President George W. Bush has been unable to muscle his amnesty and "temporary worker" proposals through an obviously reluctant Congress. But he was able to get it to swallow his radical, centralizing, top-down, test-driven "No Child Left Behind" education reform scheme. Teachers consider a nightmare, but even VDARE.COM editor Peter Brimelow, generally a critic of the teachers and their unions, has compared it to Soviet efforts to improve agriculture by periodically shooting peasants.
"We are transforming our schools by raising standards and focusing on results. We are insisting on accountability, empowering parents and teachers, and making sure that local people are in charge of their schools. By testing every child, we are identifying those who need help and we're providing a record level of funding to get them that help.
"In northeast Georgia, Gainesville Elementary School is mostly Hispanic and 90 percent poor and this year 90 percent of its students passed state tests in reading and math. The principal expresses the philosophy of his school this way: 'We don't focus on what we can't do at this school; we focus on what we can do—We do whatever it takes to get kids across the finish line.' This principal is challenging the soft bigotry of low expectations, and that is the spirit of our education reform, and the commitment of our country: No dejaremos a ningún niño atrás. We will leave no child behind."
Bush's remark is appalling on several levels.
I informally polled dozens of teaching colleagues with an aggregate of hundreds of years of experience working with E. L.s (English Learners).
Their response was unanimous: NO WAY!
Now I have discovered that my friends and I were right.
In his eagerness to promote No Child Left Behind, Bush ignored the ugly underbelly of the Gainesville "success" story.
Georgia records show the school was judged on the scores of only 146 pupils of the 217 enrolled in the grades tested.
Thirty of the missing pupils were absent. An additional 41 took the tests but their scores weren't counted—a maneuver that is legal under No Child Left Behind because those students had not been at the school for a full year. The transient students' scores—lower than their classmates—would have further depressed the percentages Bush cited. [Education reforms test the candidates, By Diane Rado, Tribune, October 4, 2004]
It gets worse.
Gainesville's principal, Shawn Arevalo McCollough, received predictable kudos for starting a Saturday school to get the kids up to speed. But, essentially, they were just "taught the test."
And—presumably because of McCollough's management style—within the first six months of McCollough's tenure, ten instructors either quit or requested transfers.
Gainesville, a K-5 school with a total enrollment of only 416 students, must have been in chaos with turnover of that magnitude.
What happens in these circumstances is that substitute teachers—sometimes a string of them—take over classes and fly by the seat of their pants. Kids who need stability are left to fend for themselves.
I predict there will be more news out Gainesville Elementary. But it won't be the sort of happy-face news that will be touted by politicians—or reported in the Establishment media. (How come no-one besides VDARE.COM has looked into the Gainesville story?)
In the end, I believe No Child Left Behind more or less guarantees a poorly-educated student. Teaching to the test makes it quite possible that a pupil can reach high school—although often that's a big "if"—with few basic skills, although he sailed through every test thrown at him.
The Gainesville incident confirms yet again Bush's obsession with what he sees as the wonderfulness of illegal immigration: the children come, they persevere, they succeed.
The reality is far different. The Gainesville Elementary tale is one wherein everyone loses.
Of course, Bush children go to private schools.
George Bush is one stubborn fellow—or "resolute" as the White House likes to say.
He lives in his own world…. a fantasyland where education has been "reformed" and there is no such thing as too much immigration.
But we have to live in Bush's world too. He's sending us a clear signal that, if re-elected, he intends to press on with his amnesty for illegals and his "temporary worker" plan.
For all I know, he intends to do it in Spanish.
Joe Guzzardi [email him], an instructor in English at the Lodi Adult School, has been writing a weekly newspaper column since 1988. This column is exclusive to VDARE.COM.