View from Lodi, CA: Bush Education Act Hitting Fan
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[See also: Special Joenote to VDARE.COM readers]

Eighteen months have passed since George W. Bush's "No Child Left Behind Act of 2001" was signed into law.

The 600-page monster passed with bipartisan support a mere four months after 9/11, when Congress was in a very conciliatory mood.

Too bad no one bothered to read the legislation.

Now, suddenly, Democrats have many reservations. Missouri Representative Richard Gephardt claims that "we were sucked into it," and, "It's a fraud."

Bush pledges that the bill will improve the performance of primary and secondary schools and insure that no child will be trapped in a substandard environment.

But wishing doesn't make it so.

The Lodi Unified School District's discontent was made crystal clear during the May 20 board of trustee's meeting.

In the Lodi News-Sentinel story covering the board meeting, "Federal school testing criticized at LUSD meeting," President Richard Dean reflected the consensus of most critics when he stated that the federal government is simply not in touch with the daily needs and challenges of local public schools.

And Trustee Harvey Robins added that kids who drop out of school, fail the exit exam or the senior project will, in fact, "be left behind."

Actually, no one knows exactly how many children will be left behind despite the bill's seemingly good intensions. One thing is increasingly clear: the legislation has educators scrambling to find ways to get out from under.

States are lowering the passing scores, re-evaluating "failing" schools and putting off into the distant future measuring achievement.

Ironically, Bush's home state of Texas is one of the first to lower testing standards. When the State Board of Education gave a trial testing of a new achievement exam, board member Chase Untermeyer said, "The results were grim. Few students did well. Many students got almost no answers right."

The Texas Board immediately lowered the number of correct answers required to pass to 20 of 36 from 24.

Wayne Johnson, President of the California Teacher's Association, in his California Educator column titled "Make No Mistake About It", wrote that because of the huge California deficits, the No Child Left Behind Act (also known as the Elementary and Secondary Education Act) "will make things much worse for our public schools." 

California teachers are getting the "double whammy," according to Johnson: the $38 billion deficit budget deficit which forced cuts to an already under-funded system combined with a federal law designed to make schools look like failures.

Johnson quoted UCLA Professor Emeritus Dr. James Popham, a testing and student evaluation expert: "This law sets teachers up for certain failure. Improvement is set so high that it will be impossible to attain."

And George Mason University Professor Gerald Bracey said that the law imposes "new straitjacket requirements on schools, requirements that would bankrupt any business."

To put it mildly, the challenges imposed by the E.S.E.A. are overwhelming.

All schools must give reading and math tests to all grades 3 through 8 children each year. Two years later, testing in science begins. Schools must also show adequate yearly progress.

Finally after 12 years, all schools and all children must be "proficient."

The National Assessment of Educational Progress  has defined "proficient" and other educational terms like basic, below basic, and advanced.

Unfortunately, but predictably, educators don't agree with any of the NAEP definitions.

Among those who reject them are UCLA, the Center for Research and Evaluation, Student Standards and Testing, the Government Accounting Office, and the National Academy of Sciences.

This presents a looming crisis according to Professor Bracey who predicts that most states will never reach "proficiency" levels.

Says Bracey, "When they don't, districts will then be subjected to increasingly severe and unworkable sanctions. Teachers can be fired, kids sent to other districts, districts abolished."

Educators at all levels are concerned. Richard Elmore, a Harvard Professor of Education, wrote in the Education Next spring newsletter, called No Child Left Behind, "the single most damaging expansion of federal power over the nation's education system in history."

Certainly, the federal government can make life very uncomfortable for local school districts. No one envies the administrators and teachers who have to deal with the nightmare paperwork load that No Child Left Behind generates.

With such a cumbersome program—detested by educators and now an increasingly visible target for Democrats—the likely outcome of "No Child Left Behind" is that it will slowly but eventually collapse under its own massive weight.

But first everyone will have to pay a very dear price.


Joe Note to VDARE.COM readers:

As an inside observer of the California public school system, I assure you that creating a meaningful test students can pass will be very difficult indeed.

VDARE.COM readers know that the core reason passing scores remain elusive is that every day all across America hundreds of non-English speaking students enroll in public schools. In California, 25% or 1.5 million students are English Language Learners.

But in an encouraging note, the Washington Post ran a story on May 29th titled "Residency Bill Raise Concerns about Fairness," (by Sylvia Moreno) that may bode well for the future.

The proposed bill would require the families of all children wishing to enter a DC public school to prove they are actually residents of the District of Columbia.

The story is not clear on what the bill's true intention is: to keep out legal (from an immigration perspective) Maryland residents- or to bar illegal alien children who live in DC from enrolling in the beleaguered system.

If enacted as written the legislation would keep both groups out.

And banning both groups might be fine with Ambrose who says the district has neither the space nor the money to educate non-resident children.

Imagine how quickly schools might improve if we had to educate only our own children.

Peter Brimelow writes: might seem odd, but in spite of my book arguing that teacher unions are a critical barrier to education reform  - actually, because of it - I think Joe is right to quote CTA chief  Wayne Johnson approvingly here. The American government school system is a failing socialist system like the Soviet agricultural system. Like all failing socialist systems, it's swept by periodic top-down panaceas. ESEA is the equivalent of deciding to shoot some peasants.

Joe Guzzardi [email him], an instructor in English at the Lodi Adult School, has been writing a weekly column since 1988. It currently appears in the Lodi News-Sentinel.

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