Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Steve Novick vs. No Child Left Behind, and some theory about Neocon strategy

Looks like Novick is calling for the repeal of the No Child Left Behind fiasco. This would be huge for me personally, because I will soon be working as a public school teacher. The circumstances no child left behind created are virtually unworkable. Forcing teachers to "teach to the test" is one of the biggest results of this idiotic policy. Steve Novick picked the right issue to distinguish himself with me as a voter. I'll keep watching him and Merkley to determine the best future senator, but this news puts Novick way in front in my eyes.

I've long held that the Neocons have a strategy for privatizing social services. It goes like this: 1. Starve the funding for said service (in the case of schools, just steadily cut the funding; in the case of Social Security it took the Reagan Revolution to crack the bank and allow the government to just flat out steal the money before it could be wrecked), 2. Start up the spin machine about how government can't administrate social services as well as private companies can, 3. Continue in said fashion, starving out the service financially and adding legislative roadblocks as much as possible (no child left behind as an example, hobbling good teaching) until public sentiment begins to shift, 4. Push for privatization to fix this "problem." Of course, if you left the money in social security, there would be no problem; if you adequately funded education, there would be no problem. "The problem" is completely fabricated.

A repeal of No Child Left Behind is huge, and would be an enormous boon to education. It would be a huge wrench in the works for folks who want to privatize education. With just a modicum more funding, education could flourish in this country -- with 1/1000th the funding the military receives, it could be a model for the whole world.

[I can tell there is more for me to address here, but I've run out of time -- expect more on these subjects in the future]

Enjoy the remnants of your public education system,



Dickey45 said...

Everything you teach will eventually need to be tested - whether it is by orally asking individual students, choral responding, work checks, or standardized testing.

Why not have benchmarks and standardized tests with standardized curriculum so that students that move from one school to another don't have to relearn or have gaps in their skills?

I love how people say NCLB and how it is a disaster - but how? WE (OREGON) created the friggin test. WE chose not to have standards in curriculum. AND WE chose to ignore billion dollar federally backed research (I pray you've heard of Project Follow Through). How is that NCLB's fault?

If you want to gut it and make it without teeth - fine. But once you lose it (ANY sort of accountability tool) - it will be difficult if not impossible to get it back.


matt_stansberry said...

I hate GWB as much as any sane person can, and assume everything he touches turns to shit. Also, my mom has been a public school teacher and a republican since before I was born, and she hates NCLB.

That said, I heard on NPR a couple days ago that NCLB was actually improving test scores for minority students -- something that hadn't happened in 20 years or something. Total hearsay, and I'm 90% sure the person saying it was the editor of some right-wing nutball magazine, but still. Piqued my interest. I'm guessing you'll have follow ups to this post!

Stu Farnham said...

Well. Interesting discussion. It seems to me that all three of you are right.

I fully agree with Brandon about the neocon strategy. They are thoroughly behind privitization as the right answer, believing that the free market will "do the right thing". As I have stated before, here and elsewhere, the only party for whom the market will do the right thing is the market, and that often in favor of short term profitability over long-term sustainability.

I agree with dickey that some level of calibration is required to normalize between schools and school systems. However, we do not want to calibrate at the cost of diversity of thought, either on the part of the teachers or the students. We do not want to create automatons. I also know, from my professional expereince, that you get what you test for, which seldom captures the whole picture.

Finally, I have heard the same kind of numbers that Matt has. And I have no trouble believing them. The students in question and the schools that they attend have been so woefully neglected for so long that a program like NCLB is almost certain to have a positive impact.


Bentley said...

The Act also requires that the schools distribute the name, home phone number and address of every student enrolled to military recruiters, unless the student (or the student's parent) specifically opts out.[3]
That scares the fuck out of me. I will be far more happy when any school system (including Canada) comes to the realization that not all people ARE created equal. I do not learn the same way as JimBob the A+ Academic. I test lower across the board by and far then most people, but i do better on lab work and assignments..


Bpaul said...

Dickey, I got all my opinions from teachers themselves. I agree that stated goals and intentions of the act are admirable and whatnot, but I do feel the methodology is at the least insufficiently thought out, at the worst antagonistic to the said goals.

The teachers I talk too said it forces their hand to teach to the test. This was the unanimous opinion of the folks I've talked to. None felt that it improved their lot as teachers, nor the students'.

That is not an unbiased, statistically correct sample. But I would ask you Dickey, have you talked to teachers about this? If so, what have they said that led you to your conclusions.

Bpaul said...

Ps: The whole mandatory reporting to recruiters just needs to be excised, it's preposterous.

Shocho said...

I believe that my son's education was ruined because they would not fail him. They would tell me, "He's not doing well in class, he might fail this course." I would beg them to fail him and they said they couldn't do that. If that's a result of NCLB, I'd be happy to see it go. My son was in no way challenged or improved by the education he received, and that disgusts me.

Bpaul said...

This is the second time I've heard about "refusal to fail" in school systems. How recent was your event? The other I heard about was 6-7 years old, don't know how that fits with NCLB.

As a further commentary about why I'm against NCLB -- any proposal to fix public education that doesn't decrease class sizes and increase curriculum is horse shit in my book, on the ground level. Every educational review that exists (please correct my hyperbole if you find contrary information, I never have) says that a reduction of class size is one of the simplest and most solid ways to increase the quality of education.

There are also studies talking about how the loss of the arts in schools could harm creativity in general -- including creativity in the lab, in science, because the thinking capacity is the same for both. A good engineer has to be creative, as does a good artist.

So I have a simple way to look at proposals -- do the teachers feel supported; does it decrease class size, even a little bit; and does it increase curriculum, even a little bit. If it doesn't, to me I immediately put it in the "lip service" category.

In talking with a 76-year-old neighbor (she is about 4'10" tall and cusses like a sailor, she's fantastic), she said "you know, when I first moved to Oregon 50 years ago, they were talking about fixing public education. Just yesterday I heard the same thing on the news -- you would think if they ACTUALLY wanted to fix something, they would have done it by now.