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

Thursday, December 21, 2006

NCLB a Fraud, Says Superintendent

From the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle (ht to Monty Neill):

(December 21, 2006) — The No Child Left Behind law is a fraud. That may be strong language from a school superintendent, but the law is a definite political, social, and economic con.

First, the law's basic premise — that public schools are performing poorly and need to be improved, or else something really bad is going to happen to America — is political nonsense. Right-wing zealots have used the phrase "failing public schools" so often that some think it's a fact, when it isn't.

American public education is the backbone of our democracy. It's the great equalizer. Gerald Bracey, an independent, highly regarded education researcher, notes in an article for the Stanford University Alumni Association that since the end of World War II, the proportion of high school graduates among those 25 or older has grown from 34 percent to 74 percent, and the percentage of college graduates has increased from 6 percent to 19 percent.

Bracey points out that according to a 2006 report published by a Columbia University research center, public schools outperform private schools when controlling for poverty. And, a 2004 U.S. Department of Education report found that despite all the rhetoric about charter schools, they're "less likely to meet state performance standards than traditional public schools."

No Child Left Behind is deceptive in social and economic ways as well. The law helps hide two of America's dirty little secrets:

  • The first is the incredible amount of poverty in America. Thomas Smeeding, professor of economics and public policy at Syracuse University's Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, has found that among the world's nine richest industrialized nations, America has the second highest poverty rate in general, and the highest rate of poverty among children. And, as we know, America's poverty is concentrated in rural and urban areas.
  • Probably the most troublesome and scheming aspect of NCLB is, as Bracey states, that it depends on punishment for schools that don't meet its standards. And its standards are rigged to make good schools look bad. NCLB arbitrarily requires that all schools show "adequate yearly progress" by subgroups, 37 or so of which are based on race/ethnicity, special education, gender, etc. If a school misses the target in just one of these subgroups, it could be deemed "failing," possibly triggering sanctions.

    In districts with high poverty rates, the everyday social and economic needs of students are more about survival than passing a test.

    So it's America's dirty little secrets, not public schools, that are failing.

    Actually, we've been down this road before. In 1983, when the report A Nation at Risk was published, public schools were blamed for every social, economic and military ill that faced our nation. Thirty years later, America is the world's only leading military power and our economy is second to none. That report was a fraud then, as No Child Left Behind is a fraud now.

    The No Child Left Behind law doesn't need to be reformed. It needs to be abolished.

    Maffucci is superintendent, East Rochester School District.

  • If you agree Dr. Maffucci, go to Educator Roundtable, sign the petition, make a statement, and find out what else you can do the end the madness.


    1. Anonymous2:55 PM

      What a courageous and honest statement!

      Dr. Maffucci is a hero!

      If only the new Democratically-controlled congress would give opponents of NCLB a chance for hearings---We could flood the halls
      with folks like Dr. Maffucci, Susan Ohanian, Jim Horn, and countless others.

      That malicious, EVIL law would be torn to shreds (as it deserves)!!

      If America ever really heard the truth about what is going on, NCLB would be toast.

      But the corporate bigwigs are shielding it from the light of day like the ca$h-cow prize it is to them.

      NCLB is gonna' die hard, someday.

      May that blessed day be SOONER, rather than later!

    2. Anonymous7:38 PM

      This is great! A school superintendent calling for "fixing" NCLB but abolishing it! As nikto said Dr. Maffucci is indeed a hero.
      The teachers, counselors, principals and everyone else in the East Rochester School District should count their blessings that they have such a good man at the helm.
      I was reading a magazine for school superintendents (don't ask!) and the CEO of a large east coast school district said he liked NCLB because when he made drastic changes such as cutting positions, laying off teachers, removing principals, etc he could blame it on NCLB! "look, I was forced to fire you all due to NCLB!". sick!