Saturday, March 12, 2011

Surprise, surprise: 'No Child Left Behind' delivers its payload

Thursday's edition of the Spartanburg Herald-Journal highlighted remarks from U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan projecting that "more than 80,000 of the nation's 100,000 public schools could be labeled as failing under No Child Left Behind, the main federal law on public education."

This outcome is neither mysterious nor shocking.

Imagine that you were given a plot of land -- say, 100 acres -- and were provided all the bushel baskets you could fill.

Now imagine that you were told that you had to plant all the seed you were given, a combination of well-developed seed and stunted seed, genetically-enhanced seed and organic seed, and -- to top it off -- seeds from a variety of crops: radishes, lettuce, corn, carrots, soybeans, cotton and okra, all mixed together.

Now, though you're planting a variety of crops, imagine that you're only going to be judged on your harvest of radishes! And only on the highest grade of radishes.

And, to make this even more absurd and fascinating, let's say you're demanded to produce more and more radishes, year after year, still planting all the mixed-together seeds given to you annually!

And for each year that you don't produce more radishes than the past year, you're punished with less fertilizer the next year...

And after not making the grade, you're branded a low-performing farmer -- year after year after year -- and government authorities threaten to take away your hundred acres and your license to farm.

And now, after 10 years of this asinine system, the federal farm czar announces that 80 percent of farmers suffering under this system are failing at farming.

Would you be shocked at this outcome? And would the outcome be a mystery?

No reasonable person would.

Yet this was the system adopted in 2001:

The No Child Left Behind Act, introduced in 2001 by President George W. Bush and passed by Congress with bipartisan support, requires that all schools bring 100 percent of their students to proficiency in math and reading by 2014. Mr. Duncan has called this requirement “utopian.”

In other news, a few dogs barked at postmen in South Carolina, night followed day, and lawmakers looked for more ways to undermine and weaken the state's system of public schools.

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