August 23, 2005

NCLB Unpopular

It looks like Bush's No Child Left Behind plan, like all of his other plans, becomes less popular the more people know about it.

The 37th Annual Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup Poll of the Public's Attitudes Toward the Public Schools indicates that between a 65-80% majority agrees that: Charter and private schools should not be funded at the expense of the public school system, that they would rather see schools improved than students transferred out of them and don't think the testing regimes now in place fully measure the performance of their schools.

Interestingly, while the "nation's schools" got low marks, "schools in the community" were well thought of by 69% of parents.

Yet again, another Republican policy is proving unpopular and their hatred for a public institution, in this case public schools, has been proved to be outside the mainstream. The majority of public opinion on any of the questions asked would represent a solid election victory. If only there was a party who shared the public's sensibilities on this issue and was willing to make skillful use of this in a political campaign, they might be able to make some serious gains in the upcoming mid-term elections.

"If there were two sides to every issue, the Republicans would have an opposition party." - Bill Maher

Update: For those interested, Connecticut's legal challenge to NCLB. Also, an explanation of how NCLB could destroy public education:

... The act mandates that all students be “proficient” by the year 2014, a feat unprecedented in human history. To reach that impossible goal, NCLB requires schools to test 95 percent of all students in grades 3-8 every year in math and reading and at least once in high school. Test results are analyzed for nine subgroups, such as black students, special ed students and bilingual students. If even one of those subgroups fails to meet its mandated target, in even one of those tests, in even one of those grade levels, the entire school will not make “adequate yearly progress” and could be labeled a failing school. After two years, failing schools are subject to sanctions.

The seemingly benign bureaucratic term “adequate yearly progress” (AYP) has become a nightmare for schools. AYP most severely punishes low-income schools with students of color and bilingual students—those students who have fallen victim to the inherent biases of standardized tests since they were introduced a century ago. But AYP also traps more affluent suburban schools in its net. That, ultimately, could be its undoing.

In the first two years of NCLB, about 25 percent of the nation’s schools failed to make adequate yearly progress. In Florida, 88 percent of the schools were on the failing list. In California, home to roughly 13 percent of the nation’s public school students, officials estimate that 99 percent of the state’s schools will fail to meet progress requirements by 2014.

Not surprisingly, there is escalating concern that NCLB will be used to label all of public education a failure, thus paving the way for privatization via for-profit private management companies and vouchers for private and religious schools. ...

Because all categories, even special education students, must 'progress' every year, any school could potentially be classed as failed. To try to meet these impossible goals, schools are spending more and more time teaching to the standardized test, while spending more and more money on private tutoring modules designed to go along with the tests. Other schools are forcibly pushing failing students out of school and under-reporting their dropout rates in order to meet their goals on paper, a practice that's especially cruel to students who likely need an education the most. And what are those progress requirements?

... Just four years after 1996 Republican presidential candidate Bob Dole campaigned on a platform of abolishing the Department of Education, the Bush administration came into office with a massive expansion of the federal role in education as its number one domestic priority. This time, however, the goal was not to extend the federal government's historic role as a promoter of educational access and equity, but to replace it with a conservative agenda of punitive high stakes testing, privatization, and market "reforms."

... The scheme uses achievement gaps among up to 10 different groups of students to label schools as "failures," without providing the resources or support needed to eliminate them. It includes an unfunded mandate that by 2014, 100 percent of all students, including special education students and English-language learners, must be proficient on state tests. Schools that do not reach increasingly unattainable test score targets face an escalating series of sanctions up to and including possible closure and the imposition of private management on public schools. ...

The conservative movement's agenda is to privatize everything, no matter what they claim to the contrary. It's in our interests to remember that, like rural electrification and adequate security at ports and airports, it isn't profitable to see to it that every child in America has an education. Trusting the private sector to handle important social goals which are not immediately profitable is like trusting a small child to balance your checkbook.

Posted by natasha at August 23, 2005 07:34 PM | Education | TrackBack(1) | Technorati links |

How has NCLB proven Republicans' "hatred for a public institution, in this case public schools?"

NCLB only asks states to set standards, and asks schools to meet them. It is not based upon the idea that every child is a genius, but merely that every child should be able to master basic reading, writing, and math. It'd be crazy to expect everyone to ace calculus; it's perfectly reasonable to ask schools to make sure kids can do everyday arithmetic in exchange for the billions of dollars they receive from the federal government every year.

Plus, NCLB standards are not based on whether a teacher passes or fails a student, but rather on how they do on a state's measure of success. NCLB hasn't created, nor will it necessarily cure, the problem of teachers passing students who deserve to fail. If anything, NCLB offers a solution to schools with children who are underperforming -- it offers MORE money for tutoring services and such to make sure that every possible measure is taken to help kids learn.

So... what exactly is your point?

Posted by: Tyler at August 23, 2005 10:51 PM

...well, Tyler, can't tell ya exactly what NCLB is supposed to do, but when my child's Title I school was forced into Program Improvement because of failure to meet AYP, the funding for tutors or transportation to alternate schools came out of their existing Title I funding allocation. There wasn't any "MORE" money to cover those expenditures... for natasha's point, it's actually rather clear. It just doesn't square with your rehashed Administration talking points...

Posted by: Jack K. at August 24, 2005 10:29 AM