Another Example of How Educational Bureaucrats Will Avoid Accountability & Hurt Children

In the latest report (available for a fee) of dishonest manipulation of reporting performance results required under No Child Left Behind, we get this report:

When the Associated Press reported last week that nearly two million mostly minority children “aren’t counted when it comes to meeting the law’s requirement that schools track how students of different races perform on standardized tests,” Education Secretary Margaret Spellings’s response was something less than urgent concern.
“Is it too many? You bet,” said Ms. Spellings. “Are there things we need to do to batten down the hatches, make sure those kids are part of the system? You bet.” Other than that, Ms. Spelling didn’t have much to say about states’ rampant noncompliance with the 2002 No Child Left Behind Act…
…Ms. Spellings…tenure has been marked by lax enforcement of NCLB. Last month we reported that parents and children in failing schools nationwide aren’t being notified of their school-choice transfer and tutoring options, even though notification is a requirement under NCLB. The news that Ms. Spellings is also letting states slide on even reporting the math and reading test scores of minorities is especially disturbing because accountability is the heart of the federal law.
NCLB makes allowances for schools that have racial groups too small to be statistically significant. But states have been abusing their freedom under the law to determine when a group is too small to count. And Washington is letting them get away with it. According to the AP, nearly two dozen states have successfully petitioned the Education Department “for exemptions to exclude larger numbers of students in racial categories.” Today about one in 14 test scores overall go uncounted. Minorities, whose test scores on average lag those of white students, are seven times as likely to have their test results ignored. That’s an odd way to enforce a law called No Child Left Behind.
“The point of these testing requirements is to put pressure on schools to close their achievement gaps by making those gaps more transparent,” says Michael Petrilli, who follows federal education policy at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. “If you’re not going to enforce this, what are you going to enforce?”
Good question. We already know that schools would much rather report “average” scores, which let education bureaucrats hide the fact that large groups of mostly poor and minority students aren’t learning…
School board associations, state boards of education, teachers unions and others have been demanding one type of exemption or another since the law was passed in 2002. Under Ms. Spellings’s predecessor, Rod Paige, they were unable to make much progress. The current secretary, however, is herself a former associate executive director of the Texas Association of School Boards. We hope this history isn’t the reason that the public education blob is having much more success in weakening NCLB now that Ms. Spellings is in charge.
NCLB’s raison d’etre is to hold schools accountable for all of their students; otherwise, why not leave schools to be run by local officials, who pay most of the bills? In return for record amounts of new federal education spending, schools not only are required to test regularly, they are also required to disaggregate the data by race so that parents (and taxpayers) can see who’s learning and who isn’t.
That can’t happen if Bush Administration officials won’t enforce their own law…And it is hurting the system’s most vulnerable children.

This kind of behavior is not surprising. It occurs because the government-mandated monopoly called public education means educational bureaucrats, politicians, and teachers’ union pay no price for the failing status quo and, therefore, have no incentive to change their actions. It occurs because parents are not in charge of their childrens’ education, as would occur under school choice. It also occurs because No Child Left Behind – however noble its stated overall goals – is a structurally flawed law.
All of society is appropriately outraged when children are physically abused. What I find appalling is that the very people who claim to care so much about children in other areas are stone-cold silent about the failings of our public schools. Talk about tolerating abuse.

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18 years ago

A more subtle devastation caused by this testing process is that teachers stop caring about the really good and really poor students. The good ones will do well anyway and the poor ones are not worth the effort to get up to snuff for the purposes of these so-called tests. So they spend most of their time trying to ensure that the borderline kids pass the test. This is just one more example of how seemingly well-intentioned government programs have negative consequences that no one even dreamed of in the first place.

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