Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Slate: Fixing It

Slate (online magazine) has initiated a series of articles to outline what needs to be done to fix what the Current Occupant (to borrow a phrase from Garrison Keillor) has done during his time in office. This one's about education.

"The act is at once the Bush administration's signature piece of education legislation, its most significant domestic policy initiative, and the most intrusive federal education law in our nation's history. The federal government provides less than 10 percent of all education funding, yet NCLB drives education policy in every school district in the country."

Being that NCLB [No Child Left Behind] is one of the reasons I left public education, it's nice to hear someone actually point out the disparities between the requirements of NCLB and the funding provided by the Feds.

Are there things wrong with public education? Don't get me started. But the way to fix them is not with NCLB, at least not as it's currently written. There are good goals in the NCLB: "creating high goals for all schools, ensuring accountability for meeting them, and focusing attention on disadvantaged and minority students who are too often ignored" but excessive standardized testing, exacerbating the culture of shallow, over-broad, disconnected learning is not going to fix it.

"Standardized test results tend to track socioeconomic status." 'Nuf said. You can tell more from SAT scores about the kind of car a kid's parent drives than you can accurately predict their success in college.

I don't agree with their stance that it's time to create national standards in subjects, simply because the Feds aren't providing the funding for all schools in the nation. (That's my Libertarian/New Hampshire streak showing.) Large states with weirdly conservative standards is what has corrupted the textbook industry, at least in my subject, history/social studies -- I think national standards will eliminate the creativity of individual teachers.

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