Sunday, April 01, 2007

Does Ted Kennedy have a drinking problem?

In today's Anniston Star, we are able to read Ted Kennedy using language such as "retreat to mediocrity", "standards, assessments and accountability procedures", "ensure that students have the knowledge and skills necessary for today's knowledge-based global economy", "highly qualified teacher", "struggling schools" ... when he urges the renewal of No Child Left Behind. Somebody please tell Senator Kennedy to stop drinking the kool-aid.

Seriously, some of what the Senator writes is correct and appropriate yet I still think that he, Representative George Miller, and the balance of those on the left that supported NCLB pretty much got played. I have long believed that NCLB was the final hope for some on the radical right to kill off public education. Alternatively, or perhaps additionally, it provided a grand way to make some money for some of the swells. Yes, Senator Kennedy, the funding promised never came and given how dreadfully the deficit has grown under Bu$hCo I'd not hold my breath to see much coming even if and when the GOP is fully a minority party.

I've posted on education and/or NCLB several times so will not try to explain my views in relation to those efforts beyond linking to here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here ... To try to respond briefly to Senator Kennedy, here goes. Yes, the federal gov't should be involved by generous funding, especially in some of the poorer states like my Alabama. I personally think some broad national standards might be wise yet let's be careful by relying on simple standardized testing as that could be the one and only focus for some dreadful schools and/or teachers.

Senator Kennedy wrote, "We need to strengthen our academic standards and assessment methods to ensure that students have the knowledge and skills necessary for today's knowledge-based global economy." So we get this by testing simple recall? Standardized testing is fine for some limited purposes and in some subjects yet NCLB, thus most every public school, especially those serving the truly challenging students, essentially forces teachers to focus on those simple matters that can be measured. And this results in some things that are really important being ignored or at least minimized to the point of no positive result. Taking time to think takes away from the "canned and scanned" we get from "accountablity". The global, knowledge-based economy is going to require thinkers not test takers! Winners in the 21st century are going to need to be able to work with fluid, often copious amounts of information, rather than being able to recall one damn fact after the other. Isn't this rather certain? Tell me where I'm wrong please if you think I'm wrong.

Senator Kennedy also write, "Researchers agree that teacher quality is the most important factor affecting student achievement. Good teachers can make all the difference in closing achievement gaps for low-income and minority students. The same research also shows, however, that our most at-risk students are often taught by the least prepared, least experienced and least qualified teachers.". NCLB had frustrated pretty much every teacher I know and I'll argue the especially creative and passionate teachers find this "accountability on steroids" so frustrating that they often walk away. Those bureaucrat types that might wind up in "leadership" these days might like the legislation however I've found some I've known often lacking in "leadership". Again, if I'm wrong help me understand a better way.

Heck of a job Teddy! Peace ... or War!

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