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[Susan notes:

This letter provides an excellent short summary of the atrocities of NCLB.]

Submitted to The Nation but not published

To the editor

Please give Susan Ohanian ["Bush Flunks Schools," Dec. 1] more pages to tell about the so-called "No Child Left Behind" act.

Under this law, schools with significant numbers of low income and ethnic minority students will likely be the first to face sanctions.

In a typical California school with students who are African American, Asian, Latino and white, each group must show "Adequate Yearly Progress" in English and math. So must low-income students, students with disabilities,

and English language learners. 95% or more of students in each category must take the English test. 95% must take the math test. If the percentage of test-takers is too low in any subgroup, or if the students in any group

show less than the required percentage of growth on one test, the school faces sanctions.

That's twenty-eight chances to fail, and no chance, ultimately, to succeed. The law requires every school in America to have 100% of its students at the "proficient" level by 2014 - even new immigrants, even the severely retarded and neurologically handicapped. In California "proficient" is defined as ready for university-level work after twelfth grade.

For the Business Roundtable, this attack on public schools promises corporate profits: vouchers, if NCLB succeeds in discrediting the public system; opportunities for "Supplemental Service Providers" (already a component of NCLB); an expanding market for test-prep materials. (This year The Washington Post's Kaplan test prep subsidiary is expected to post revenues of about three-quarters of a billion dollars, nearly double the 2000 level, and greater than those of the newspaper itself.)

But even more broadly, Republican strategists seek to destroy the ideal of public institutions dedicated to the common good. As an added bonus hope also to undermine teacher unions, steadfast opponents of the right wing agenda on health care and other issues.

George Sheridan

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