NCLB: Carrot and Stick and Stick and Stick

With all the talk about the war for Cheney’s Filling Station in Iraq and other foreign intrigue, not many people outside of the public schools remember much about the disaster in the making called No Child Left Behind (NCLB). When it was first being proposed I didn’t pay much attention myself. I’m old enough to have seen five or six presidents declare themselves to be the "education president", pass a few bills that created little meaningful change, and then move on to stuff the polls actually cared about. The one common trait of all these federal "reform" efforts was the carrot and stick approach they took to force states and school districts to do their bidding. The carrot, of course, was always money and the stick was not sending money. But NCLB is different.

In addition to the stick of denying money, NCLB will also slap a Scarlet Letter* (probably an F) on all the schools and districts that don’t meet the "standards" approved by the feds. The result of a school being declared a failure, of course, will be a lot of parents lined up at the door demanding that their kids be moved to another school. Or that they be given vouchers to take their kids to a private school. Or that they get tax breaks to home school their kids. Or that they get money to start a charter school. Or any alternative to leaving their kids in public schools.

To my warped little conspiratorial mind that’s the underlying point of NCLB. Bush and his friends want to promote an alternative to the public school system, paid for by the public. There’s nothing wrong with the first part of that sentence (having an alternative), it’s the last part that bothers me. I still believe that a strong public education system, open to everyone, is as essential to a democracy as free speech and a free press. There are many things wrong with the system we have now and it needs a major overhaul. But tearing it apart and scattering the pieces is not the solution and should not be an option.

*This link has absolutely nothing to do with the topic at hand. It goes to a musical production of the book written by some friends.

Who’s In Charge of Network Names?

I was thumbing through the channels taking in 5 second bits of TV (57 channels? Sorry, Bruce. Try 200 – and still nothing on) when I came across Star Trek: The Next Generation. I was never a huge fan of the series – Deep Space Nine was better – but if I run across the show I’ll stop long enough to see if it’s an interesting episode, mostly Q or Borg episodes.

What caught my eye at this particular stop, however, was an ad for the network carrying the show. Evidently TNN (wasn’t that the Nashville Network once upon a time?) is now going to be called Spike TV. Are they now going to show nothing but James Marsters episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer? The only other Spike that comes to my warped little mind mind is the bulldog from a classic Chuck Jones cartoon (or the cheezy bulldog created by Hanna-Barbara when they worked for MGM’s poor imitation of Warner Brothers animation unit). I gather the name Spike TV was chosen to go with the tag line – "The First Network for Men". Funny, I thought that was ESPN.

Now that I’ve OD’d on trivia, I’m going to check my email and go to bed.

A Few Odd Ends

Three articles that caught my eye this weekend.

Education Department pulls summer reading list – It seems as if the list had quite a few spelling errors. Plus librarians called the list out of date. Considering the current administration, I’ll bet most of the books could be found on the shelf in Beaver’s classroom.

Online Master’s Program For Teachers Shows Promise – While many colleges and universities offer online classes and degrees, few have “taken a stab at scientifically documenting their effectiveness”. This story is about one that has. (free registration required)

Public School Teachers Are Paid Enough – As I said on Wednesday, take a look at who’s paying the bills for any poll or survey. The study that’s the subject of this article comes from The Hoover Institution, “a conservative-leaning think tank”. More friends of our “education president”.

Fuzzy Math

I taught math for 18 years but the formula used in this ranking of the top high schools in the country still doesn’t make sense to me. My confusion has nothing to do with the mathematics and everything to do with how it’s used.

The Challenge Index assigns a value to each school by taking the “ratio of AP or IB tests taken by all students divided by the number of graduating seniors”. After reading the article four or five times I’m still at a loss to see how that formula could possibly be used to declare one school “better” than another. The number of students taking these tests says nothing about the quality of teaching in those classes not to mention the support given to the kids that don’t take advanced classes. And it totally ignores all the other high school programs (music, drama, community service, etc.) that are essential both for student learning and for creating balanced people.

Who Gives a Rat’s Ass? Friday

Added to the list this week…

Martha Stewart – She’s probably guilty, but who cares? There are plenty of other CEOs who deserve the jail time a lot more.

The FCC – On one side we have five multi-billion dollar media companies and on the other side we have a few thousand less- than-billion-dollar American citizens. Did you really have any doubt who would win?

Weapons of Mass Destruction – Saddam packed them in the back of his U-Haul when he left town. Give it up – they ain’t there.

Sammy Sosa’s Bat – The only thing I care about baseball is that some idiots want to build a stadium right down the road. That “road” is only the 9th most congested in the country. Someone wants to be number 1.