"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Getting the Picture at P.S. 48

A couple of weeks back the News Hour ran a piece by John Merrow on the effects of NCLB on the locally-cherished P. S. 48 in the Bronx. It runs about 10 minutes, but it is 10 minutes well spent. Have a look or a hear:

The chief reason that P. S. 48 is not making their test targets, or AYP (adequate yearly progress), is that each sub-group (now called clusters in some circles to make sure the language reflects our sameness, of course) of 30 students or more must pass the test at the same rate that the majority student population passes. Thirty students in any of over 30 different categories can make a school a failure, from learning disabled, to immigrant children, to physical, mental, and emotional disabilities, or low or no income. We have, then, a system that guarantees a never-ending supply of failures, all under the guise of a color-blind philosophy that insists on not leaving any child behind.

Children who are different know they are different, whether it is skin color or dyslexia. To treat them the same sends to them the message that there is something wrong with being as they are, that there is something to be ashamed of in being different. If there were not something to be ashamed of, why would people pretend that there was no difference? Now when that "equal treatment" (same high expectations for all) ends up in predictable failure, the shame is magnified by the failure that these students then accept as their just punishment for the difference that no one wants to see. These children, then, come to see themselves as unworthy of anything more than the failure we have assured for them.

This is truly the implacable racism that undergirds this NCLB business, and all of it is accomplished under a banner that was stolen from the Children's Defense Fund: No Child Left Behind. And all of it resulting in the "cognitive decapitation" (Kozol) of the weak and the poor, both individually and institutionally. Thus, the story of P. S. 48.

Here is a clip from Tom Luce, Assistant Secretary for Policy at ED, telling ED's lie about "progress." If progress mattered, P. S. 48 would not be on the list, and these failing children would not cowering at home dreading the repeat of the same mindless schooling they just failed:

TOM LUCE: The purpose of No Child Left Behind is to be color-blind and it is to ensure that every child makes progress, whether they're in an urban school, a suburban school, or a rural school.

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