With No Child Left Behind, Familiarity Breeds Contempt
This is from NCLB/ESEA: It's Time for a Change. (NCLB is formally known as ESEA, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, of which the version from 2001 is the latest incarnation).
It should be kept in mind that this compilation represents only several hundred of over 2,000,000 people -- it was assembled by the NEA, an organization that initially lacked the guts to oppose NCLB but which has gotten more negative about it over the years (in October 1991, a meeting of education organizations was held to determine what position to take on NCLB. Most organizations, including the NEA, said that they would not support it but they would not actively oppose it. Only the American Association of School Administrators took an actively negative stance -- and paid for it in retribution from the Bushies). Still, each of the letters carries a name and a school district -- it's not a collection of anonymous gripes.
The May 31 edition of USA Today features a limp editorial which claims that "already the law has helped thousands of poor and minority students..." It provides no evidence for this claim. It calls for a couple of minor changes -- snag fewer schools and concentrate the assistance on those schools with long histories of trouble. The editorial totally overlooks most NCLB trouble spots.
Alfie Kohn's scathing rejoinder begins, "It's time to say in a national newspaper what millions of teachers, students and parents already know: NCLB is an appalling and unredeemable experiment that has done incalculable damage to our schools--particularly those serving poor, minority, and limited-English-proficiency kids."
I'm with Alfie. Those poor and minority kids are spending hours getting drilled on low level reading and math skills. Affluent and middle class kids are getting more enriched reading and math classes and social studies and science as well. In other words, they're getting an education. In the larger sense, the achievement gap is growing, not narrowing.
Alfie closes with "The law cannot be fixed by sanding its rough edges. It must be replaced with a policy that honors local autonomy, employs better assessments, addresses the root causes of inequity and supports a rich curriculum. The question isn't how to save NCLB; it's how to save our schools -- and kids -- from NCLB."
Sooner or later, critics of NCLB have to deal with the question "How do you account for strong support for the law from liberals like Kennedy and Miller?" In the past, I've argued that Kennedy was playing expedient politics to get the extra money (much of which Bush did not deliver). It seems Kennedy was satisfied when he blocked the original legislation's voucher provisions and substituted Supplemental Educational Services (which only wastefully sends a couple of billion dollars to the private sector each year--with no accountability). I couldn't explain Miller except that he's from California which has almost the lowest test scores in the country.
Now maybe there's a better explanation. Doublethink. A manuscript sent to me for review summarizes Orwell's concept this way: the simultaneous acceptance of two contradictory statements as true:
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