Thursday, August 16, 2007

Grading the Newshour on NCLB Reporting

This week the PBS Newshour aired three segments on No Child Left Behind (NCLB) by John Merrow. I was put off by the first two segments - School Districts Find Loopholes in No Child Left Behind and Failing San Diego Schools Work to Meet Standards. I was ready to really rip the series.

What I didn't like about the first two segments was that NCLB was being compared to a track and field event and that the metrics of NCLB were being ambiguously implemented and that a true metric is constant and consistent. The first two segments never questioned the validity of NCLB in the first place.

Merrow debated whether or not states were cheating on NCLB metrics, or not counting students thanks to loopholes, and to fix or not fix NCLB.

For those of us who see NCLB as a fool's errand in the first place none of these arguments matter. There is no such thing as a failing school unless the law invents such a thing. Nonsensical metric comparisons of cosmically co-incidental groups of students from one test cycle to the next is equally absurd - to cheat at it is a surrealistic thing to do.

And how does one fix a law that is as loony a domestic endeavor as expecting a military solution to create democracy in the Middle East. What do these people plan to do - put a smiley face on the child abuse that NCLB is?

The third segment featuring America's best teachers saved Merrow from a scornful review. In this segment, we hear the voices of our brightest minds telling America that NCLB is a scandalous and pernicious cancer to our educational system. While there remains a pollyanna segment of the teaching population who want to "fix it", it is clear that it is Spellings and the Department of Education who are using NCLB as a "hawkish" partisan blunt instrument to do for America's schools what the Bush administration has done for New Orleans, the National Guard, and our infrastructure - destroy it!

Fixing symptoms will not cure the system. Turning every kid into a uniforn square is not who we are. We need a return to American educational values - children and learning first and a celebration of every child's uniqueness.


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