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NCLB Outrages

Parent-School Interface: 'No Child' is one act in government theater

Below this strong piece by a mother of eight is a
response from a U. S. Department of Education functionary.

by Karen Utley
January 8, 2007

We all remember the story of the emperor who was hoodwinked into believing he wore a beautiful and magical new suit, when in fact he was parading naked before the whole city.

Since everyone in the crowd had heard that their ruler's clothes were invisible to the stupid or incompetent, only an innocent child had the courage to tell the truth. "But he has nothing on!" she cried, and the spell was broken.

It isn't hard to deceive the masses. The marketing techniques employed by the emperor's unscrupulous tailors would undoubtedly be familiar to the modern movie audiences who flock to a long-awaited, over-hyped sequel only to be disappointed by a terrible film. And those millions who stood in line to attend a first-weekend showing might, like the emperor's foolish courtiers, remain silent to hide their mistake.

History is dotted with grim episodes of manipulation and deception; Adolf Hitler rose to power on promises that he would do something about the German economy; do modern fears and frustrations make us vulnerable to the consequences of misplaced trust?

For instance, some terrorism experts claim that some airport security procedures are not only inefficient but unlikely to prevent an attack. One authority, explaining that complicated rules regarding cosmetics in carry-on bags allow anyone to bring 32 ounces of any liquid aboard any aircraft, called such measures "security theater" -- designed merely to reassure folks that somebody is doing something.

The complicated nature of the No Child Left Behind Act identifies it as -- at best -- "educratic theater" meant to convince voters that somebody is doing something about the discouraging deficits of public education. At worst, its unrealistically escalating expectations (rising yearly targets that must be met or exceeded until 100 percent is reached in 2014) and draconian penalties (restructuring, takeover and closure of schools by the federal government) suggest more devious motives.

The story of the Emperor's New Clothes isn't about the emperor, the scam-artists or even the child; it's about the crowd -- and the crowd's willingness to be duped.

We, however, don't have to be misled by slick advertising or our own vanity. We can control our impatience for somebody to do something. We don't have to let our good intentions make us gullible. And we can admit it when we have made a mistake.

Karen Utley has lived in Salem for 15 years and is the mother of eight children. She can be reached at utley673@open.org

Columnist dramatic in saying 'No Child' law isn't working

January 21, 2007

Karen Utley's Jan. 8 column ("'No Child' is one act in government theater") was quite theatrical itself. Filled with drama, it lurched from Adolf Hitler to the Emperor's New Clothes in an attempt to make the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) seem like a crime against humanity.

The truth is far less dramatic.

NCLB simply guarantees that we'll do everything possible to give every student a quality education. That's why Congress passed it with bipartisan support more than five years ago. It's not "unrealistic," unless you believe that students cannot learn to read and do math at grade level. It's not "complicated," unless you believe that holding schools accountable for improving academic performance is too much to ask.

Today, under NCLB, academic standards are set by the state, not the federal government. All students are measured, and scores are separated by student group so we can clearly see the progress being made. According to the Nation's Report Card, the achievement gaps between African-American and Hispanic 9-year-olds and their peers have fallen to all-time lows in many categories. More reading progress has been made in five years than in the previous 28 years combined.

In other words, NCLB is working, and more children are learning. That's no act, that's a fact.

-- Donna Foxley, U.S. Department of Education, Region X, Seattle, Wash.

— Karen Utley and responder
Statesman Journal


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