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

Saturday, April 15, 2006

NCLB Impetus for Omaha School Segregation

It is ironic that Nebraska should take the lead in the official re-segregation of America's schools. Nebraska, after all, has been at the forefront in implementing an assessment system that eschews off-the-shelf commercial tests to evaluate the learning of Nebraska children. The only state test in Nebraska is a writing test, and it will remain that way as long as Doug Christensen is Commissioner of Education.

Christensen and his staff have also taken the lead in educating the public inside and outside Nebraska on the direct correlation between family income and academic performance. See the Commissioner's Report to the State, "A Tale of Two Nebraskas." Dr. Christensen and his dedicated people should be congratulated for making these connections in this clear, graphic presentation.

Even the Commissioner's best intentions (see this pdf on AYP in Nebraska) and the hard work by his staff and the State's teachers cannot, however, bend the will of the federal ED to ghettoize those sub-groups that are failing, even as the Feds insist that, with their "color-blind" policy, that there is no need to treat them differently. Think about that.

If you believe the achievement gap is closing in Nebraska (or in any other state, for that matter), have a look at the data charts here. There is not a more convincing argument than the facts presented in these charts that the NCLB's impossible proficiency goals, combined with its demand that every sub-group of 30 kids attain those impossible goals, will either, 1) lead the vast majority of schools to fail, or 2) lead to decisions to segregate those groups most likely to fail, thus preserving the possibility of the white majority schools to make their test targets. If your public school is going to survive, you need to be developing a strategy soon to get rid of your sub-groups, er, "clusters." This is what Nebraska has done this week, despite the best efforts of Christensen and his people. And all of this incentizing for segregation will be accomplished in the name of ending an achievement gap that remains a stubbornly defiant embarrassment to all the cynical, empty propaganda campaigns.

If the Nebraska segregation law survives the Court challenges, what will be the likely outcome for Omaha schools? Could it be that the Governor is looking to New York and LA for lead examples on how to abolish the local school boards once that failure has been assured by the creation of apartheid schools that are encouraged by NCLB? Isn't the anwer here to use tax dollars to turn these apartheid schools over, then, to the corporate-run behavioral/academic boot camps that will assure that order is preserved in communities where opportunity will continue to be conspicuously absent? And if not order, well, there is another corporate-contracted "public" institution waiting in the wings for you.

The outcome: unknown. But I would argue that the propensity toward fascism in America today is directly proportional to the perceived demise of the white protestant majority. As white protestants come to see themselves as more threatened by the browning of America, the "democracy" to be preserved will be one operated from behind the security of visible and invisible gates that no one dare crash. We might call that secure space the white zone, rather than the green zone--the only place in America where the possibility for success remains secure, success in school, or otherwise.

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