Once upon a time, George W. Bush and Co. had the respectably commendable idea to improve our national education system. They gave the legislation behind this hoped-for improvement the noble (if somewhat melodramatic) name of “No Child Left Behind,” then set about making it The Law of the Land, which it became in early 2002. Understanding that no system as broken as the unwieldly, hydra-headed, state-determined beastie currently in existence could be fixed overnight, the Bush Buddies generously gave the states — and, by extensions, their schools — more than a decade to reach this pre-determined level of improvement.
Then they went and screwed everything up by
requiring 100% of students (including disadvantaged and special education students) within a school to reach the same state standards in reading and mathematics by 2014. [emphasis my own]
This, of course, made no sense, because no large group of people taken at random will ever achieve 100 percent proficiency in any skill or subject, least of all something as variable as reading and math. A special needs student who starts eighth grade at a third grade reading level should be applauded for finishing the year at a sixth grade reading level. Instead, his scores could cause the entire school to be labeled as failing.
Given the dire consequences of becoming a failing school — budget reduction, staff replacement, etc. — rather than pursue a morally justifiable but politically useless act of rebellion, schools made the situation worse by cutting or eliminating
classes and resources for many subject areas that are not part of NCLB’s accountability standards. Since 2007, almost 71% of schools have reduced some instruction time in subjects such as history, arts, language and music, in order to give more time and resources to mathematics and English.
Fortunately, (minor) progress in reversing this myopic idiocy was made today when President Obama freed
10 states from the strict and sweeping requirements of the No Child Left Behind law, giving leeway to states that promise to improve how they prepare and evaluate students…The first 10 states to receive the waivers are Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota, NewJersey, Oklahoma and Tennessee.
Ten states out of 50? Big frickin’ whoop. Twenty percent of people object to a lot of things: why should we let that sway national legislation? Well, how about because
A total of 28 other states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico have signaled that they, too, plan to seek waivers — a sign of just how vast the law’s burdens have become as a big deadline nears.
Of course, now every individual state that has been approved for a waiver must come up with its own plan to
prepare children for college and careers, set new targets for improving achievement among all students, reward the best performing schools and focus help on the ones doing the worst
which is a brilliantly efficient use of resources, but so be it.
(Take my word for it: when your significant other is a teacher — especially a special ed teacher — increasingly exasperating updates about how effed up this whole process is become a way of life.)