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Tuesday, April 18, 2006

(Almost) No Child Left Behind

We all knew it wasn't going to work. Though Bush probably could've been lauded for the idealism behind wanting all children to be literate and mathematically competent by 2014, the No Child Left Behind Act is starting to show the cracks around the edges. We're starting to see how thin the coat of paint was on this piece of legislation, and how few problems it solves while creating so many more in their places. It's been found recently that despite the No Child Left Behind Act requiring that schools receiving federal aid report mandatory test scores broken down by race, class and other categories, states have been able to abuse a loophole in the Act allowing them to determine the minimum number of students needed to create a statistically significant race-based or class-based category. Although originally intended to protect the privacy of students in extreme minority (if you have two kids who are Black, and the average score for Black students from your school is an F, you immediately have an idea of how those two students are doing), states have been exploiting this loophole to establish extremely large minimums and thereby exclude certain students from the score reports and prevent them from "dragging down" the entire school's score. The example given is a Tenessee school that is excluding scores from Black students because they constitute less than 45 of a total 220 students in the school. Tenessee has established that any group less than that minimum need not be counted as a distinct racial category. The flaws are immediately apparent. If this system were to have worked, it would demand that race-based academic performance be reported and that schools be punished for not educating all students fairly -- this is, after all, the entire point of the Act (at least in theory). Minorities have been educationally disenfranchised because they are... in the minority. So why is their numerical minority now being used to justify further disenfranchisement in a system designed to expose and punish racism? Oh, and the article linked above includes the statistic that some one-third of Asian scores are not being broken out by race. May I ask why - and why does there seem to be no indication that even were Asians to be broken out by race, that they not be then broken out further according to what kind of Asian one is? After all, we're not all the same. Also, the lawmakers seem to be using the very same race-based stereotypes as a factor in their decision to exclude certain groups. There were less than 45 Black students in the school in Tenessee, so the schools petitioned that the minimum number of students to make up a category be raised higher than this number -- and yet, do the schools actually know that the Black students were going to "bring down" their scores, or were they just too comfortable in their stereotype of all Black students being underachievers? Ultimately, the No Child Left Behind Act had more fatal flaws than the one exposed today, but it's certainly yet another reason to look a Bush bill in the mouth before accepting it. Most of them, like this one, seem ill thought through, and I predict that, in upcoming years, we will see more and more of Bush's acts accomplishing exactly the opposite of their original intention.

7 Comments:

Blogger Piscean Princess said...

"in upcoming years, we will see more and more of Bush's acts accomplishing exactly the opposite of their original intention."

That assumes that his original intention was to leave no child left behind educationally.

4/19/2006 08:38:00 AM  
Anonymous Adam said...

This development doesn't surprise me in the least. I saw the possibility of practices like these happening as soon as the stupid act was passed. Tying Federal funding to public schools to increasing standardized test scores year on year is just a stupid way to evaluate school merit/quality.

Taking the time to actually evaluate public schools on meaningful criteria like graduation rate, college admission percentage (not just 4 year colleges/universities), and other such measure takes too much time relative to giving a kid a standardized test of aptitude and judging accordingly.

Basically, basing funding on test scores caused school districts to teach toward a test, the worse way to transfer knowledge.

4/19/2006 09:30:00 AM  
Blogger Jenn said...

That assumes that his original intention was to leave no child left behind educationally.

I dunno -- I'm of the mind that while I think Bush is dumb, I don't think he's actually consciously evil. I think that almost serves to excuse his incompetence. What else could he have been trying to accomplish? What would he have to gain by leaving children behind educationally?

Basically, basing funding on test scores caused school districts to teach toward a test, the worse way to transfer knowledge.

I agree, but the counter-argument must also be made:

you say "graduation rate, college admission percentage (not just 4 year colleges/universities), and other such measure takes too much time relative to giving a kid a standardized test of aptitude and judging accordingly", but race and class do influence a student's ability or willingness to graduate or enter college. Too many of the problems faced by people of colour involve not taking race-based surveys of those communities (e.g. alcoholism in the APA community) and only by factoring race into these observations can you address the root of the problem in specific racial groups.

I don't really have a problem with the idea behind No Child Left Behind, I just think its final incarnation is impractical and accomplishes the opposite of what its stated purpose is. I have nothing wrong with that stated purpose, but I fail to understand how if a school is underperforming, cutting its funding will help it perform...

4/19/2006 12:25:00 PM  
Blogger Piig said...

What else could he have been trying to accomplish? What would he have to gain by leaving children behind educationally?

How about helping to preserve a permanent underclass of expendable persons of color? Capitalism could not thrive without this underclass, and we all know that Bush serves the interests of the rich patricapitalists, not the regular ol' citizens.

4/19/2006 12:53:00 PM  
Blogger Jenn said...

I might agree with that except for one thing -- why not just leave the status quo alone? No one was really harping about education and the race/class inequities inherent in the system -- at the very least, it was not a major forefront issue that Bush needed to address. A substantial underclass was already present before No Child Left Behind, and one that was more easily ignored because there was no legislation that was trying to "correct" it.

Why would Bush bring forth a problematic Act if he consciously wanted to do the exact opposite from the stated intention, knowing that at some point, someone would point out how the Act was obviously failing, ultimately leading to more backlash by politicians jumping on the bandwagon with the intention of thus capitalizing on the public illwill and introducing REAL solutions to the educational underclass problem.

In the long run, Bush would've just hurt himself were this his original goal. If he truly were hoping to create/sustain an educational underclass, it would not serve his purpose to draw attention to it.

4/19/2006 02:14:00 PM  
Blogger Piig said...

Oh, I think it was a calculated risk. In putting his weight behind this program he can say to the masses that he gave it a good faith effort when in actuality it was nothing but a charade. Welform reform is a perfect example of this kind of ruse; politicians never really wanted to change the welfare system to actually benefit the poor, but that sure didn't stop them from touting themselves as reformers streamlining the system to make it more effective. It doesn't matter to them when the failure is apparent because with the proper spin they'll never lose a single supporter.

4/19/2006 06:09:00 PM  
Blogger Jenn said...

i guess to me, i don't really see how that could have been worth the risk. bush could've easily established a legacy for himself by leaving the education system alone and riding the terrorism thing out. no one really cared to laud bush when he first unveiled no child left behind...

4/19/2006 08:30:00 PM  

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