Failing the test, in the schools and elsewhere
by Bob Hill
Given the current condition of our world, it's been a little difficult lately for me to accept anything out of Washington that mandates careful study, educational planning or any real understanding of the planet's bitter complexities.
Take, for example, the Bush administration's No Child Left Behind, the pop-slogan-in-search-of-a-program to cure our nation's very real educational ills. I only bring it up because it seems fair that an administration asking its children to be a little better prepared for the real world might indulge in the same practice itself.
It's just a thought.
It's more important than ever that we already educated citizens set examples and be prepared to lead our lost children through applied academics. And evidence shows, it's all about "teaching to the test."
So, for all you adults out there, here's your pop NCLB quiz; please be fair and balanced with your answers:
How would you rate our nation's highly educated leaders in the areas of planning and preparation for the aftermath of our war in Iraq?
If our recently announced goal was to reduce the U.S. presence in Iraq, why are we having to send more troops into Baghdad, where at least 100 people are murdered daily, mass kidnappings are a way of life, the throats of babies are being slit and people are routinely having holes drilled into their heads as torture? How many more troops will be required to end that -- and how long will they have to stay?
Bonus points: If establishing democracy in the Mideast is our main goal, what good would an election now do in Lebanon, when the majority of people left there would quite possibly elect the Hezbollah leaders as their rulers? Despite our stated mandate, should the United States even be in the business of promoting democratic elections in countries where we may not like the results?
Last chance for bonus points: Why is it that the United Nations, a body long scorned and ignored by this administration, suddenly matters again?
Tough questions for a tough world and NCLB -- a program launched with fanfare and implemented with a continual lack of funding. As a result, most states have fallen well behind its mandated goals, even as threats began to fall that Washington would solve this lack-of-funding problem by, well, cutting the funding in school districts that had suffered through a lack of funding.
Money -- one of the answers
Not that I believe government money is ever the full answer to all our educational needs, but in lieu of good books, good schools and parents who care -- or are even around -- it sure can help fill the gaps.
Consider this: Under NCLB, kids from underperforming Jefferson County schools supposedly had the option of transferring to better ones. Of the 28,605 eligible students only 212 applied and only 84 were placed; there was no available room for the others. Do the math on that.
I know the transfer issue is complicated, involving school friends, home needs, transportation issues, ever-changing federal mandates.
But since the feds must be appeased, Jefferson County has announced a "virtual school" to meet the mandate -- programs in Valley Station and Fairdale with no extracurricular activities and computer-based exercises and tests -- with some traditional classroom instruction.
It all sounds so, well, sterile, institutional and governmental. The students who want to learn should do fine; they always do. My fear is those who don't want to learn will -- once again -- be sorely tested.
Bob Hill's column runs Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. You can reach him at (502) 582-4646 or e-mail him at email@example.com.
INDEX OF NCLB OUTRAGES