Friday, July 16, 2004

Looking forward to educational nirvana

Sarcasm intended.  Check out this editorial from Ground Zero, Florida.

Perfect schools just 10 years away


In some ways, it will be a shame if Mr. Bush isn't still president in 2014, because that year is shaping up as a moment of educational nirvana. That is the year when No Child Left Behind comes to fruition. Most people might not be aware of it, but No Child Left Behind means what it says. No Child. Every child must be able to read and do math on grade level.

Not now, of course. It's OK now to leave children behind for the time being. Can't expect to have every child with the program right away. But that slack is temporary.
I quote from the Florida NCLB Accountability Workbook: The Department of Education "has prepared a schedule for improvements in academic achievement in reading/language arts and mathematics that begins with the 'starting point' and concludes with 100% of the students being 'Proficient or Above' at the end of the 2013-14 academic year."

All the other states have similar provisions. They can mess around or dither, but the game's up at the end of the 2013-2014 academic year.

Unless there's some state version of Option 2 above, Jeb Bush won't be Florida's governor in 2014. He might, however, be president (or crown prince). Although NCLB is a federal law, Gov. Bush is largely responsible for its implementation in Florida. That's because the feds have left nearly all details and setting of standards up to the states. Kids have to make "adequate yearly progress," but each state can adopt its own definition of "adequate yearly progress."

But if every state can have different standards, doesn't that mean some will have higher standards than others, that kids considered to be with the program in some states will be deemed "left behind" in others? That's actually a strength, if you believe Education Secretary Rod Paige, who explained Tuesday in Orlando that No Child Left Behind "is a collection of state decisions." Mr. Paige's Web site offers an explanatory document titled "Stronger Accountability: The Facts About State Standards." That lengthy document boils down to this single line: "There are no national standards."

Roll those two concepts around in your brain for a minute. Stronger accountability. No national standards. Stronger accountability. No national standards. Except one. Whatever happens in the states has to happen by 2014. What's magical about 2014? For one thing, most people responsible for setting the deadline for educational perfection won't be around to live with the consequences. It is amazing how often politicians and bureaucrats set idealistic goals that somebody else will have to achieve and/or pay for.

And what about that 100 percent goal? Is there anybody anywhere who really thinks that 100 percent of children ever will be able to read and calculate on grade level? When I was in seventh grade, there was a guy named Boo-Boo who was promoted to eighth grade only because the science teacher accidentally knocked out one of his front teeth with a broken fishing rod. It wouldn't have happened except the guy sitting in front of Boo-Boo ducked when the teacher swung at him with the rod. (That's how we enforced discipline in the rural South where I grew up.) Boo-Boo didn't have the sense to duck. If the Boo-Boos of the world can't duck on grade level, how are they going to read and do sums on grade level?

Some states, as implicitly allowed by the no-national-standards law, simply will dumb down their grade-level expectations so that even toothless Boo-Boo can handle them.

Gov. Bush has pioneered a different way. In Florida right now, third-graders who can't pass the reading FCAT are retained in the third grade. Presumably, something similar will have to happen by 2014 to all children who can't meet the No Child Left Behind standards. Jeb's FCAT solution provides the perfect answer. The students are not left behind, they are kept behind. A semantic trick? A linguistic game? Of course. That's what "No Child Left Behind" always has been.

A fine editorial except the writer leaves out one key component: this bill enjoys bipartisan support, which is worrisome.  Troubling. Awful.  The corporate faction of the Democratic party has a death grip on this bill. They are not going to let go of it, no way. This means even if Dubya goes, we'll still have this bill and this particular faction to deal with post election.