[Susan notes: It's probably a vain hope that the Times editorialist on education will read these letters. We have no evidence that he bothers to read anything.
The Times also published a letter blaming students' work ethic and one speaking to the need for structured pre-school programs. I choose not to post these letters.]
Published in New York Times
Re Why the Achievement Gap Persists (editorial, Dec. 8):
There are no doubt repairable weaknesses in the No Child Left Behind law. Nevertheless, it has an irreparable flaw.
It is rooted in the myth that school-only solutions can cure educational inequality.
In 1983, a presidential report, “A Nation at Risk,” launched the standards movement. This book encouraged two illusions that still undo efforts at school reform.
The first is that the problems of American education are systemwide and require solutions that touch all schools.
In fact, the ills of American schools are largely an urban problem resulting from the fact that many urban schools are overwhelmed with the children of poor and minority parents, who are concentrated in urban areas.
The second is that schools have the power to overcome inequalities in achievement apart from other reforms that address the circumstances of disadvantaged children’s lives.
There is no credible research to substantiate either assumption.
We cannot successfully reform education if we decouple educational productivity from broader issues of inequality. President Bush has described such views as the soft discrimination of low expectations.
In fact, No Child Left Behind helps perpetuate the hard discrimination of allowing many children to grow up in circumstances that make the job of schools almost impossible.
We need to emphasize better health care for urban children, stabilize their housing, provide preschool and finance the many additional improvements that will enable schools to do their jobs. Only then will reforms like No Child Left Behind have a real chance.
Kenneth A. Strike
Thendara, N.Y., Dec. 8, 2006
The writer is a professor of cultural foundations of education and philosophy at Syracuse University.
To the Editor:
After reading yet another editorial bemoaning the failure of the No Child Left Behind Act to get better teachers into struggling schools, I have one question:
Why are droves of highly qualified teachers going to suddenly flock to a profession where they will be poorly paid, underappreciated and publicly blamed for every social ill the country faces?
No Child Left Behind will never solve the qualified teacher problem (which I agree is the key to properly educating all children) because our country doesn’t respect or reward teachers.
Better to work in business, law or medicine, where you can earn a professional’s wage and aren’t expected to turn around centuries of economic and racial discrimination.
From the start, No Child Left Behind placed teachers into an adversarial relationship with the Bush administration. If anything, the law undermines our ability to attract and keep the very people who can help every child succeed.
Casco, Me., Dec. 8, 2006
The writer is a public school teacher.