Sunday, April 10, 2005

Don't like NCLB? You're Un-American

That's according to Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings. Yes, she called Connecticut education officials un-American. Why? Because they favor testing every other year instead of every year. Those goddamned Commie bastards! Why don't they just go back to Russia or whatever hole they climbed out from?

Former Secretary Paige called teachers' union representatives terrorists and Spellings calls Connecticut education officials un-American. I'm starting to see why these people pay millions of dollars to PR firms: they need it.

There hasn't been much hubbub over this yet, but there should be. So that I'm not accused of taking Spellings' comments out of context, here they are-- in context:

RAY SUAREZ: Well, GAO notwithstanding, Connecticut I think is getting ready to test just that proposition. They want to take your Department to court and are talking about having other states join them. And they gave as an example the fact that you've laid on them about $112 million worth of requirements for which you funded about $70 million. Is that a fair description of what's happened?


In Connecticut, my understanding, although I haven't seen the actual litigation, is that they want to measure every other year and not provide annual assessment as is required in the statute.

And that law passed more than three years ago, we have been sending them resources to implement those annual assessment provisions since, and here they are on the eve of implementation telling us that they can't do it. I think it's regrettable, frankly, when the achievement gap between African-American and Anglo kids in Connecticut is quite large. And I think it's unfortunate for those families and those students that they are trying to find a loophole to get out of the law as opposed to attending to the needs of those kids.

RAY SUAREZ: Well, there are gaps, and since we're on Connecticut, I guess we can use it as an example, but there's also very high degrees of residential segregation, places where the schools are 100 percent white and 100 percent black, very high concentrations in certain places of great wealth, very high concentrations of other places of poverty. What are the tests really tell you that you didn't already know about a place like Connecticut?

MARGARET SPELLINGS: They tell us who needs help, they tell us who has been left behind, they tell us precisely and specifically in a good assessment system what kind of help is needed. They tell us what kind of teachers and what kind of teacher training is needed. And you know, I think it's un-American -- I would call it -- for us to take the attitude that African-American children in Connecticut living in inner cities are not going to be able to compete, are not going to be prepared to compete in this world and are not going to be educated to high levels. That's the notion, the soft bigotry of low expectations, as the president calls it, that No Child Left Behind rejects.

Here, again, is a clear example of where Spellings, the Bushies, and the Democrats who support NCLB simply miss the point. The problem is not test scores. The problem is poverty. The bigotry is that we don't try to solve that problem.

States are struggling to equalize funding, mainly because courts have ordered them to do so. But because the Bush administration has underfunded NCLB, the states have had to spend scarce education dollars on tests.

Tests measure. Tests do not teach. Testing is valuable when it's done strategically, but testing without significant new investments in the infrastructure of public schooling, will do little -- if anything -- to improve teaching and learning.

To my knowledge, Connecticut education officials did not say that African-Americans can't compete or be educated, as the Secretary said. They said testing every two years is sufficient. Is that really un-American?


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