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An Educational Repair Kit

It seems as if everyone knows what wrong with American education and how to fix it. So why not a law professor from the University of Virginia?

Writing in the online magazine Slate, Jim Ryan can at least identify some of the major causes of the problem.

Identifying what needs to be fixed in the field of education is easy: the No Child Left Behind Act, currently up for reauthorization but stalled in Congress pending the next election. The elaborate law requires schools to test the bejeezus out of elementary- and middle-school students in reading and math, to test them again in high school, and to sprinkle in a few science tests along the way. Schools posting consistently poor test scores are supposed to be punished so that they’ll clean up their acts and allow NCLB’s ultimate goal to be achieved in 2014. The act imagines that essentially all students across the country will be “proficient” in that year, meaning that they’ll all pass the battery of standardized tests required by the NCLB. Hence the act’s catchy title.

He also gets it right by calling NCLB “the most intrusive federal education law in our nation’s history” and the fact that “the federal government provides less than 10 percent of all education funding” is one that should be emphasized more.

From there, however, Ryan’s fix-it list is a mixed bag. Certainly his suggestions to “administer fewer tests” and “stop stupid testing” are obvious.

However, the first item on the list is also his one major idea that just cannot work: “Don’t scrap [NCLB]”.

Sorry, but there is just no other way to repair this mess. The law is simply based on completely groundless concepts and step one in any reform program for American education should be to throw it out and try again.

It cannot be fixed.

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3 Comments

  1. Well, I can say the author of NCLB is VERY proud of his work and has little intention of letting it die a quiet death. He seems to be proud of the funding tied to it as well. I testified in Texas before a Senate committee last week that he is a “public member” of. He was quick to say if anyone was teaching to a test it was not the fault of NCLB since it never mandates that. Hmm. I guess the fact that it is a consequence does not count. Something needs to change, but he will not let it go down quietly.

  2. Tim

    There are many politicians who see a direct connection between testing and learning. Unfortunately, few of them have ever taught, probably including the people on the Senate committee you spoke to. That would be a good question to ask them.

  3. True enough. There was one teacher who only asked one question: “If you could choose one thing to be evaluated on as a teacher, what would that one thing be?” What?!?! My response was that we had enough testing going on already and the current appraisal system was more than adequate. Duh.

    There was a college professor from my alma mater, but she did not ask a thing. A superintendent from a small school was on it, but he just took jabs at the NCLB author (I liked that personally). All in all, I would say the committee is like a dart without feathers right now. They know they are supposed to be going somewhere, but they just have not found the direction yet.

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