Bob Herbert and The Manifesto Project: Abolish No Child Left Behind?

Bhudydharma suggested ways that we could make things better and undo the mess of the Bush administration. Herewith mine — abolish No Child Left Behind. Bob Herbert provides reasons why this travesty of a law should be abolished.

First of all, I would point out at the outset the only real reason why Bush allowed this bill to pass — so that he could give military recruiters the run of the schools so that he could always have boots on the ground for his wars of imperialism. This is why he allowed this bill to become law despite the objections from the libertarian wing of the party. But now, the results are in, and they are not pretty — it seems that all this bill does is reward schools and states that cheat and rig their tests to “prove” that their schools are successful. It is a tragedy when schools are forced to set a bad example of our youth merely to survive.

But don’t take my word for it — Herbert explains:

Daniel Koretz, a professor at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education, told me in a recent interview that it’s important to ask “whether you can trust improvements in test scores when you are holding people accountable for the tests.”

The short answer, he said, is no.

If teachers, administrators, politicians and others have a stake in raising the test scores of students – as opposed to improving student learning, which is not the same thing – there are all kinds of incentives to raise those scores by any means necessary.

“We’ve now had four or five different waves of educational reform,” said Dr. Koretz, “that were based on the idea that if we can just get a good test in place and beat people up to raise scores, kids will learn more. That’s really what No Child Left Behind is.”

And the long and the short of it is that if children do not pass, they are labeled like the kid in the picture — a failure. They are not as bright, or as intelligent, or as cool as the rest of the kids. This is a recipe for disaster — look back at the Columbine shootings for an example of what happens when our children are labeled by their peers or teachers as failures. The alternative is for schools to game the system, which Herbert quotes Koretz as saying that this has been done since the 1970’s, citing six different studies.

And another temptation to cheat is that the states can set their own standards, meaning that what is proficient in one state is not in the next state. And the result of this is that we cannot really tell whether our children are learning at all. The Bush administration did this as a concession to proponents of local control; however, the numbers are inherently meaningless because of the different benchmarks the states use. And it will not do any good to establish uniform standards because the needs of different communities and different states are all unique and different.

And another study noted by Herbert just came out last week. Conducted by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute and the Northwest Evaluation Association, it found that the reason test scores improved was not because students were getting better, but because states were making the tests easier. This is like Bush flipping off the Moral Values crowd — what kind of message does it send our children? Is it OK to cheat? Or game the system? Bush is obviously guilty of both. And he has a whole history of setting up people for failure, and this is another example. All he is doing is setting up the public school system for failure so that he can “prove” to the pro-vouchers crowd that the public school system does not work and that we need to move to a voucher-based system.

“No longer is it acceptable to hide poor performance,” said Mr. Bush. His “concern” is noted.

What we need, in addition to abolishing No Child Left Behind, is to get more and more people elected like Russ Feingold, who was one of 10 senators to recognize the dangers of No Child Left Behind and vote against it. Like so many other bad pieces of legislation that was passed during his political career, he was one of the few who was right.

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  1. Death to NCLB!

    also see my research proposal diary

    • pfiore8 on October 9, 2007 at 2:05 pm

    and….

    it’s the same shame as healthy forests (cut em all down), clean skies (deregulate more give me more), and a way to destablize public education and leave it in shambles in order to outsource it as well

    the democrats are stupid… oh, now where did that come from?

  2. My first political move was a Dean meet up where we split into groups. Of the 6 people in my group 4 were teacher and 1 a school board member. They saw the handwriting on the wall.They believed it was a move to destroy the public school system. They new that teaching was being taken out of their hands.

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