Why “No Child Left Behind” Is Nuts
A reader who
teaches math in a public high school in northern
Orange County, California recounted the following
dialogue with one of his students:
"My mom is 28 years old."
"How old are you?"
"So, your mother had you when she was thirteen?"
"Wow! You can do that in your head that fast?"
well, uh, don`t worry about it. That`s why I`m a math
And his student went away happy,
self-esteem reassured by knowing that only nerdy
math teachers can quickly subtract 15 from 28.
Great and Good carry on making plans for
America`s schools based on assumptions that wouldn`t
survive an hour in an
average classroom. (Not that they would ever send
their kids to a
Aspen Institute`s bipartisan
Commission on No Child Left Behind, co-chaired by
former governors Tommy Thompson and
Roy E. Barnes and paid for by the
Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (among others), has
just issued 75 recommendations for improving the NCLB
legislation when it comes up for renewal by Congress
Despite the many small reforms advocated in the
Commission`s report "Beyond
NCLB: Fulfilling the Promise to Our Nation`s Children"
(222 page PDF), not one word of criticism is uttered
against the original legislation`s most important and
implausible requirement: "that all children should
reach a proficient level of academic achievement by
2014" in math and reading.
The report declares this goal of 100 percent
proficiency by 2014 to be "audacious … morally right
… and attainable."
What they don`t mention about this demand: It`s
"Proficient" is a technical term in
Ed-speak—the second highest of the five levels of
achievement in school testing, roughly equivalent to a
solid B. So the NCLB law requires that all
students be B students within seven years…just like in
Garrison Keillor`s fictional
Lake Wobegon, "where all the children are above
My original assumption was that the Commission was
cynically aware that NCLB is a bad joke. Yet it is also
naively recommending plugging the crucial loophole that
might make "100 percent proficiency" almost
achievable on paper.
In the current NCLB, which was
largely the result of an
President Bush and
Senator Kennedy (who are also the two leading
advocates for "comprehensive
immigration reform"—hmmm!). Each state is
allowed to concoct its own test to determine whether its
own students have reached "proficiency," which
the state can define however it pleases.
Not surprisingly, practically every single state
cheats in order to meet the law. For example,
Mississippi, that intellectual powerhouse, recently
declared that 89 percent of its 4th graders were at
least "proficient" in reading.
Unfortunately, however, on the federal government`s
impartial National Assessment of Educational Progress
test, only 18 percent of Mississippi students were
"proficient" or "advanced."
typical state claimed that 68 percent of its 4th
graders were proficient readers, compared to the 30
percent found by the honest NAEP.
Corruption this blatant didn`t escape even the
"Most significantly, the
fact that NCLB allows states to set their own standards
has led to wide and unacceptable variations in
expectations across states. Many states have not set
standards high enough or they have chosen to set a low
bar for what constitutes proficiency. … Therefore, we
recommend the development of voluntary model national
content and performance standards and tests in
reading or language arts,
science based on NAEP frameworks."
In other words, the Commission is so clueless that it
didn`t realize that the fraud built into the NCLB wasn`t
a problem, it was a solution. Bald-faced swindling on a
colossal scale is the only imaginable way of reaching
NCLB`s goal of making every kid in the country into
a B student by 2014. Requiring states to achieve an
impossible level of performance, but not providing any
system for disinterested outsiders to measure the
states` performance, was a massive hint that the
states were supposed to cheat.
You can see just how much bamboozling is necessary by
looking at the NAEP results. On the federal government`s
National Assessment of Educational Progress exam for
8th graders, reading scores were distributed like this:
|Advanced (A):||3 percent|
|Proficient (B):||28 percent|
|Basic (C):||42 percent|
|Below & Far Below Basic (D & F):||27 percent|
So 69 percent of American 8th graders are under the
2014 legally mandated requirement of proficiency.
And their 2005 performance was even worse than in
2002, the year the NCLB started. Then, only 67 percent
were below proficiency.
At this rate of (negative) progress, achieving 100
percent proficiency won`t take just until 2014—it will
take until, oh, the
Twelfth of Never.
