Submitted to Language Magazine, Dec. 2011 in response to the question: “For 2012, we would like you to tell us which one piece of proposed legislation you would like to see enacted in 2012 and why.”
There is no proposed legislation in language education I would like to see enacted.
This includes legislation that imposes standards. We are told we need them because our educational system is “broken,” as shown by international test scores. But test scores of American students from middle-class homes who attend well-funded schools are among the best in world. Our mediocre overall scores are due to the fact that the US has the highest level of child poverty among all industrialized countries (now over 21%, compared to high-scoring Finland’s 5%). Poverty means poor nutrition, inadequate health care, and lack of access to books, among other things. All of these negatively impact school performance.
This includes legislation that vastly increases the already unacceptable level of testing demanded by No Child Left Behind, at a staggering expense. Monty Neill has pointed out that all proposals for replacing NCLB are heavily “test-centric” as is the proposed LEARN Act. Testing needs to be reduced, not increased. The money saved by reducing testing could be used to protect children from the effects of poverty.
This includes legislation that imposes a single methodology on American schools. The LEARN Act does this for language arts, taking the approach underlying Reading First and extending it to all grades, K-12. Reading First failed all important empirical tests. The reaction is to do it harder.
This includes legislation that establishes competitive grants. The idea of "competitive" grants is irrational. Would they force different army units to compete for funding for ammunition and weapons? Competitive grants are not only wrong but they result in a huge waste of time writing grants just so that your school or district can do the minimum for your students.