The Bog:
sphagnum moss, dark water, and politics
Tuesday, November 21, 2006
Couldn't Call It Unexpected, No. 2:
Mind the Gap! (The Children of Color Left Behind Act).

In other unfortunate and entirely unsurprising news, Schools Slow in Closing Gap Between Races
When President Bush signed his sweeping [No Child Left Behind] education law a year into his presidency, it set 2014 as the deadline by which schools were to close the test-score gaps between minority and white students that have persisted since standardized testing began.

Now, as Congress prepares to consider reauthorizing the law next year, researchers and a half-dozen recent studies, including three issued last week, are reporting little progress toward that goal. . .

“Not only have all boats stopped rising, but the boats that are under water are sinking further down,” said Bruce Fuller, an education professor at the University of California, Berkeley, who contributed to the study."

Again, sadly, no surprise. To be very brief and oversimplistic, NCLB is a bizarrely punitive law, mixed in with some extra funding that doesn't even manage to cover the new requirements (many of which are frequently considered a giveaway to test-prep and testing companies, along with the manufacturers of ideologically friendly prepackaged curricula). The implicit assumption appears to have been that teachers and schools were just being lazy and not trying hard enough, so all one had to do was "hold them accountable," and threaten them - like workers slacking off and spending the day on blogging or fantasy football - and the gap would magically improve! Uh, no.

Perhaps it's a bit of a stretch, but I can't help but see parallels to our Iraq policy. There's the same whiff of magical thinking, the promise of nice but wildly unlikely results, the obstinate refusal to engage with complicated, multifacteted reality, the insistent belief that all one needs are adequate supplies of Will and Force to fix any problem.

In reality, while this is a complex issue, there's one glaringly obvious aspect: the presence of persisting social and economic inequality in society and in our schools. The refusal to come to terms with this (or even really ever admit it) ensures that NCLB will fail. Which, some have argued, has been the point all along. (I think it's enough to note that it's designed as if the goal was to be a failure, since there are various reasons why this might be so).

In related news
New York State’s highest court ended a landmark legal fight over education financing [Nov. 20th] , ruling that at least $1.93 billion more must be spent each year on New York City’s public schools — far less than the $4.7 billion that a lower court called the minimum needed to give city children the chance for a sound basic education."
Thirteen years of litigation, and the New York Court of Appeals endorses the low-end figure (although it will be slightly revised due to inflation) from a Pataki-appointed commission report back in '04. Well, almost $2 billion is certainly something, at least . . .

At one point in 2002 - and this really sums it all up for me - the Appellate Division overturned the previous ruling and said, in a majority decision authored by the misnamed Justice Alfred D. Lerner, no, there wasn't really a (state constitutional) problem. After all (due to some tortured reinterpretations of a "sound basic education"), the state was only really required to ensure that children without other resources had be offered a eighth-to-ninth grade education, and New York was managing that, so what's the fuss? (And they meant offered - the fact that nearly a third of students weren't receiving any sort of diploma, even one testifying to an eighth grade or so level of mastery, was judged to be irrelevant). Of course, as the Court of Appeals pointed out the following year
First, as to employment, the Appellate Division concluded that the trial court "went too far" in construing the ability to "function productively" as the ability to obtain "competitive employment" or, indeed, as anything more than "the ability to get a job, and support oneself, and thereby not be a charge on the public fisc" (295 A.D.2d at 8). More is required. While a sound basic education need only prepare students to compete for jobs that enable them to support themselves, the record establishes that for this purpose a high school level education is now all but indispensable . . .

Second, as to other aspects of civic participation, the difference between the trial court and the Appellate Division centers on our statement in CFE that a sound basic education should leave students "capable of voting and serving on a jury" (86 N.Y.2d at 316). The State's expert on educational psychology, Dr. Herbert Walberg, testified that pattern jury instructions and newspaper articles typically feature vocabulary and sentence length comparable to those of texts eighth-graders are expected to be able to read. Based on this testimony, the Appellate Division concluded that the skills necessary for civic participation are imparted between eighth and ninth grades (295 A.D.2d at 8). The trial court, by contrast, concluded that productive citizenship "means more than just being qualified to vote or serve as a juror, but to do so capably and knowledgeably" (187 Misc.2d at 14 . . . )--to have skills appropriate to the task.
That's the kind of thinking we face. The Times article mentions that the new decision "will also almost certainly embolden opponents of increased spending for the city schools." Whether they not they mean to (or even realize it), such people are also opponents of New York City's children.

posted by Dan S. on 7:57 AM | | link

what is a bog?
Definitions, definitions
1. ". . . one of North America's most distinctive kinds of wetlands . . . characterized by spongy peat deposits, acidic waters, and a floor covered by a thick carpet of spagnum moss." *
2. A relentless, hard-driving mix of political commentary, recipes, idle ramblings, and so on.

More about bogs here.

why "the bog"?
Something about the blog format made me think of spagnum moss slowly growing, forming layer after layer of peat deposits many feet thick, sometimes preserving (in Europe) ancient bodies . . . Also, it rhymes.

Powered by Blogger Attack Iraq? No!

Songs currently stuck in my head
despite all my best efforts

"My Happy Ending," by {yech} Avril Lavigne:
"Let's talk this over,
It's not like we're dead . . "

and "Laiska" by Varttina:
Laiska luotu laulmann
oikosormi soittamaan
yskin oita viettelen
unetonna laulelen

Toppling off the bedside book-pile:
Classroom Management for Middle-Grades Teachers , C.M. Charles & Marilyn G. Charles
Teaching U.S. History as Mystery, David Gerwin & Jack Zevin
Crossroads of Continents: Cultures of Siberia and Alaska, William W. Fitzhugh & Aron Crowell
Arctic Crossing: A Journey Through the Northwest Passage and Inuit Culture, Jonathan Waterman
Northern Tales: Stories from the Native People of the Arctic and Subarctic Regions, Howard Norman (ed.)
Life in the Cold, Peter J. Marchand
Wandering Through Winter, Edwin Way Teale
The Winter Vegetarian, Darra Goldstein

Teas of the week:
Tea of Good Tidings: Winter Fruit Blend,
The Republic of Tea
Russian Caravan,
Jacksons of Piccailly

on the web:
Land of links:
The American Prospect
Common Dreams
FAIR: Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting
The Nation
The Progressive
Washington Monthly

Organic Consumers Association
Eat Wild (pasture-based farming)
NOFA: Northeast Organic Farming Association
Consumer Supported Agriculture
Edible Wild Kitchen


Blogging away:
Vassar blogs
And yes, we've been co-ed since '69...
E's Den
Useless! Worthless! Insipid!

Other blogs
Alas, A Blog
Atrios' Eschaton
Body and Soul
Daily Kos
Digby's Hullabaloo
Dispatches From the Culture Wars
Echidne of the Snakes
Feminist Blogs
Interesting Times
Late Night Thoughts asleep?
Long story; short pier
Making Light
Mouse Words
One Good Thing
The Panda's Thumb
Respectful of Otters
The Sideshow
Sisyphus Shrugged
Matthew Yglesias

old peat (archives):
December 22, 2002
December 29, 2002
January 12, 2003
January 19, 2003
February 2, 2003
February 16, 2003
February 23, 2003
March 2, 2003
March 9, 2003
March 16, 2003
March 23, 2003
March 30, 2003
April 6, 2003
June 8, 2003
October 5, 2003
January 16, 2005
October 22, 2006
November 5, 2006
November 12, 2006
November 19, 2006
November 26, 2006
September 16, 2012
December 23, 2012

Search Engine Submission

Weblog Commenting and Trackback by