Blacks` and Hispanics` achievement shortcomings are
even more overwhelming according to the NCLB: 88 percent
of blacks and 85 percent of Hispanics fell short of
proficiency in 2005.
Similarly, in math, 70 percent of all 8th graders
were less than proficient.
In its wisdom, the Commission also called for
Congress to mandate 100 percent proficiency in
science as well—even though 71 percent of 8th
graders weren`t up to that mark in 2005.
A report prepared for the
Campaign for Educational Equity by Richard Rothstein,
Rebecca Jacobsen, and Tamara Wilder sums up the
absurdity of NCLB in its title:
"`Proficiency for All` – An Oxymoron." They
"In its administration of
NCLB, the U.S. Department of Education barely
acknowledges this human variability. … Under NCLB,
children with I.Q.s as low as 65 must achieve a standard
of proficiency in math which is higher than that
achieved by 60 percent of students in Taiwan, the
country in the world (in math), and a standard of
proficiency in reading which is higher than that
achieved by 65 percent of students in
Sweden, the highest scoring country in the world (in
Here`s the really fascinating thing about the broad
support for NCLB.
In private, virtually every single person in America
human beings are highly diverse in mental capabilities.
They just won`t acknowledge it in public.
For example, let`s take the man who, more than
anybody else, paid for the Commission on NCLB`s report
endorsing the essential lunacy of NCLB: Bill Gates.
Now, Gates didn`t get to be the richest man in the
world by trusting in the philosophy upon which the NCLB
law is based: that absolutely every individual can be
Instead, Gates hires the highest IQ employees he can
find. Rich Karlgaard, former editor of Forbes ASAP,
reminisced in the Wall Street Journal about a
journey he took with Gates in 1993:
"During that trip, I must
have heard Mr. Gates mention `IQ` a hundred times. The
obsession with smarts is embedded deep in Mr. Gates`
thinking and long ago was institutionalized at
Microsoft. Apply for a job and you`ll face an
oral grilling that probes for IQ. It is oral and
informal because of
Griggs v. Duke Power, the 1971 Supreme Court
ruling that banished written IQ tests and `tests of an
abstract nature` from job applications. But Microsoft
knows what it wants. It wants IQ." [Microsoft`s
IQ Dividend, By Rich Karlgaard July 28, 2004,
This complete contradiction between what Gates knows
to be true in his personal affairs, and the nonsense
that he pays to promulgate in public, is never held
against him (or against anybody else). Instead, lying in
public is now considered the mark of a good person. The
bad people are the ones like
Charles Murray who carefully document what everyone
else silently knows already.
One of the rare honest reports ("America`s
Perfect Storm") on the
dire implications for America`s future of importing
unskilled labor came recently from the Educational
Testing Service, creator of the SAT. The Christian
Science Monitor noted:
“The three factors identified are: a shifting labor
market increasingly rewarding education and skills, a
changing demographic that include a rapid-growing
Hispanic population, and a yawning achievement gap,
particularly along racial and socioeconomic lines, when
it comes to reading and math.
"The individual trends have been identified before, but
this study makes an effort to examine their combined
effects, and to project a disturbing future, including a
sharply declining middle class in addition to the lost
ground in literacy.
"`We have the possibility of transforming the American
dream into the American tragedy,` says Irwin Kirsch, a
senior research director at ETS and the lead author of
the study.`" [More]
America`s elites have no idea how our schools work
fail to work), but our students understand the
The math teacher in Santa Ana told me of a
conversation he had with another of his students the day
before the young man was to try for the third time to
CAHSEE test, which is now required to graduate from
high school in California. (And which, much to the
surprise of California`s leaders, is causing students to
Teacher: "So, you
ready for the big test?"
"Sure. I`ve got a good plan. This time I`m not
going to cheat off a really dumb guy."
going to do it all on your own?"
"Of course not. Tomorrow, I`m going to sit next to an
Not for the
first time, PC thinking about human differences—in
bipartisan—is heading us for
disaster, this time in the area of public education
policy. Ironically, our elites also probably think that
immigration will bail them out.