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.