Tuesday, November 28, 2006

A Petition Calling For the Dismantling of the No Child Left Behind Act

I came across this guy today: sent to me by a good friend. The Education Roundtable and AESA excoriate NCLB (Ed Roundtable authored the petition, thanks "philip") and remind me that our worldviews are not all the same. Something as simple as trying to do well by our children becomes the fulcrum on which our vision of a nation tips. I agree and disagree with Education Roundtable's misgivings with NCLB. Some comments on a few of Ed Roundtable and AESA's grievances below.

Grievance number 12: [NCLB] Applies standards to discrete subjects rather than to larger goals such as insightful children, vibrant communities, and a healthy democracy. Yes it is true that standards involve subject matter. If insightful children and vibrant communities were standardized we'd have an awful mess--a mess Ed Roundtable would no doubt consider far more deleterious to democracy. The hope of NCLB's standards is that students will master subject matter at the arm's length of skilled professionals. In mastering basic skills students will have the minimum faculty to reach the competencies Ed Roundtable and the rest of like minded people want for them.

Grievance number 1: [NCLB] Misdiagnoses the causes of poor educational development, blaming teachers and students for problems over which they have no control.
Structural deficits and cultural incongruities are diagnoses. Tests are not. Tests reveal problems. Teachers and students should not be blamed, but they can be part of a solution. More can be done to diagnose our struggling schools and communities. At the very least, NCLB exposes serious gaps and gives benchmarks for some kinds of improvements.

Which brings me to Grievance number 2: [NCLB] Assumes that competition is the primary motivator of human behavior and that market forces can cure all educational ills.
Last time I checked NCLB was not a privatization scheme. Many view it as a short path down that long road, but as of today public education exists in tact. As for providing benchmarks for improvement, who among us can publish an essay, hand in an "A" paper, or disseminate a report without some meetable standards of quality and attainment? Where do we go if we don't have a goal? As for competition, there really isn't any competition within NCLB save for competition with a benchmark. Sure there are incentives and disincentives surrounding AYP, imperfect ones at that, but couldn't we just as easily call what Ed Roundtable has dubbed "competition," transparency? Last time I checked transparency was the bedrock of democratic ideals.

Listen, in no way do my playful arguments succeed in rebuffing Ed ROundtable's list of legitimate if undocumented grievances. Ed Roundtable needs to provide an alternative more substantive than "we believe in accountability, but...." Yes, Ed Roundtable makes some appealing points. For my money Ed Roundtable has not made a case to scrap a law that at least exposes some harsh truths about who we are and who we value. Congress should read this, and should be provided evidence of Ed Roundtable and AESA's grivances. I won't be signing the petition, but I welcome the discussion it hopefully foments.


Blogger philip said...

AESA did not write the petition, the Educator Roundtable did. You can read the petition with hyperlinks at www.educatorroundtable.org.

As an educator and now professor, I can tell you that the massive testing required by NCLB tells us nothing new.

Furthermore, the competition that we refer to in the petition is the competition undergirding NCLB's requirement that "failing" schools be turned into charter schools which compete with other schools for students which will magically lead to better test scores.


11:28 AM  

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