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?"

Teacher: "Uh,
well, uh, don`t worry about it. That`s why I`m a math

And his student went away happy,

reassured by knowing that only nerdy
math teachers can quickly subtract 15 from 28.

Meanwhile, America`s

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
kids to a

typical school


Aspen Institute`s

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
this year.

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
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

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

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,

, 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
or "advanced."

(The most honest state,

enough: Louisiana—with

, Massachusetts, and South Carolina
deserving honorable mentions.)

Overall, the

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
Commission`s notice:

"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


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
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."
point out:

"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
highest scoring

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

, 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
understands that

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
intellectually proficient.

Instead, Gates hires the highest IQ employees he can
find. Rich Karlgaard, former editor of Forbes ASAP,

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,
(Pay Archive)]

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

Coming US challenge: a less literate workforce


Amanda Paulson

“US workers may be significantly less literate in 2030
than they are today. …

“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
pass the

, 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
drop out):

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."

Teacher: "You`re
going to do it all on your own?"

"Of course not. Tomorrow, I`m going to sit next to an
Asian kid."

Not for the

first time
, PC thinking about human differences—in
this case,

—is heading us for

, this time in the area of public education
policy. Ironically, our elites also probably think that

will bail them out.

[Steve Sailer [email
him] is founder of the Human Biodiversity Institute and

movie critic

The American Conservative
His website

features his daily