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

Saturday, August 26, 2006

NCLB Strikes Rich Suburban Enclaves

(Chart from a study of Massachusetts schools)

Greenwich and other wealthy towns are no longer immune to the assured failure that thus far has only affected the poor, the brown, the special populations, and the immigrants. As AYP requirements rise toward that unattainable mark of 100% proficiency, suddenly suburban parents are becoming shocked to find out that there is something out there called NCLB that has just labeled their school as not good enough. This from NewTimesLive.com in Danbury, CT:
School systems across the nation jump through the hoops created by the federal No Child Left Behind legislation, and their reward is to be slapped down and labeled. It is a discouraging exercise that drains energy and financial resources as educators and local taxpayers try to make sense of this federal education law.

An article in Friday's News-Times opened a window into just how inflexible, just how bureaucratic, the No Child Left Behind evaluation system has become. Successful local school systems, successful local schools, are now being listed under NCLB guidelines as not making adequate yearly progress. Bethel, Brookfield, Danbury, New Fairfield, New Milford, Newtown and Ridgefield -- the list is a puzzlement locally, as are similar lists in other regions and other states.

There are 806 public elementary and middle schools in Connecticut; 290 are listed as not making adequate yearly progress -- double the number of schools labeled in that fashion last year. . . .
What's to be done? Well, if you are the interim Connecticut Commissioner of Education, you ignore the elephant that is stomping around your living room while you go about emptying the ashtrays and serving drinks:

Last year, 145 schools did not make AYP. This year, of the 290 schools that did not make AYP, more than 30 percent were in Hartford, New Haven, Bridgeport and Waterbury, state education officials said. Schools in Norwalk and Stamford also appeared on the list.

"These results point to the hard work that has to be done," said George A. Coleman, the state's interim education commissioner. "We have to focus on more effective strategies, a more surgical approach, more targeted to the unique learning needs of students."
Does anyone else know in-denial bullshit jargon when you read it? But some communities like Greenwich, the richest in the country, are not just resorting to "targeting more effective strategies"--they are paying a detective to target the "intruder" immigrants who are bringing down their town scores and then running them out of their schools. From the Times today:
The school district would not identify its Sam Spade, except to say he’s a former Greenwich police officer and that he is paid $15,000 a year. He also does the shoe-leather sleuthing of confirming whether students live where their leases and utility bills say they do. In the 2004-5 school year, Greenwich investigated 62 cases and found 20 intruders. Dr. John Curtin, assistant superintendent, told of one student whose address was a golf course and who, upon inquiry, turned out to be the child of a maintenance worker legitimately housed on the greens.
Lovely, isn't it? That's what I call real courage from the people who can most afford it.

Finally, there are those who believe that if this NCLB were funded fully, then their woes would disappear:
What was not anticipated was the failure of the federal government to provide promised financial aid to cover the costs of NCLB requirements. Those costs, including substantial amounts for gathering and reporting school test data, have put a new burden on local school budgets.
Hellllooooooooo. All the money in the Federal treasury is not going to help the majority of America's schools meet a demand that was known to be impossible when it was shoved into NCLB legislation? Wake up, America.

Any politician running for office who is unwilling to support the repeal of the 100% proficiency demand in NCLB deserves no votes. Saving public education cannot be achieved without repealing, at least, this part of the law that the privatizers will fight tooth and nail to keep in.

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