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Skip to comments.Getting Past 'No Child' (Left Behind Act)
Posted on 12/09/2007 8:45:33 AM PST by shrinkermd
NCLB was passed in 2001 as an extension of the original mistake, President Lyndon Johnson's Elementary and Secondary Education Act-- 1965, when Great Society excesses sowed the seeds of conservatism's subsequent ascendancy. ESEA was the first large Washington intrusion into education K through 12.
NCLB was supported by Republicans reluctant to vastly expand that intrusion but even more reluctant to oppose a new president's signature issue.
First, most new ideas are dubious, so the federalization of policy increases the probability of continentwide mistakes. Second, education is susceptible to pedagogic fads and social engineering fantasies -- schools of education incubate them -- so it is prone to producing continental regrets. Third, America always is more likely to have a few wise state governments than a wise federal government.
With mandated data collections -- particularly tests of "adequate yearly progress" in reading and math -- NCLB was supposed to generate information that would enable schools to be held accountable for cognitive outputs commensurate with federal financial inputs. Bad data would make schools blush and reform.
Fourteen months ago, the president said, "The gap is closing. . . . How do we know? Because we're measuring." But about those measurements . . .
NCLB requires states to identify, by criteria they devise, "persistently dangerous schools." But what state wants that embarrassment? The Post recently reported that last year, of America's approximately 94,000 public schools, the "persistently dangerous" numbered 46. There were none among the 9,000 schools in amazingly tranquil California.
NCLB's crucial provisions concern testing to measure yearly progress toward the goal of "universal proficiency" in math and reading by 2014. This goal is America's version of Soviet grain quotas, solemnly avowed but not seriously constraining. Most states retain the low standards they had before; some have defined proficiency down.
(Excerpt) Read more at washingtonpost.com ...
Notwithstanding this, I note the basic problem here is the NCLB Act is the same problem we have had for fifty or more years. During this time we have tried remedy after remedy to eliminate the racial IQ and educational performance gap.
It started with Brown vs. Board of Education in 1954. Here, the thought was if we integrated schools the racial and class gap would disappear. Not so. And by 1964 with the Coleman Report we knew that 2/3d of the variation between high and low achieving backgrounds was due to family characteristics. This fact has not changed with time.
From there we went into a series of Head Start adventures with overblown claims that if we started before they came to school students would close the gap. This has not happened either.
In today's NYT there is an article written by a psychologist trying to debund IQ differences. He titles his article "All Brains are the Same." The link can be found: HERE.
Most of the author's understanding of the Flynn Effect and other basic metrics used to measure academic performance are flawed. If you have time you might want to read a commentary and discussion of Flynn's book and his thoughts. While Flynnn minimizes genetic IQ differences, you can judge for yourself by skipping to the end of this commentary and linking with the debate between Flynn and Murray on this issue. That link is: HERE.
Finally there is Class and Schools by Richard Rothstein (2004). I have no link for this, but I have recently finished the book and will comment and summarize it at some later time. Rothstein, a full professor at Columbia, reviews the literature admirably and concludes solving the racial gap with school changes is impossible. He eventually concludes only an effort to abolish poverty or beginning an educational program at 6 months will do it.
The problem with all of these efforts is the assumptive model. Like Marxists everywhere they believe the brain is a blank slate and with the right environment all such gaps would be history. It is a form of religious faith and contrary to all the empirical evidence we have. the second failing is to assume this "gap" is a crucial dimension. After all when we come to IQ the average IQ difference between siblings is 12 points while the black white gap is between 9 and 15 points. Presumably, besides IQ this gap would be reflected, as it seems to be, in actual performance.
I like the President. I voted for him twice. Being a politician has its limits and conventional wisdom as to matters of IQ and learning are often wrong or mistakenly assumed to be in the province of that which can be politically changed,
This does not mean we should tolerate crappy schools, but it does mean we should get of worrying about "gaps" and begin worrying about individual achievment. That is what education is all about--maximising human potential of individuals not groups.