Torturing the Straw-Man From NCLB

There's a "heart-felt" complaint about No Child Left Behind currently posted on Common Dreams by Demitrious C. Sinor, and it isn't worth reading, but deep in the comments a pseudonym "sister h" has added a relatively fluent defense of George W. Bush's most salient educational initiative.  

"Although many decry the push towards proficiency, progressives should not join in on the sneering. 'Can we get a show of hands of parents who do not want their children to be taught to be proficient?'"

"Schools were never required to improve before, and are demonstrating themselves to be, on the whole, not good at it." 

It's tempting to say that "sister h" writes like a well-trained bureaucrat now residing in the upper bureraucracy: maybe an area superintendant in a big district or a professor of education or even a deputy assistant secretary somewhere in the US Department of Education.

But of course this tempting categorization vastly over-estimates the writing style of the clowns who actually occupy those positions. Where's the jargon? Where's the jungle of statistics carefully adjusted to be consistent with everything except what it claims to measure?

"32% of Hispanic elementary students in District X are now reading with moderate proficiency..." meaning three grade-levels behind the grade in which they are actually enrolled, and nobody except the negotiators for five or six competing interest groups has the least idea how "grade-level" was defined and redefined and redefined again or even approximately what these children are supposed to be reading at their conceptually nebulous but now precisely defined-by-standardized-test level of "proficiency."

Could one in a hundred of these "moderately proficient" students make sense of the previous sentence?

Why would they want to?

"Sister h" wraps up her essay with a conclusion that nobody can reasonably dispute: You can't blame NCLB for everything that's wrong with schools. But a little refinement can turn the convenient straw-man she knocks down into something that isn't quite so convenient for NCLB's apologists.

On a given day in the run-up to one of the NCLB tests, there's virtually nothing happening in thousands of classrooms except drilling for the test, with a little noise from unruly recidivists left over.

It isn't exactly like prison...

Not until you get all the way down to Guantanamo on the spectrum of prisons! Because even in Folsom, nobody tries to control the attention of the prisoners, and sensory deprivation doesn't extendto blinkered concentration on one square foot of reality. You may be in total lock-down, but nobody tells you exactly what to look at!

On those days, NCLB really is responsible for everything that's wrong with schools, and the fantastic regimentation of non-stop drilling is a form of torture only a few "grade-levels" removed from Guantanamo Bay.

There's more...

Government Fail: No Child Left Behind

(cross-posted at Clintonistas for Obama)

[WARNING: Monstrously long diary with about a million blockquotes... but I threw some pictures in for your entertainment]

"These reforms express my deep belief in our public schools and their mission to build the mind and character of every child, from every background, in every part of America."

- President George W. Bush on NCLB, announced three days after taking office.
January 2001

In the midst of Bush's war and our current economic insecurity, many of his less publicized failures are largely ignored by the MSM. The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (Public Law 107-110), which reauthorized the ESEA, has been vigorously debated among liberals and conservatives. Its stated purposes include increased accountability for States, schools, and school districts; greater choice for parents and students; more flexibility for States and local educational agencies (LEAs) in the use of Federal education dollars; and a stronger emphasis on reading.

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Why Does John McCain Hate Our Children?

(Cross-posted at Clintonistas for Obama)

I think some of the PUMA people in particular are making the mistake of giving John McCain the benefit of the doubt. By now, everyone has borne witness to his frantic appeals to the fundies of the far Right; I've rarely seen such outrageous and blatant pandering. I get the impression that McCain doesn't necessarily agree with everything he's saying, and that's the problem. McCain makes it easy for some of us to think, "He's just pandering during the election - he doesn't believe that stuff." Maybe some assume he won't hold to all the hard-line GOP positions once he's in office. Fortunately, there's one thing which can dispel this notion, and no one can it excuse as harmless pandering: his voting record.

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How to Fix No Child Left Behind

[I hope this post proves interesting. It was written by UFT President Randi Weingarten, and previously posted on Edwize.]

The United Federation of Teachers has long supported high academic standards and meaningful accountability measures including testing in our public schools. We have also focused much-needed attention on the achievement gap between poor and often minority children and their more affluent, mostly white neighbors. We consistently shine a light on the importance of high quality teachers in every classroom. So we initially had high hopes when Congress passed President Bush's No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act with bipartisan support in 2002.

