Friday, January 4, 2008

The Letter N

My World Book Blogger's Encyclopedia of Debunked Pundit Blather

A memorable
column by Ruben Navarrette is really a jewel in exemplifying the quality, accuracy, and "expertise" of pundits who relentlessly malign our schools in the national free-for-all sport of public school bashing.

Although it has been a few months since his op-ed was published, it remains as relevant as ever to expose such nonsense as widely as possible because the same drivel continues to be repeated relentlessly and disseminated to millions. And besides, I didn't have my blog a few months ago - I'm making up for lost time!

Harvard educated Navarrette was writing in response to the Democratic presidential hopefuls' attacks on the bi-partisan No Child Left Behind Act when they attended the annual convention of the National Education Association. I hasten to add that these candidates, most of whom originally supported the law, have been more than a day late and a dollar short in attacking it.

Said Navarrette:


We're talking about one of the most important educational reforms of the
last 50 years -- and one that is quite modest. One of the law's central
goals is that all children be reading and doing math at grade level -- by
2014.

Why, have you ever heard of such a thing? A lot of teachers
oppose that requirement as too stringent and too unrealistic. Wouldn't you like
to know if your child's teacher is among those who want to keep the bar low and
who apparently don't see a problem with children performing below
grade-level?

It's embarrassing, really it is, Mr. Smarty Pants. Insofar as it is able to be defined, grade level is an average. It is the 50th percentile. By its very definition, nationally, about half of our nation's children will always be below grade level no matter how well some students may perform in isolated pockets. Now I know I am not the first to break the news to you sir, but here's the math:

IT IS NOT POSSIBLE FOR ALL CHILDREN TO BE ABOVE AVERAGE.

And sir, the law does not require that all students be on grade level or above by 2014. It requires that all students be "proficient" by 2014. The two are not the same. What is defined as proficient varies from state to state. In my state it is safe to say that a child must demonstrate ABOVE AVERAGE performance to be considered proficient. Our cut scores for proficiency, like those on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), are quite difficult.

You can only imagine how misleading the newspaper headlines are when test score results come in.

As to your very unkind and uncalled for implication that teachers want to keep the bar low, the very vast majority of public school teachers have high expectations for every child and strive to do their best for each child under exceedingly challenging circumstances and unrelenting criticisms. But to expect every child to be able to learn exactly the same things in exactly the same amount of time is an exercise in cruelty.

I speak as a special education teacher who is forced to subject children with IQs in the 60s and 70s to the same grade level standardized tests as their regular education peers. And hey, this comes after Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings and Co. reluctantly allowed a little, um, "flexibility" in the special education provisions. Prior to that I had administered my state's very long and difficult test to a bewildered little girl whose IQ subscores were in the 40s and 50s.

She didn't understand enough to cry at the outrage, sir.

An educational reform that is quite modest? Hey, now that's a jewel!

2 comments:

Fear for the Children said...

Excellent blog!

I have heard of children dying in the hospital having to be tested. I've heard of children with severe mental health issues having to take these tests while confined in a hospital. One had tried to kill his mother!

NCLB is nothing less than the emotional and mental 'torture' of our precious kids. I've watched enthusiastic children become depressed from the pressure to meet these "standards".

Expecting every child to be "proficient" is beyond ridiculous.

tauna said...

Thank you! I hope you will return now and then to contribute even more to this humble little blog.

I'm a beginner......