Today, George Bush called for more testing of high school students. Essentially, it’s part of his “new” education agenda, which can be summarized as “more of the same bullshit that isn’t working”.
The puppets that pull Bush’s strings seem to be focused like a laserbeam on standardized testing. I’ll concur with the statement that it’s important to test kids, but what has happened with NCLB is that teachers spend a lot more time training kids to take standardized tests, and a lot less time actually teaching the kids.
Supporters of NCLB will often make the argument that “failing schools” and “failing teachers” should
be punished face consequences for failure to improve academic performance. Unfortunately, the law’s requirements are gamed to essentially make it impossible for many schools to improve. For instance, Littleton Public Schools, which has a less than 1% dropout rate, 15 National Merit Scholars in 2003 and 92% of it’s graduates going to college, failed the Adequate Yearly Progress standard in 2003. A couple years in this category and they’ll be pegged as a failing school district. Since NCLB makes no provisions to evaluate school performance on any other criteria EXCEPT standardized test performance, LPS’ response is basically to stop teaching kids and start training them to take standardized tests.
For a program thats wildy unpopular with most Democrats (partially because it’s unfunded) and some Republicans (because it takes away local control), you have to wonder how far any extension of NCLB is going to go. My guess is that the gutless Republicans in Congress will get right back on their knees and do whatever Bush wants, because in the end, Bush’s Cult of Personality is more important than good public policy.
Let’s remember that NCLB is modeled on a fraud, Rod Paige’s Texas Miracle:
A miracle? “A fantasy land,” said Dr. Kimball. “They want the data to look wonderful and exciting. They don’t tell you how to do it; they just say, ‘Do it.’ ” In February, with the help of Dr. Kimball, the local television station KHOU broke the news that Sharpstown High had falsified its dropout data. That led to a state audit of 16 Houston schools, which found that of 5,500 teenagers surveyed who had left school, 3,000 should have been counted as dropouts but were not. Last week, the state appointed a monitor to oversee the district’s data collection and downgraded 14 audited schools to the state’s lowest rating.
This would be the same Rod Paige who called the NEA, the largest teacher’s union in the country, a terrorist organization.
I have to admit to having a dog in this fight: my wife is a first-year high-school science teacher. Despite the fact that she has a bachelor’s degree in biology and a masters in secondary science education (she graduated with a 4.0), and that science teachers, particularly science teachers, particularly WOMEN science teachers are in short supply in this country, she makes a paltry $30,000/year, which is how much money we took out in student loans to fund her master’s degree. She works 10-12 hour days and is incredibly dedicated. When I hear conservatives blather on and on about the “education monopoly” and how public schools “indoctrinate kids with the power and glory of the almighty state”, and how all those lazy, lazy teachers are finally facing some accountability, it makes me want to puke. I know there are lazy teachers out there, who just collect a paycheck and don’t give a fuck. Most teachers I have known in my life, however, are very hard-working people who believe in what they do. The phrase “education monopoly” would seem to imply that public school teachers are hoarding profit somehow, but given the sorry state of educational funding in this country, it’s a monopoly of hard work and long hours, not finances.
Of course, if my wife had wanted to make money, she wouldn’t be a public school teacher — but she chose the teaching profession because she loves science, she loves kids, and she wants to share that passion with kids. Instead, she’s spending a good chunk of her time training them how to take tests, which isn’t really learning. Anyone who has studied for their SAT or ACT knows that a big part of the key to success with standardized tests is knowing how to take a standardized test, not necessarily your knowledge of the subjects at hand.
Finally, if you thought irony was dead, then you need look no further than Bush’s statement today:
“We’re not interested in mediocrity”.
Strong words from a C student and a legacy admissions entrant to Yale & Harvard.