Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Hot Off The Presses - No Child Left Behind Isn't Good For Smart Kids!


The Washington Post, or at least a guest columnist, has finally noticed. It's been more than three years since it was observed that NCLB was resulting in the defunding of programs for gifted students, and more than two years since I stated the obvious:
... when we make No Child Left Behind the mantra of our national drive toward academic mediocrity, we consistently ignore, underfund, and underutilize initiatives that might let the best students get ahead.
so I am impressed by how fast the Post was to pick up on this story.... Is it in fairness to the Washington Post that they observed almost three years ago that it was not the children most in need of services who were transferring out of "failing" schools, or is that in fact indicting them for failing to notice the implicit effect of NCLB on smart kids?

In any event....
These parents are fleeing public schools not only because, as documented by a recent University of Chicago study, the act pushes teachers to ignore high-ability students through its exclusive focus on bringing students to minimum proficiency. Worse than this benign neglect, No Child forces a fundamental educational approach so inappropriate for high-ability students that it destroys their interest in learning, as school becomes an endless chain of basic lessons aimed at low-performing students.

These predictable problems were reported as early as 2003, when the Wall Street Journal warned that schools were shifting their focus overwhelmingly toward low achievers. Expressions of concern from distressed parents and educators of gifted children have come in increasing numbers ever since.
And I again congratulate the Post for being so quick to get on top of this story.

The column also notes one of the absurdities of vouchers:
Ironically, the private schools to which President Bush and his allies are so anxious to hand public funds are also exempt from the standardized testing these politicians declare to be the critical measure of educational success. Private schools need not impose upon their students the drudgery of preparing for and taking weeks of standardized tests and can offer an enriching curriculum beyond the basics without worrying about No Child sanctions. Given these one-sided constraints, no one could honestly claim that vouchers do anything but drain resources from the public schools this act was supposed to improve.
Cynics, of course, argue that this is part of a larger scheme to undermine and defund public education. I might be convinced to extend NCLB standards to any school which accepted vouchers... except first I would want NCLB's standards to be reformed such that they did not reward "teaching to the test", or have absurd definitions of a "failing school" such that high quality schools can be deemed "failing" because their average test scores aren't improving at an acceptable rate.

No doubt the Bush Administration, which seems to favor benchmarks for everything except it's own political and military actions, would complain that such reforms would undermine NCLB's benchmarks and thus remove accountability.

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