Thursday, March 15, 2007

Here we go again..

Kevin Drum offered up a few thoughts on NCLB. A sample here:

[...]Of course, this also leads me to one of my biggest complaints about NCLB and education policy in general. No, not testing. I'm agnostic on that for the moment. What really bugs me is that politically we're forced to create (and fund) a system that applies to every school system in America even though we all know perfectly well that 80% of our school systems are basically OK and could probably be left alone. It's the other 20% -- the low-income schools located largely in urban inner cities -- that need help. But for a variety of reasons, it's nearly impossible to target our reform efforts there. So instead we end up with broad brush efforts that waste lots of money and eventually fail because they piss off suburban voters. Bleh.

But maybe I'm off base on that. I invite our ed experts to chime in[...]

I'm not an expert, but I'll chime in anyway.

Umm..exactly how do we know that 80% of our schools are okay? And what does okay mean exactly? Not to parse his words too carefully here, but maybe we should try to nail some of these assertions down and find out exactly it is that Kevin and many of his commenters are complaining about.

In fact, I truly doubt that 80% of our schools are okay, and that they should be left alone. The unfortunate truth, borne out by the NAEP and those "terrible" testing regimens that are oppressing so many people in education, is many students are far from okay. And why is "okay" enough? What about great? Or "Holy Jesus, we are creating a genration of super intelligent mutant children straight out of village of the damned?" I'm cool with that.

Let's go back and ponder what is really up Kevin's nose. He doesn't like the requirement that all students test 100% proficient by 2016. Which is a perfectly reasonable complaint, it was a bone that the education reformers and Democrats threw the President to get what they wanted. They knew it was crazy, but the reauthorization process, which they knew they would get at least 3 of , could clean that up once they knew how the whole process was shaking out. According to Kevins conversation with EduWonk, they wanted 90% (still high), but the President wanted 100. So they tossed him his bone and waited to the bill got reauthorized to assess it.

BTW, Attention NEA jerkoffs: NCLB is not the product of a GOP corporate conspiracy as you like to argue in your fundrasing agitprop. It's the product of two of the most liberal Democrats in Congress. Feel Free to STFU. Or better yet, get off your asses and do something constructive.

Anyway, lets go through this one more time. NCLB is the reauthorization of ESEA, and it is essentially a Civil Rights law, or a law with a civil rights goal embedded in it. NCLB requires that each state test the students in it's school systems to determine if they are proficient, and if not, get them proficent by 2016. Each state was allowed to choose it's testing method, how they would address less than proficient students, and, here's the kicker, define what proficient is. Not only that, but the state must make the results public, and break down the results by race, among other catagories. Your inner civil rights detector should be clicking right now. Why exactly? Because schools, even those "okay" schools Kevin seems to want to leave alone, are adept at hiding the dismal education their minority students are getting by not breaking them out in their data, or by simply not publishing any data at all. You cannot logically, let alone morally and ethically, claim you are doing okay if a sizable portion of our student population is getting the shaft, even if their white and asian students are doing well.

If Kevin would get off the bong, (and he is trying, props to him), he could have jumped on the real problem, which is that the states took the opportunity given them to apply their own definition of proficient, which is often absurdly low. Couple that with some byzantine testing regime and you can call 80% of your studnets proficient in 2006, like some certain Southern Red States, Mississipi, I'm looking at you. Unfortunatley for them, the Feds in NCLB required that their NAEP test be applied on a large scale, giving them and researchers large amounts of valid data to crosscheck. Turns out many states are cheating their ass of. Therefore they are cheating their students. DOE is forcing the states to use testing standards they think are legit, so that problem might be on the road to being addressed. Still, it is a legitimate gripe.

Kevins complaint about the imposition of a national system on the poor, oppressed states I find bewildering from a liberal. Liberals have been trying to increase the role the Federal Government plays in public education for decades And now that NCLB rolled the Trojan horse into the city you want to climb out, burn it, and go back to laying seige to Troy. WTF?? The problem with NCLB is that is too deferential to the cheating bullshit that states try to pull when they get called on the parts of their school systems that are failing. Everyone knows that urban schools are terrible. But what is less commonly known are the rural schools that are just as bad in some cases. Or the suburban schools that fail to educate their low income and minority students.

And before someone busts out with this favorite, yes, NCLB is underfunded, and that does suck. That is not a reason to stop testing students or holding states and schools accountable. That's a reason to beat on the Bush Administration and the GOP.

The Feds are not oppressing anyone with NCLB. They are doing what should have been done decades ago, trying to generate real empirical data on our students to find out WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON! We demand empirical data in business and other endeavors. Yeah, it's often difficult to figure out EXACTLY what and how to measure something, and how to interpret. But we do it anyway because, it is argued, it is a critical factor in decision-making. That is really what we are doing with the testing and standard portion of NCLB. Trying to figure out where we are, and if our attempts at improvement are working. We can adjust the bar when we need to.

By the way, conservatives across the board DESPISE NCLB. Not that it makes it automatically a good idea, they are idiots for the most part after all, and who can fucking tell how their puny minds work these days. But it pretty much undermines the theory NCLB is a conservative plot to destory public education, that's what their voucher scheme and union busting is supposed to do. There are plenty of other schemes cooked up by the right to occupy even the most conspriacy minded of people. We don't need to invent ones out of whole cloth.

So, if we are going to have a good discussion about the reauthorization of NCLB, can we at least do the work to know what the FRAK we are talking about, PLEASE???

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