Sunlit Water

November 5, 2006


Filed under: Politics — by teofilo @ 7:24 pm

One of the odder notions floating around in liberal political circles (including blogs) is that No Child Left Behind was fundamentally a good bill that wasn’t adequately funded.  This complaint, eerily similar to the “incompetence dodge” used by former supporters of the Iraq war to argue that the war would’ve been fine if the administration had just done it the way they wanted, is associated with a more general tendency to demonize teachers’ unions and insist on “accountability” as the core of education policy, a tendency that seems to be the last gasp of Clintonian “triangulation” among self-proclaimed moderate Democrats who still want some issue on which they can boldly challenge liberal orthodoxy.  I think it’s pretty obvious that these people are wrong and NCLB was a terrible bill that should never have been passed, and stuff like this is part of the reason why.

My mom teaches kindergarten, and it’s frankly incredible to me how much of her time goes into testing.  The kids can’t read yet, so it’s not just a matter of giving them the test and keeping an eye on them while they take it; she actually has to sit down with each kid and administer the test one-on-one.  It takes weeks.

And for what?  Just so the school can get a grade.  There’s been very little effort to do anything to improve the schools that fail aside from letting students transfer to other schools (which doesn’t really help), so all the testing ultimately doesn’t serve any useful purpose other than keeping the blame for the broken educational system planted squarely on the schools.  Which is the point.



  1. Bush originally claimed all kids would learn to read by age 8. I thought that was laughable, but that he was trying to come up with a reasonable margin. I knew the implementation of the policy would not be about teaching, but testing, and I can’t understand why educators appear enthused about more testing.

    Comment by ~Macarena~ — November 5, 2006 @ 8:30 pm |Reply

  2. None of the educators I know are enthused about more testing, but there’s not much they can do about it. The penalties all fall on them, so they have to just grit their teeth and test, test, test.

    Comment by teofilo — November 5, 2006 @ 8:37 pm |Reply

  3. (Of course) I don’t know any of the ones I saw, and I hoped it was in appearance only, perhaps to avoid consequences.

    Comment by ~Macarena~ — November 5, 2006 @ 8:41 pm |Reply

  4. You know what Bad Thing #1788 about standardized testing is? That it reinforces the notion that there is always a right answer, and probably only one, in life. That can produce restraint or shyness bordering on paralysis, and/or an an absolutely bizarre level of auditory dissonance. People learn to listen not to what the other person is actually saying, but rather at a kind of meta-level for clues about the right answer.

    Comment by Witt — November 5, 2006 @ 11:41 pm |Reply

  5. I’m not sure how much of that can really be blamed on standardized testing, but it’s definitely a problem.

    Comment by teofilo — November 6, 2006 @ 12:10 am |Reply

  6. Oof. I just finished reading Shame of the Nation so I’m especially down on NCLB and standardized testing at the moment.

    Comment by mrh — November 6, 2006 @ 10:39 pm |Reply

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