Orwell Award Announcement SusanOhanian.Org Home

NCLB Outrages

A Conservative Calls NCLB Dumb and Dumber

Ohanian Comment: Here's a conservative take on NCLB, illlustrating that progressives and conservatives dislike it for different reasons. NCLB's real base lies in the Business Roundtable: Hence it's support by politicos of every stripe.

Two years ago this week, President Bush's much heralded "No Child Left Behind" law went into effect. To mark the anniversary Mr. Bush has been busy visiting schools around the country defending this misguided plan against those who point out this scheme has done nothing but:

Cause the federal education budget to soar to unprecedented proportions,

Encourage teachers and administrators to lie and cheat to show gains in classroom achievement and now, it seems,

Has resulted in lowering achievement among the brightest and the best- the talented and gifted kids.

Since Congress passed this law, which mandates "achievement" standards for "all" students, we are now witnessing what happens when you allow the federal government to be involved in the education of a nation's children.

The brightest kids stuck in the government's education camps also known as the public school system are the latest casualties in this failed policy.

Schools which don't make steady progress toward reading and math scores by 2014 face penalties, so in an effort to make sure low achievers are brought along to hit certain benchmarks, the talented and gifted kids are being short-changed in their programs.

Schools missing the proficiency levels outlined by the feds face penalties which include letting parents transfer their kids out of the school. Schools can also be forced to pay for outside tutors. Rather than deal with those financially devastating penalties schools are opting to siphon money from programs that help the most gifted students. They've decided to focus on the bottom neglecting the top.

So, in order to stay out of trouble, schools are shifting resources away from the programs that help bright kids who apply themselves, i.e. the "talented and gifted" or TAG kids (although we're seeing a shift away from any terminology which "labels" a child as such, since it's no longer politically correct to term a child "gifted" just because he or she does well in an academic setting.)

The object of federal education policies has, for a long time now, been to discourage excellence and dumb down to a common denominator which currently has the U.S. rated very close to the bottom of countries when it comes to math and science achievement.

Does this make any sense?

Take the resources available,(even though the cost of government education is much higher than private school per child costs)spread them thinly and deny those who ostensibly have the best chance of succeeding, while at the same time taking finite resources and wasting them on things like bilingual education (sure to keep the non-English speakers from doing well in the classroom and thus in the marketplace…and after all isn't that the point?)). It almost seems like a deliberate attempt to make sure the U.S. stays dumb and gets dumber still.

While federal education policies mandate spending gargantuan sums on kids who either can't or don't want to learn they are now penalizing the best and brightest students by trimming their class offerings and thereby stunting their academic growth.

Sounds like a plan.

State after state has dropped programs for the most promising students while increasing funds for basic reading. No Child Left Behind? No Child Left Alone is more like it. If some kids are going to be dumb, well, by golly ALL kids should be that way, too!

So much for the pursuit of excellence.

Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Golden cites a High Point, N.C. elementary school as an example. There, 85% of the students are black or Hispanic and 95% of them come from low-income families. Intensive tutoring has ostensibly raised test scores there overall, except for one group. The academically gifted kids are now doing the worst! Go figure. Schools are devoting resources to developing programs for the poorest students while those who show the slightest aptitude for anything above burger-flipping get aced out. Officials at schools targeted for low test scores have been beating their heads against the wall to get the low-achievers up to a pitiful compliance level and the good students be damned.

Maybe that's why we have to import technical workers from India or why the U.S. ranks below Cyprus when it comes to overall academic achievement. Sounds like a plan to me.

© 2004 Mary Starrett - All Rights Reserved

— Mary Starrett
Dumb and Dumber


This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of education issues vital to a democracy. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information click here. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.