View from Lodi, CA: Bush Education Act Hitting Fan

[See also:
Special Joenote to VDARE.COM readers]

Eighteen months have passed since George W. Bush`s

“No Child Left Behind Act of 2001″
was signed
into law.

The 600-page monster passed with bipartisan support a
mere four months after 9/11, when Congress was in a very
conciliatory mood.

Too bad no one bothered to read the legislation.

Now, suddenly, Democrats have many reservations.
Missouri Representative Richard Gephardt claims that
“we were sucked into it,
” and, “It`s a fraud.”

Bush pledges that the bill will improve the
performance of primary and secondary schools and insure
that no child will be trapped in a substandard
environment.

But wishing doesn`t make it so.

The Lodi Unified School District`s discontent was
made crystal clear during the May 20 board of trustee`s
meeting.

In the Lodi News-Sentinel story covering the
board meeting, “Federal school testing criticized at
LUSD meeting,”
President Richard Dean reflected the
consensus of most critics when he stated that the
federal government is simply not in touch with the daily
needs and challenges of local public schools.

And Trustee Harvey Robins added that kids who drop
out of school, fail the exit exam or the senior project
will, in fact, “be left behind.”

Actually, no one knows exactly how many children will
be left behind despite the bill`s seemingly good
intensions. One thing is increasingly clear: the
legislation has educators scrambling to find ways to get
out from under.

States are lowering the passing scores, re-evaluating
“failing” schools and putting off into the distant
future measuring achievement.

Ironically, Bush`s home state of Texas is one of the
first to lower testing standards. When the State Board
of Education gave a trial testing of a new achievement
exam, board member Chase Untermeyer said, “The
results were grim. Few students did well. Many students
got almost no answers right.”

The Texas Board immediately lowered the number of
correct answers required to pass to 20 of 36 from 24.

Wayne Johnson, President of the California Teacher`s
Association, in his California Educator column titled

“Make No Mistake About It”
, wrote that because of
the huge California deficits, the No Child Left Behind
Act (also known as the Elementary and Secondary
Education Act) “will make things much worse for our
public schools
.” 

California teachers are getting the “double whammy,”
according to Johnson: the $38
billion deficit budget deficit which forced cuts to an
already under-funded system combined with a federal law
designed to make schools look like failures.

Johnson quoted UCLA Professor Emeritus Dr. James
Popham, a testing and student evaluation expert: “This
law sets teachers up for certain failure. Improvement is
set so high that it will be impossible to attain."

And George Mason University Professor Gerald Bracey
said that the law imposes "new straitjacket
requirements on schools, requirements that would
bankrupt any business."

To put it mildly, the
challenges imposed by the E.S.E.A. are overwhelming.


All schools must give reading and math tests to all
grades 3 through 8 children each year. Two years later,
testing in science begins. Schools must also show
adequate yearly progress.


Finally after 12 years, all schools and all children
must be “proficient.”

The

National Assessment of Educational Progress
 has
defined “proficient” and other educational terms like
basic, below basic, and advanced.

Unfortunately, but
predictably, educators don`t agree with any of the NAEP
definitions.

Among those who reject them are UCLA, the Center for
Research and Evaluation, Student Standards and Testing,
the Government Accounting Office, and the National
Academy of Sciences.

This presents a looming
crisis according to Professor Bracey who predicts that
most states will never reach “proficiency” levels.

Says Bracey, "When they
don`t, districts will then be subjected to increasingly
severe and unworkable sanctions. Teachers can be fired,
kids sent to other districts, districts abolished."

Educators at all levels
are concerned. Richard Elmore, a Harvard Professor of
Education, wrote in the Education Next spring
newsletter, called No Child Left Behind,

“the single most damaging expansion of federal power
over the nation`s education system in history.”

Certainly, the federal
government can make life very uncomfortable for local
school districts. No one envies the administrators and
teachers who have to deal with the nightmare paperwork
load that No Child Left Behind generates.

With such a cumbersome
program—detested by educators and now an increasingly
visible target for Democrats—the likely outcome of “No
Child Left Behind” is that it will slowly but eventually
collapse under its own massive weight.

But first everyone will
have to pay a very dear price.

 


Joe Note to VDARE.COM readers
:

As
an inside observer of the California public school
system, I assure you that creating a meaningful test
students can pass will be very difficult indeed.


VDARE.COM readers know that the core reason passing
scores remain elusive is that every day all across
America hundreds of

non-English speaking students

enroll in public schools. In
California, 25% or 1.5 million students are


English Language Learners.

But
in an encouraging note, the Washington Post ran a story
on May 29th titled


“Residency Bill Raise Concerns
about Fairness,”
 (by Sylvia Moreno) that may
bode well for the future.

The
proposed bill would require the families of all children
wishing to enter a DC public school to prove they are
actually residents of the District of Columbia.

The
story is not clear on what the bill`s true intention is:
to keep out legal (from an immigration perspective)
Maryland residents- or to bar


illegal alien children
who
live in DC from enrolling in the beleaguered system.

If
enacted as written the legislation would keep both
groups out.

And
banning both groups might be fine with Ambrose who says
the district has neither the space nor the money to
educate non-resident children.


Imagine how quickly schools might improve if we had to


educate only our own children.

Peter
Brimelow writes
:

might seem odd, but in spite of my


book
arguing that teacher unions are a critical
barrier to education reform  – actually, because of it –
I think Joe is right to quote CTA chief  Wayne Johnson
approvingly here. The American government school system
is a failing socialist system like the Soviet
agricultural system. Like all failing socialist systems,
it`s swept by periodic top-down panaceas. ESEA is the
equivalent of deciding to shoot some peasants.

Joe Guzzardi [email
him], an instructor in English
at the Lodi Adult School, has been writing a weekly
column since 1988. It currently appears in the


Lodi News-Sentinel
.