Who’s left behind?

Political Animal has an interesting take on the “No Child Left Behind” act:

the fact is that the Bush administration wants to see lots of public schools labeled as failures. It’s basically a long-term plan to erode the public’s faith in public schools and thereby increase support for private schools and vouchers.

Whether or not the act’s intentions are really that “sinister,” I can certainly say from personal experience that this crazed obsession with testing does bring some bizarre consequences. When my daughter only missed one question on the pre-test at the beginning of a recent school year, her teacher was disappointed: how was she going to demonstrate improvement. Chances are, she wouldn’t do any better, and would likely do worse on the “real” test at the end of the year, thus demonstrating that her teacher was ineffective — how could any learning take place if the test scores only held steady?

Teachers at our elementary school were so obsessed with test results that they didn’t know what to do after the end-of-grade tests were given about a month before the end of the school year. It certainly wouldn’t make sense to teach anything new to the kids: after all, that would just increase the baseline for the next year. So, since the kids had “worked so hard” all year, the last several weeks typically would be one big party. “Cupcakes and fruit punch for everyone” was the mantra, “childhood obesity epidemic be damned!”

So, what have we done about this situation? Apparently, according to the Political Animal, we’ve done exactly what George Bush wanted: transferred our kids to a private school, where they wouldn’t be handicapped by “No Child Left Behind.” No longer subjected to “teaching by testing,” our kids are flourishing. Ironic, isn’t it? To improve our children’s education, we’ve moved them to a school where their progress isn’t measured. Because we can afford a private education, they won’t be left behind, but I wonder how many others will.

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