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NCLB Outrages

Hold the Line on School Reform

Here's the same old/same old
from New York Times editorial--except
this one is more bizarre than usual. Looking
for an adjective, whacko comes to mind.
But also purposeful. Make no mistake
about it: New York Times editorial has a
specific agenda with regard to public schools.
They picture teachers as bad and corporate
reform as good.

Among other things, the editorialist, as usual,
reveals a profound ignorance about how schools
are run. As Monty Neill observed, "It blames
states for mis-assigning teachers - is there a
state in the country in charge of teacher

Monty also notes: "It calls for testing in-
service teachers, a program that has been tried
briefly in a few states and failed abysmally.
There is no evidence of any sort that a
standardized test can sort out great from good
from adequate from marginal from bad teachers."

The editorialist's possibly valid points about
some school systems' unwillingness to get
experienced teachers into needy schools are
obscured by his wholesale blaming of teachers
for the fact that children live in desperate
poverty. Desperate. There is never any hand-
wringing from this editorialist about the need
for a living wage, about the lives of
desperation these children live.


The $100 billion in federal stimulus money that
Congress has set aside for education could get
the nation’s flagging school reform effort —
and its schools — back on the right track. For
that to happen, Education Secretary Arne Duncan
will need to tighten the preliminary
eligibility guidelines he issued last week.

The purpose of a $49 billion stabilization
fund, which is part of the education stimulus,
is to protect schools from damaging cuts and
layoffs while preserving the momentum toward
reform. Mr. Duncan made a wise move by
requiring states to finally publish data on
their teacher evaluation systems — and to show
how student achievement is weighted in those

If properly spelled out and enforced, this
provision would allow parents to see that most
teacher evaluation systems are fraudulent and
that an overwhelming majority of teachers are
rated as “excellent” even in schools where the
children learn nothing and fall far below state
and national standards.

The guidelines also contain far too many
loopholes. Unless they are closed, Mr. Duncan
could be squandering the rare opportunity the
stimulus has given him to demand fundamental
changes. Under the guidelines, states could get
two-thirds of the money in the first round — in
some cases as much as 90 percent — merely by
making “assurances” that they will change
destructive policies, like shunting the least-
qualified teachers into schools serving the
poorest and most ill-prepared children.

Only in the second round of financing will the
states be required to provide detailed analyses
of what they do and how they operate. Federal
officials say this was necessary to get the
money out in a hurry, but it costs Washington
the leverage it needs to speed reforms.

Consider the way the states have gamed the
crucial provision of the No Child Left Behind
Act that requires them to place a “highly
qualified” teacher in every classroom. The
states have simply reclassified inadequate
teachers as well qualified, without demanding
that they pass competency exams in the fields
they teach.

Some members of Congress are also upset about
guidance language that has been widely read to
mean that the states can actually shift money
from education to other areas. The final
version of the guidelines should make crystal
clear how the states can and cannot spend this
money. Mr. Duncan should also make it
unequivocally clear that states that flout the
law will forfeit stimulus money and become
ineligible for any share of the nearly $5
billion competitive grant fund that Congress
has placed under his control.

Many states and school systems will want to
claim federal money while preserving the
disastrous status quo. Mr. Duncan will need to
resist those pressures while pushing the
country toward the educational reforms it
desperately needs.

— Editorial
New York Times


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