January 03, 2006


No Double Standard Left Behind

...Imagine a baseball league where every pitcher in every starting rotation of every team was able to pitch just as well as every other pitcher. Each team would also have a lead-off hitter as good as the lead-off hitter of all the other teams, and the rest of the lineup would consist of hitters on-par with all the field players from the other teams. Not only would they be equal, they’d be great.
...What? We could never have such an egalitarian situation? Of course we can: We can require it by law.
...For years we’ve heard criticism by conservatives of institutions that “promote” equality, including the graduated income tax, affirmative action, equal opportunity programs, and various public assistance programs. The critics are actually correct; these socioeconomic institutions have helped to do little more than stigmatize a desire for wealth, encourage reverse discrimination, and entice poor people to remain in poverty.
...Unfortunately, since 2001, many of those same conservatives who have castigated such measures of radical equality have themselves been quick to jump onboard the egalitarianism bandwagon with the federal No Child Left Behind Act.
...Let’s think about it: the NCLB law that made President Bush famous (read: infamous) among public school teachers the country over is designed to require students across the United States to show steady improvement on standardized tests in order for their given school district to meet its adequate yearly progress (AYP) targets. By the year 2014, all school districts must have a student body that is able to pass the examinations at a proficiency rate of 100% (at grade level or above) in order to be in compliance with the law.
...To illustrate examples of such AYPs, we can look at New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
...In New Jersey, the adequate yearly progress for standardized testing of 11th grade students in language arts increases from 85% during the 2007-08 school year to 92% in 2010-11, to 100% in 2013-14. The AYP for mathematics is 74%, 86%, and 100% for those school years, respectively.
...Across the Delaware River we have Pennsylvania, which has reading proficiency rates set at 63% for 2008-10, 72% for 2011, 81% for 2012, 91% for 2013, and 100% in 2014. For those years, respectively, in mathematics we see proficiency rates of 56%, 67%, 78%, 89%, and 100%.
...A rate of 100% is rather egalitarian, isn’t it? Such a percentage clearly calls for all children to be intellectually equal. Differences will not—actually, cannot—exist; the NCLB law says so. How is this possible?
...For those of you who are out of high school, I ask you to think back to when you were in school. Did you have any peers whom you knew would not be college-bound, simply because their intellectual capacity would not allow it? Do you have a recollection of fellow students who found their place on the football field instead of the classroom? Do you recall having other students in the same classroom who out-did those students of limited intellect? I do.
...In fact, when I was in high school we had four basic intellectual tiers: those who couldn’t graduate on their first attempt, those who graduated and went right into the work force because they weren’t accepted into college, those who got to college and failed out, and those who completed a four-year degree. A few of those in the last tier moved on to graduate school.
...How could such a thing happen if we were intellectual equals, as NCLB supporters would have us believe? How is it possible to find four distinct intellectual levels when many of these students were in classrooms with the same teachers?
...The argument by NCLB supporters then places blame on the teachers in question. When students fail, it’s not their fault—it’s the teachers who have failed. Hence, we see standardized testing on a regular basis for them, as well as for the students.
...That might make NCLB supporters feel good about their efforts, but it also makes NCLB opponents question the real motivations for support of such legislation. Is it just a coincidence that the direct targets of the NCLB law are members of a union that is supportive of a competing ideology? If anything, it sounds quite similar to the sham that is the gun-control movement, only it’s on the other side of the aisle and the bullets are now number two pencils. Their mantra could be “Students don’t fail—teachers do.”
...The No Child Left Behind Act doesn’t “make” anyone more intelligent or intellectually-proficient just because it mandates that it must happen. The concept of “let it be written, so let it be done” might work wonderfully in the Bible, but we can’t part the seas or turn water into wine in a classroom in 2006.
...So far the NCLB law has done nothing but forced teachers to remove projects, term papers, and field trips from their lesson plans and replace them with assignments that promote rote memorization in order to pass the standardized examinations. These are projects that might deal with students’ family heritage; they’re term papers that would help both research skills and writing skills; they’re field trips to museums that allow students to see things up-close instead of on the pages of a text book.
...Human beings are not the same. We’re different in many ways, including intellectual ability, and no law that forces equality will actually create equality—no matter if that law is liberal or conservative in nature. No Child Left Behind legislation has been shown to be nothing more than a weapon in an ongoing political war of ideologies, but sadly the casualties won’t involve the ones waging that war.


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