Tuesday, December 11, 2007

George Will on NCLB

After watching decades of his own partisan hacks control everything in America, George Will suddenly wakes up to blame... get this... Lyndon Johnson for NCLB.

The guy is hopeless but his observations here actually are true to conservatism and liberalism in America. Someone looking for sanity from partisan, neocon commentators takes what they can get.

From the Courant, The Heavy Federal Hand Of NCLB:
Fourteen months ago, the president said, "The gap is closing. ... How do we know? Because we're measuring." But about those measurements ...

NCLB requires states to identify, by criteria they devise, "persistently dangerous schools." But what state wants that embarrassment? The Washington Post recently reported that last year, of America's approximately 94,000 public schools, the "persistently dangerous" numbered 46. There were none among the 9,000 schools in amazingly tranquil California.

NCLB's crucial provisions concern testing to measure yearly progress toward the goal of "universal proficiency" in math and reading by 2014. Most states retain the low standards they had before; some have defined proficiency down.

So says "The Proficiency Illusion," a report from the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, which studies education reform. Its findings include:

The rationale for standards-based reform was that expectations would become more rigorous and uniform, but states' proficiency tests vary "wildly" in difficulty, "with passing scores ranging from the 6th percentile to the 77th." In some states, tests have become more demanding; but in twice as many states, the tests in at least two grades have become easier.

Rep. Peter Hoekstra, a Republican who represents western Michigan's culturally cohesive Dutch Calvinist communities, opposed NCLB from the start because he thought it would "tear apart the bond between the schools and the local communities." He believes the reauthorized version of NCLB will "gut" accountability. He is gloomily sanguine about that because he thinks accountability belongs at the local level anyway, and because removing meaningful accountability removes NCLB's raison d'etre. He proposes giving states the option of submitting to Washington a "Declaration of Intent" to reclaim full responsibility for K-12 education. Such states would receive their portion of K-12 funds as block grants.

But Rep. Scott Garrett, a New Jersey Republican, warns that Washington, with its unsleeping hunger for control, steadily attaches multiple strings to block grants. He proposes to allow states to opt out from under NCLB's mandates and regulations and to give residents of those states tax credits equal to the portion of their taxes their state would have received back in federal funds for K-12 education. Hoekstra's and Garrett's proposals would enable states to push Washington toward where it once was and where it belongs regarding K-12 education: Out.

Captain Obvious must have had dinner with George last week.

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