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Thirteen Ways of Looking at No Child Left Behind

Publication Date: 2007-10-10

Apologies to Wallace Stevens who must be rolling in his grave.


Among 6,346 Congressional mandates,
The only puzzling one
Was imperatives about all children.


I was of three minds,
Like a desk
On which there are three pencils.


The Learning sat in the publishing conglomerate mist
It was a small part of The Program.


A child and a teacher
Are One.
A child, and a teacher and Learning
Are One.


I do not know which to prefer
The beauty of All Children
Or the beauty of Grade Level Mastery,
The student reaching proficiency
Or just after.


Proficiency filled the huge whiteboard
With barbaric blips.
The shadow the student
Crossed it, to and fro.
The mood
Traced in the shadow
An indecipherable cause.


O thin publishers of tests,
Why do you imagine Proficiency?
Do you not see how learning
Lurks in the classrooms
Of the teachers despite you?


I know noble accents
And lucid, inescapable rhythms:
But I know, too,
That the student is enmeshed
In what I know.


When any learning is acquired
It marks the edge
Of one of many circles.

At the thought of students
Mastering Learning,
Only the bawds of Congress
Would cry out in ecstasy
Or corporate complicity.


He walked past classrooms
Without looking.
Once, a fear pierced him,
When he mistook
The shadow of his equipage
For Learning.


Times are changing
Learning must be mastered.
Teachers too.


When it is proficieny time
And testing time
And ever preparing to test,
Learning's meaning sits
With the Business Roundtable.

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