessment of Educational Progress exam for 8th graders, reading scores were distributed like this:

Advanced (A): 3 percent
Proficient (B): 28 percent
Basic (C): 42 percent
Below & Far Below Basic (D & F): 27 percent

So 69 percent of American 8th graders are under the 2014 legally mandated requirement of proficiency....


A report prepared for the Campaign for Educational Equity by Richard Rothstein, Rebecca Jacobsen, and Tamara Wilder sums up the absurdity of NCLB in its title: "'Proficiency for All' – An Oxymoron." They point out:

"In its administration of NCLB, the U.S. Department of Education barely acknowledges this human variability. … Under NCLB, children with I.Q.s as low as 65 must achieve a standard of proficiency in math which is higher than that achieved by 60 percent of students in Taiwan, the highest scoring country in the world (in math), and a standard of proficiency in reading which is higher than that achieved by 65 percent of students in Sweden, the highest scoring country in the world (in reading)."

Here's the really fascinating thing about the broad support for NCLB.

In private, virtually every single person in America understands that human beings are highly diverse in mental capabilities.

They just won’t acknowledge it in public...

[Steve Sailer [email him] is founder of the Human Biodiversity Institute and movie critic for The American Conservative. His website features his daily blog.]

There's lots more. Read it!

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