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

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

NCLB Uses Media to Blame States for NCLB

Ben Feller, longtime shill for the Bush’s Department of Ed. is at it again. In an artful dodge to escape the hard light that is now focusing on the inherent racism of NCLB, Feller returns to action with a big AP exclusive on how states are allowing schools to slip the accountability noose by not reporting test scores for student cohorts that are too small, based on federal guidelines (not state ones), to report.

Allowing his co-authors (here and here) to take turns in the spotlight, two stories appeared with hours of each other making the case that state departments of education are leaving poor and minority children behind by not reporting their scores for federal accountability purposes. The first piece went straight for the jugular:
States are helping public schools escape potential penalties by skirting the No Child Left Behind law's requirement that students of all races must show annual academic progress.
Laced within these stories are comments by poor parents who have come to be convinced that NCLB's guaranteed failure for their own children offers the solution to their continued oppression, in schools that are aimed at the further cognitive decapitation (Kozol) and emotional genocide of a generation of poor and brown children. Should we declare, then, that no test score will be left behind if it can be used to further demoralize and regiment children in the new Skinnerian re-education camps that are spreading like wildfire under such lofty names as Success for All and Open Court and Direct Instruction.

Here is a case, we may surmise, of first-class Rovian ingenuity funneled through the IES sweatshop and then squeezed into the lap of Ben Feller, who has shown that he can be depended upon to do for free (we must assume) what others in the ED propaganda campaign have demanded a wage to do. (See here an example of how Feller spread the propaganda from the AIR manipulation of college literacy rates in order to justify the soon-to-be-announced federal intrusions of Spellings' Higher Ed Commission). The two most recent AP stories, in fact, have Rovian strategy written all over them: use the media to take the hot lights off the perpetrator (NCLB and IES) by putting the blame on the victim (the public schools). Perfect.

In examining some of the documents used to come up with the number of student scores purportedly excluded from the NCLB crucible (almost 2 million), I came across these numbers that somehow don' t get much airplay when we talk about the same color-blind high expectations and color-blind test scores for all, whether or not your child has to dodge bullets on the way home to a shack apartment, or whether your child drives home in his new Accord to a house that takes up more air than ten of those shack apartments that our color-blindness insists is of equal value when it comes to contributing to success at school:

Total No. of K-12 Students: 48,500,000

No. Free/Reduced Lunch: 17,548,682 (36.3%)

No. of [special ed.] students with IEPs 6,015,545 (13.6%)

No. of students ELL (English Language Learners) 3,829,284 (10.6%)

And just a single indicator of the link between income and test scores, information that FairTest obtained from the College Board in 2002. These same correlations, by the way, can be found in any set of state test scores or in international comparisons, regardless of grade level.

Family Income----Verbal/Math Scores

Less than $10,000/year------417/442
$10,000 - $20,000/year-----435/453
$20,000 - $30,000/year-----461/470
$30,000 - $40,000/year-----480/485
$40,000 - $50,000/year-----496/501
$50,000 - $60,000/year-----505/509
$60,000 - $70,000/year-----511/516
$70,000 - $80,000/year-----517/524
$80,000 - $100,000/year----530/538
More than $100,000/year----555/568

All of this is being ignored, of course. The sub-text for this blame-shifting to the states, by the way, can be found in the call, very near the end of the first AP piece:
The solution may be to set a single federal standard for when minority students' scores don't have to be counted separately, said Ross Wiener, policy director for the Washington-based Education Trust.
By next year, all of the politicians now harumphing about this scandalous situation (brand new story here with Big Ben Feller taking the lead) will be coming to the rescue of these children whose failure we have not given them credit for. We will likely see a call for a national test (NAEP) in order to concentrate power (and to do the right thing, of course), and we will see the call for growth models to be used in order to hide the effects of income disparities on test performance (and to give credit for progress, of course). In the meantime,

Former Bush Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson, who now serves on a private commission studying the law, issued a joint statement with his co-leader of the commission calling the AP's findings alarming.

"If the goal of the No Child Left Behind Act is to ensure that all children meet state standards, then allowing large numbers of the most disadvantaged children to fall between the cracks is unacceptable," Thompson said with commission co-chairman Roy Barnes.

Yes, those cracks.

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