[Susan notes: We should all be writing such strong letters to our local papers. Every day. Our Congressional representatives are headed home for the August break. Now is the time to apply pressure.]
Published in Lebanon (PA) Daily News
If the Iraq war is the greatest blunder in American foreign policy history as Jimmy Carter, Madeleine Albright and others contend, then No Child Left Behind in its implementation is the greatest blunder in American education policy.
The lesson from the Regents testing in New York State is: Administrators will encourage, and teachers will teach to the test. Achievement testing in NCLB punishes schools that do not measure up and punishes schools that do measure up. Failing schools can be closed, and student populations dumped into schools that are succeeding. There is reason to believe the testing regimen may contribute to high-school dropouts. Nationwide the current dropout rate is 25 percent; in some urban districts as high as 50 percent. No surprises here.
If you were a student who failed the achievement tests, would you stay in such a stigmatic condition?
There are two ways to change a failing, floundering system. First, try to pick out elements that are working adequately and preserve them. Second, dump the whole system and
start over. One wonders whether the current system is working adequately.
Why does the dollar amount connected with the test-manufacturing industry never emerge into the sunshine? Meeting test standards replaced problem-solving in math and science, creative role -laying for the real world and expression in composition, the arts and athletics. These practices made American public education the great institution it used to be.
Parents, students and business leaders should pressure Pennsylvania officials to stop cooperating with the national NCLB to allow curriculum directors and teachers to educate Pennsylvania students again and stop the destructive testing.
As reported in 2004, Virginia and Idaho asked to be exempted, and there is evidence that as many as 20 other states were beginning to rebel against the NCLB program. (NEA Today, January 2004). Where will Pennsylvania stand?
Richard D. Slick