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

Monday, May 15, 2006

Going Haywire

A data collection minefield is beginning to blow up in the face of NCLB because the law's architects have a pathologically-driven obsession with gathering as much information about students and teachers as suspected terrorists. Sam Dillon reports today in the New York Times on how the mandates for collecting data are wreaking havoc on an already overburdended public school system.

Nearly all states are building high-tech student data systems to collect, categorize and crunch the endless gigabytes of attendance logs, test scores and other information collected in public schools — and the projects in some states seem to have gone haywire.

In North Carolina, a statewide school computer system known as NC WISE is years behind schedule, and estimated costs have risen to $250 million. Teachers have nicknamed it NC Stupid. California has spent $60 million on a system, and officials estimated that the state would spend an additional $60 million in coming years to help school districts connect to it.

And in Idaho, a private foundation spent $21 million on a data system for the public schools but pulled out when estimated completion costs hit $180 million.
"It metastasized way beyond the original concept," said Jason Hancock, an education analyst for the Idaho Legislature. "Costs ballooned, and the funders just pulled the plug."

Based on my own collection of data over the past four months as a student teacher in a suburban New Jersey high school, I would say student test scores are likely to continue going down. Severe budget cuts have eliminated resource room teachers, art, drama, and all non-tenured history and English teachers. The one copy machine for teachers is often breaking down and there aren't nearly enough computers for the 1,500 students or up-to-date technology in classrooms. Perhaps when the Departments of Education across the country finally get their student/teacher tracking systems in place, they can calculate how many students' test scores have gone down because of a redirection of resources into tracking student test scores.

For all those who busy wringing their hands over the "mysterious" drop in SAT scores as if it was a national tragedy, perhaps it's time to funnel some of the billions in resources being used to prop up this failed education policy into what every educator knows really works. There's plenty of good, solid research based on facts and information that might solve this mystery.

Unfortunately, in the metastasizing, cancerous minefield of NCLB, the promise no child will be left behind and the clever distraction of a never-ending discussion about falling and rising test scores, serve as a camouflage for the tyranny of corporate interests like those of Bush's friends at McGraw Hill who bank on things going haywire.

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