Thursday, March 08, 2007

A Leftie View of NCLB

I have a colleague whom I respect tremendously, but has one of those irrational beliefs that drives me nuts.

She's absolutely convinced that the purpose of the No Child Left Behind Act is to destroy public education. From what I can follow of her reasoning, the fact that by 2014 all schools have to have 100% of students at grade level (as determined by standards and standardized tests), or else "the state takes over", is the foundation of her belief.

She cannot answer the following questions, which shed some doubt on her belief.

1. How do you account for the fact that California's testing regime not only predates NCLB, but is more stringent than NCLB?

2. How do you account for the fact that our current testing regime was put in place by a Democrat governor and a Democrat-controlled legislature?

3. Why would Ten Kennedy, one of the official authors/sponsors of NCLB, try to destroy public schools?

4. Why would California's Democrat governor and Democrat legislature agree to NCLB? Let's not forget, it's optional (except for losing federal education dollars).

5. Is it not at all possible that accountability for federal dollars can be seen by some as a good thing, without having any other nefarious motives?

For her beliefs to be true, the 87 members of the US Senate who voted for the law--including Senators Boxer, Feinstein, Kennedy, Clinton, Kerry, Edwards, Reid, and Byrd--would either have to have agreed with the plan to get rid of public education, or would have had to have had the wool pulled over their eyes as to its true intent. Neither speaks well for those senators. Only 10 Senators voted against (including two Republicans), and three did not vote. The law passed the House by a vote of 381-41-12, including a 'yes' vote by current-Speaker Pelosi.

Given that overwhelming support, I can't see how the purpose could possibly have been what my colleague believes.

The next argument from the lefties about NCLB is that it isn't "fully funded", whatever that means. My colleague can't possibly believe this is the problem, as more money won't get 100% of students to grade level.

Her next point is that the law requires state action for schools that don't achieve the 100% standard. What exactly does she think is going to happen when, as she believes, every school in the country will fail to meet the 100% standard? The states can't take over every school, and even if they did, that wouldn't spell the end of public education.

Her view is irrational and is based, in my opinion, on Bush Derangement Syndrome. She's sincere in her belief, but dead wrong.

At this point I'll grant that the 100% standard is unattainable. I'm hard pressed to name any standard that is achieved 100% of the time. I've said several times before, including on this blog, that I'd favor a plan more like California's, in which continuous improvement towards the 100% goal would be acceptable. I think California's improvement standard is very weak indeed and should be higher, but it's the right idea. I would like it if the Congress, which now is in the process of "reauthorizing" the No Child Left Behind Act, made such a change. There are some other modifications that could be made that would satisfy me even more, but for the most part I agree with the concept.

Some wonder how I can call myself a conservative and support this law. It's not that hard. As I've said before, my support is based more on Realpolitik than on ideological purity--federal education money isn't going away, so if we're going to spend it anyway, I'd like to know that it's having some positive impact.

That view doesn't seem so far out of the mainstream to me.

Update, 3/14/07: My colleague isn't the only one who believes in the conspiracy. Also, the question of 100% proficiency is raised. You heard it here first! =)

Update 3/15/07: The conspiracy theory folds.

[I]t's silly to think there was a conservative conspiracy to use NCLB to destroy public education because most conservatives didn't support NCLB in the first place.


Anonymous said...
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Darren said...

I'm not going to identify the teacher, and I won't entertain speculation. That isn't the point of this post.

What is? To point out at least one leftie view about the law.

Anonymous said...

At one time, long ago, one was defined as a conservative by the bedrock principal that government should be involved in people's lives as little as possible and only when absolutely necessary. Even in terms of abortion, conservatives believed that such decisions belonged, properly, to the individual and government should have no part. State departments of education were at best a pox on humanity, and a federal department of education outrageous and virtually unthinkable. Conservatism has changed, and I fear not for the better.

Darren said...

While I accept and respect that view, shouting that I want the sun to rise in the west isn't going to make it happen. I'm willing to make some allowances for reality, when I don't see those allowances as entirely antithetical to the rest of my views.

Anonymous said...

Indeed it is reality that conservatism has slipped considerably from its founding principles, but it is also realistic, is it not, to speak to what one sees as the damage that results from such slippage, and to encourage a return to more valid, useful and individually and societally affirming philosophy and policy?

Darren said...

Yes, you are correct. However, even while addressing the ideological purity, we must, to paraphrase former Secretary Rumsfeld, fight with the army we have.

Coach Brown said...

You use a Rumsfeld quote?

You sure you want to do that :)

Ryan said...

At this point I'll grant that the 100% standard is unattainable. I'm hard pressed to name any standard that is achieved 100% of the time. I've said several times before, including on this blog, that I'd favor a plan more like California's, in which continuous improvement towards the 100% goal would be acceptable.

But continuous improvement towards the 100% goal is similarly impossible; it may get down to one kid or a few percentage points, but after a certain point improvement will plateau.

Darren said...

When we get to that point, Ryan--heck, when we even get near that point--I'll undertake that argument. But with the percentages of grade-level readers and math-doers in desperate straits, I think we should be focusing on some improvement.

Anonymous said...

In California, we are dealing with an illegal immigrant problem in our public schools. We have students who don't care about education, and their parents stay under the (parent involvement) radar because they are illegal.
In many schools, hispanic students are becoming gang bangers, violent, defiant and disrespectful with an entitlement attitude (especially within the ELD populations).
While NCLB is an excellent and much needed mandate, the ultimate goals of proficiency (by 2014)cannot be achieved within a population of anchor babies, and among parents who have brought their peasant mentalities into our CA public schools.

Duez said...

Funny logic you have. All of those idiot Dem Congressmen also voted for the war in Iraq and to hand over gobs of power to the President. So I am not so sure I agree with their stance on Education either.

Many of those Congressmen have regretted their votes on Iraq. I wonder how many will regret NCLB when it is debated again?

There is no doubt that standardized testing has a place. But, it should be balanced by creative and interesting teaching. Placing so much emphasis on the test creates schools that only teach to it. That robs education of the interesting 'hook' that gets kids going in the classroom and actually raises test scores.

Darren said...

40, your third paragraph is correct--*if* you have uninteresting, unimaginative teachers and administrators. There's no requirement in NCLB that we take enjoyment out of learning, only that learning take place.