Tuesday, May 17, 2005

High schools in the news

Governors Tom Villsack of Iowa and Mitt Romney testified yesterday before the House Education Committee. From the AP report in the Guardian:

Efforts to improve the nation's high schools should focus on voluntary programs rather than on expanding education legislation passed during President Bush's first term, members of a congressional committee suggested Tuesday.

Bush wants to expand required testing in high schools as a way to measure whether student performance is improving.

Members of the House Education and Workforce Committee questioned whether the timing was right to expand the No Child Left Behind law, even as they acknowledged that American high schools are not keeping pace with other countries and that many students leave school unprepared.

``I'm not sure we're ready to require states to do more under No Child Left Behind at a time when some are still seeking, unfortunately, to do less,'' said committee Chairman John Boehner, R-Ohio.

...``We would do well to defer to what the governors are doing,'' said Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., adding that to force states to meet new requirements for high school without providing sufficient resources would mean ``big time trouble.''

So there appears to be bipartisan opposition to the expansion of NCLB.

In a statement following the Governors' appearances, Rep. Miller cited numerous statistics to point out the problems with American high schools. But it wasn't until the end that he mentioned the astonishingly high dropout rates, which, since the advent of NCLB, have gone up. It's not a coincidence. And they'll go up further if the president has his way and vocational ed programs are cut.

Testing is fine. It's necessary and can give teachers lots of information to inform their practice. But if test scores are the goal, the kids will leave. We've seen it and we'll continue to see it. And you know what'll happen? Test scores will go up. The papers will trumpet the success of schools, but it'll be a hollow triumph if nearly half of our country's teenagers aren't even in school to be tested.


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