Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Mistake of the Union

Yesterday, President Bush delivered his State of the Union. Here's what he said about education:

Five years ago, we rose above partisan differences to pass the No Child Left Behind Act -- preserving local control, raising standards in public schools, and holding those schools accountable for results. And because we acted, students are performing better in reading and math, and minority students are closing the achievement gap.

Students are performing better? Which ones? When I first heard this I had serious doubts. I would like to think that minority students are closing the gap, but this claim doesn't match up with the reality I see every day. Nor does it account for problems that are festering into lawsuits.

"Local" control does not really exist under this law, and many states and schools are suing the government. The problem: this Federal law is mandating expensive procedures (including yearly tests) and not providing adequate funding. Thus, this law is like the time my Mom set up a date between me and Henrietta Dudley (the pimply daughter of her best friend)...painful and I had to pay for it.

According to NPR, the President seems to be basing his claims of student achievement looking at a narrow field: a portion of 4th graders. Yet if you look at 8th grade, the performance gap between whites and minority students has actually been WIDENING over the last few years. No surprise for those educators who have seen all along that No Child Left Behind hurts students who need help the most. This law is whacked, and it needs to either be axed or be revamped and adequately funded. And our political leaders need to stop playing the statistical shell-game in order to hide the truth.


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