Tuesday, August 14, 2007

What the hell is he talking about?

Bill Richardson needs to be a bit more clear:

Richardson proposed an extended school year, a longer school day and a complete repeal of President Bush's No Child Left Behind plan. He also pledged to seek a federal minimum wage of $40,000 for teachers. The average first-year teacher earned $31,753 in 2004-2005, according to the American Federation of Teachers' most recent survey

Ummm...Mr. Bill, I have a bottomless well of contempt for this President and his legislative "accomplishments" to date, so I think I have some street cred when I tell you this is moronic, ignorant pandering. Why, you ask? Well Bill, NCLB is just a fnorking name. We used to call this law ESEA, and it is the core element of the Federal Governments role in public education, not to mention one of the crown jewels of the civil rights legislation that came out of the 1960's. If you actually know anything about NCLB, the civil rights component is glaringly obvious. Most notably the requirment to break down scores by race to prevent schools from hiding the terrible scores of African American and Latino students. An issue that would otherwise be obscured through creative management of statistics.

Public education reform is being labeled a Bush initiative because it helps the cause of anti-reform elements like NEA to link it to the Dufus-in-Chief. For those of us who support a strong federal presence in public education to move us out of this hole we've dug for ouselves in public education, it represents a strategic victory in the sense it actually imposes standards, accurate reporting, and some sort of stick to force change in underperforming schools. It certainly could and should be better. But it was the best that could be obtained at the time. The reauthorization process underway should be where that happens.

Conservatives hate NCLB. Which should come as no surprise since they hated ESEA and the entire constellation of civil rights laws that came out of that legislative era. Memo to braindead liberals, you actually support this. Please bone the fnork up on this topic, it's really pissing me off to have to constantly explain it to you.

Mark Kleiman offered an actual cogent critique of NCLB I more or less agree with:
Supporters of NCLB think it puts pressure on schools to actually teach somebody something, and especially to stop failing poor and otherwise disadvantaged kids. Critics focus on the problems: the tests measure to narrow a spectrum of capacities, measure them too infrequently, measure them badly, measure them in ways that aren't robust to "teaching the test," and lead to a soul-deadening rote-learning atmosphere not only in the failing schools where it may be better than the aimless chaos it replaced but also in schools whose demographics ought to make them aspire to do better. I'm definitely on the critical side, but the supporters certainly have a point that the system that NCLB challenged was failing badly and not obviously getting better.
But note that the (non-Luddite) critique of NCLB is precisely that it uses an Industrial Age model of what it means to manage by measurement. The spirit of NCLB is the spirit of Taylorite "scientific management," with time-and-motion experts finding the One Best Way of doing each task, workers treated as interchangeable parts whose only role is to do their job the One Best Way and never think about it (think: Open Court), and quality assurance done by inspecting each part as it comes off the line by comparison with a set of rigid yes-or-no criteria and then counting the number of failing parts. It's as if W. Edwards Deming had never invented statistical QA and Douglas McGregor had never adapted the Maslovian needs hierarchy into the Theory Y approach to encouraging good, creative performance by employees.

My point in bringing this to your attention is to highlight that Kleiman doesn't question the reach or scope of NCLB, or it's intrusive powers to compel state and local action. Rather, he advocates a level of intervention that far surpasses anything NCLB advocates. It's actually constructive, not a defense of the status quo or the usual throwing up the hands in defeat. We need more of this sort of critique.

So would the Democratic candidates for the nomination please get a grip on this issue, and not run around and advocate the repeal of civil rights laws so they can stick their lips further up the buttcheeks of status quo stooges who masquerade as educators. There is a whole slew of GOP candidates who will be happy to nuke federal involvement in education, we don't need any more on our side.

No comments: