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..
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 . . .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
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