The following liberal talking points were hanging above the copy machine at school. I thought it would be fun to make a copy and post it here on my blog.
Click on the document to enlarge it so that you can read it easily.
These are the points raised by the Educator Roundtable against the No Child Left Behind Act. These are the very points a former Teacher of the Year merely questioned, thereby becoming persona non grata in her union.
There are 16 points. I thought it might be fun if we, my readers and I, each took two of them and demonstrated why the points are, to put it gently, not quite reasoned or reasonable.
Since it's my blog, I get to choose first. The competition was tough and the voting close, but I choose numbers 1 and 11.
#1. "Misdiagnoses the causes of poor educational development, blaming teachers and students for problems over which they have no control." Actually, it does nothing of the sort. It holds schools, which receive federal money, responsible for actually teaching children. It also requires that schools teach all children, and not let certain groups of kids (e.g. special ed, blacks) languish while the school looks good "on average".
No doubt the Education Roundtable believes that if there's a problem in education today, it's caused by insufficient funding. I don't accept that. There are many causes for our relatively poor performance on international measures: educational fads (implied in points 11 and 12), a culture that doesn't value education as much as other cultures do (and all its attendant problems), and teachers who'd rather "change the world" than actually teach--right there are three culprits among a multitude of others. But NCLB doesn't accept excuses; it insists that schools keep up their end of the bargain, even if the other participants (students and parents) don't. I'll agree that NCLB places all the responsibility on the schools, though, and that's a flaw I've discussed in other posts. But to say it misdiagnoses the problem? How?
No, complaint #1 doesn't pass the common sense test.
#11. "Neglects the teaching of higher order thinking skills which cannot be evaluated by machines." I assert that such skills cannot be evaluated by teachers, either, but let's start with a more basic response. You can't teach higher order thinking skills without some fundamental basis of knowledge. While that would seem intuitively obvious to most of my regular readers, it's a point of violent disagreement with plenty of people in the education community. I guess they think everyone should build the skyscraper before the foundation. Does it not occur to them that in every field of endeavor, we start with fundamentals before getting "creative"? When learning the piano, children learn Chopsticks before learning concertos. Doctors learn anatomy before they pioneer new procedures. People learn to swim before joining the Olympic swimming team. You start as an apprentice, work your way up to journeyman, and eventually become a master after much hard work. You earn a bachelor's degree before earning a doctorate.
OK, you may think I've misinterpreted #11. Perhaps #11 merely means that the tests themselves are bad. I disagree. While the tests do test the fundamental knowledge I've discussed above, and perhaps not higher order thinking skills--whatever those might be, and however those might be assessed--is that the fault of NCLB? No! The law allows states to choose their own tests. It's not the fault of the federal law if states choose poor testing instruments. Personally, I'm pleased that California has eliminated canned, off-the-shelf tests (like the ITBS, SAT-9, etc) and has moved to subject matter tests aligned to our state standards. Teach to the standards, and test to the standards; that sounds like a reasonable plan to me.
You know what all 16 of those points in the petition have in common? I'll tell you. Whoever wrote them committed a classic mistake--they didn't think, they felt. Read the list again; isn't it a bit whiny? Can you find any facts in it, or just assertions? Is there any logic or reason to it, or is it just a mishmash of unhappy emotion splattered on paper? Answer: the latter.
And that's part of why this list is so easy to mock.
OK, readers, find a pair of points you like and feel free to dissemble them in the comments =)