Unfortunately, it has become clear that serious flaws in NCLB are preventing it from helping all children succeed. In fact it guarantees its own failure by requiring all children to be proficient in math and reading by 2014, a laudable but increasingly unrealistic goal. Now that NCLB is up for reauthorization, we have a chance to fix what's wrong. Here's what we would change:

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Bill Richardson: Finally An Education President

This is part of the candidate series on MyDD.  Today's post is written by David Buchanan, a strong supporter of the Bill Richardson for President campaign, but not a member of his paid or unpaid staff.

Is it possible? Finally, an "Education President"?

Yesterday, by speech and position paper, Governor Bill Richardson laid out his education plan.

By every objective standard, Richardson's plan is the most aggressive education initiative of all the Democratic candidates.

Sound familiar? His position on ending the war in Iraq is the most aggressive of any of the four major presidential candidates, and the only one of the four who will commit to having all of our troops out of Iraq in his first term as President. His record in New Mexico and his plan to combat global warming and climate change has been called by the League of Conservation Voters the "most aggressive" of any of the candidates running for President.

This is a candidate who is not just offering bold, innovative leadership and vision to the campaign; Bill Richardson is also giving the specifics to make that vision a reality.

Richardson said his plan, entitled "A Quality Education for all Americans", would also include college affordability for all students by offering to forgive two years of college tuition and fees at a public university for every year of national service. The Plan, costing $60 billion dollars a year, would be funded by eliminating subsides to private banks and by Cutting Unnecessary Cold War-era Weapons Systems.

Some Highlights of the Plan:

* No Child Left Behind - Governor Richardson has taken the strongest possible position on NCLB. At the HRC/Logo Forum, Richardson opened by saying three pieces of legislation need to be scrapped or de-authorized: AUMF, DOMA and NCLB. In yesterday's speech, he was even more specific:

That starts with building the best public school system in the world. Compromises will not do.

We must skip the caution. Skip the half measures. What we need is bold change.

My Democratic opponents have been cautious in confronting George Bush on this issue. Just as they trusted George Bush on the Iraq war and the Patriot Act, they trusted him on No Child Left Behind. The result has been a travesty for our children.

Some say fix it, others say tweak it. Senator Hillary Clinton says reform it.

I also have two words for No Child Left Behind: Scrap It.


* Provide Universal Access to Quality Pre-K Programs - Governor Richardson said he would provide universal access to quality pre-K programs to all four-year-olds, and would fully fund Head Start.

* Oppose School Vouchers - Using his experience as Governor of New Mexico, Richardson said we "must reject vouchers, which divert needed resources from our public schools. But we must also encourage choice by supporting charter schools. In New Mexico, this philosophy has made my state second in the nation for school choice."

* Create a National Minimum Wage for Teachers - Pay teachers a national average starting salary of $40,000, improve and expand teacher training, and hire an additional 100,000 math and science teachers.

* Create a Nation of Service - For each year of service, the federal government will forgive two years of the cost of tuition and fees at a public university.

* Eliminate the FAFSA and Expand Access to Student Aid - "I will tear up the FAFSA and replace it with a postcard-sized form. This will expand access to a consolidated, National Endowment for College Affordability."

* Create 250 Math, Science, and Innovation (MSI) Academies - Revitalize America's innovative talents by bringing together students, educators, and entrepreneurs.

* Put the Arts and Music back into Education - Invest up to $500 million into arts and music education programs.

* Green Jobs - Create a new generation of manufacturing jobs that move our country ward energy independence and to clean energy sources.

* Transitional Jobs - Expand Transitional Jobs so that lower-income people have a chance o learn the valuable skills that can lead to greater success.

* Career Training; Perkins II - Expand career and vocational education so those without a college education can develop valuable skills.

A copy of both the executive summary and the detailed plan is available on the Richardson website, including cost breakdowns and references for funding at sues/educationplan

What struck me as amazing was the comparison between the frontrunner in this race, Hillary Clinton, recently endorsed by the AFT, and Bill Richardson. Richardson is a Governor who deals with issues like No Child Left Behind, dropout rates, quality of education, affordability of college for New Mexico residents on a daily basis.

According to her website, Senator Clinton will provide $250 million, primarily in the form of tax credits, to make college more affordable. Richardson is calling for a massive $60 billion dollar education plan; an initiative that would put the focus back on education and creating saleable job skills in this country, and would make college affordable for everyone through a national service program.

That is bold, decisive leadership of a presidential caliber. No wonder Richardson's new mantra is Change and Experience. Bring it on, Bill!

There's more...


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