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NCLB Outrages

No tests for No Child Bureaucracy snares Q-C kids

Ohanian Comment: Ok, I admit it: I can't resist a story about a testing snafu. Don't you love the image of Harcourt employees searching warehouses for tests to mail out? And the writer concludes what more and more people are coming to realize: Now, because of No Child Left Behind, that useful tradition gets knotted up in a federal and state bureaucracy invented to solve a problem that never existed here.

By staff

Uh-oh. It looks like some children got left behind.

Some Quad-City students have been prepped and primed for this year’s No Child Left Behind testing scheduled to begin this week. They’ve completed practice work sheets and special instruction on word problems, reason and even how to fully fill out the dots with No. 2 pencils.

Then test week arrives and there are no tests in some Rock Island schools. In East Moline, some tests arrived with significant errors. Others were missing the manuals with details on how to administer the tests.

Illinois State Education Superintendent Randy Dunn offered a raft of excuses, the kind that wouldn’t float with even the most lenient grade school teacher. Not even a sub.

He said representatives from the state’s test-maker, Harcourt, have been “physically going to their warehouses to obtain materials for overnight shipping where need be.”

Now there’s some heat: Forcing the test maker to actually deliver what was paid for.

Dunn continued: “The bottom line here is that we expect Harcourt’s performance and level of responsiveness to be commensurate with the level of funding they are receiving from Illinois (i.e., high) and they are striving to accomplish this.”

So they’ve blown the deadline, but still are “striving.” Try that one, school kids, and see if it works when you miss a homework deadline.

When local education is gummed up with layers and layers of federal and state education testing bureaucracies, it was only a matter of time before the bureaucracy broke down. Like every school district in America, those in Rock Island and East Moline already have revamped their curricula to teach to these tests. Now, they’ll re-revamp. These changes aren’t making schools more accountable tostudents and parents. They’re making Quad-City schools, students and teachers twist to the inefficiencies of state and federal bureaucrats.

Truth is No Child Left Behind doesn’t even begin to measure some kind of national achievement standard.

In In Florida, state education officials set their No Child standards on achievement improvements for the lowest-achieving 25 percent of students, believing that would be the easiest way to comply. They picked wrong. Schools that scored high overall on state test standards are failing this narrow federal measurement. In other words, good schools may close because the measurements are phony.

A brand new Harvard study shows these inconsistent state standards are being interpreted even more inconsistently. The study showed some rural Midwestern states were given leeway on teacher qualifications. Other states in the southeast and southwest were not.

“There’s a very uneven effect. There are no clear uniform standards that are governing No Child Left Behind. If one state gets one thing, another state can do something else,” said the study’s lead author, Gail Sunderman.

That’s Harvard. Not a teachers’ union. Not Congress. Harvard.

In Connecticut, the state attorney general is suing the federal government because No Child is costing $4 million more than the federal government provided. The cumbersome, unscientific and unreliable testing program robs $4 million from state education funds that would have been used to pay teachers, provide materials or any of a hundred things that actually improve students’ performance.

This isn’t about accountability. Quad-City schools on both sides of the river have been conducting achievement tests and making the results public for years, long before No Child came along.

Now, because of No Child Left Behind, that useful tradition gets knotted up in a federal and state bureaucracy invented to solve a problem that never existed here.


A new national task force is reviewing No Child Left Behind. To learn more and share your opinions, visit the Aspen Institute online, www.aspeninstitute.org, or find a direct link in this editorial online at qctimes.com/opinion.

— staff
Quad-City Times


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