NCLB: Way Too Much Information and No Insight About Schools
Seeing the voluminous information generated by the "No Child Left Behind" scores left me with an unaccustomed feeling: that I had way too
much information about Kentucky's schools.
Unfortunately, the wealth of information provided little insight about what I, as a parent and taxpayer, am supposed to do to make schools better.
As best I can figure, NCLB is useful primarily as a tool for "Chicken Little" parents: It gives them the means to panic and flee, but doesn't tell how to stop the sky from falling.
Of course, Kentuckians are used to a barrage of alphabet-soup test information; it's the Kentucky Education Reform Act gift that keeps on giving. But with the federal overlay of NCLB, we may finally have reached the point where statistics are starting to obscure the point of real education reform. When a school passes one test and flunks another, which measure is a parent to believe?
And why shouldn't many parents -- even those who log long hours in PTA and site-based councils -- simply throw up their hands and call the whole testing system useless?
Admitting certain essential limitations about school testing would help:
+School test results aren't fail-safe indicators of school quality. They don't magically create good teachers or revitalize bad ones. And they certainly don't provide enhanced education funding, even if they are
keeping a certain segment of the education bureaucracy in business.
+School testing does little to address the quality of the individual student's experience in school. Testing operates on a "rising tide lifts all ships" theory. But you sometimes find gifted teachers in "bad" schools. And if your kid hits an extraordinary teacher only once, that may be all it takes to transcend a school that doesn't look good on paper.
+School testing reinforces negative stereotypes of "bad" schools without providing them with enough tools to get better.
+School administrators and testing gurus would publicly profess shock that test results drive real estate decisions and public opinion about
school quality: Yeah, right. Down in the parental trenches, we know better.
That's because "bad" schools suffer the labeling, but don't necessarily get the added resources they need to teach kids who have special needs or haven't been brought up with bookstores, computers and highly educated, affluent parents.
+School testing doesn't always tell parents how to improve their school or hold it accountable. If you're sitting in a federally labeled Bad
School, what are you supposed to do? Run away? Donate more volunteer hours? Confront teachers?
Presidential candidate Howard Dean says No Child Left Behind might be better called No School Board Left Standing. A better moniker might be No School Left Unlabeled, No Student Left Unrattled, No Parent Left Unsettled.
What the School Scores Really Tell
INDEX OF NCLB OUTRAGES