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No Child Left Behind – different lessons to the ones they thought

For a while now I’ve been noticing something called the No Child Left Behind Act, which Republicans were hugely pleased about when President Bush signed it into law as recently as January 2002, but which has now turned pear shaped, as we say in these parts, with extraordinary speed.

There’s more about No Child Left Behind today in the New York Times, because the Democrats now smell blood in the water on this.

The gist of No Child Left Behind is: (a) Education Must Be Better For Everybody, So There, but er … (b) you’ll have to pay for this compulsory improvement yourselves.

Here’s the start of the New York Times coverage today:

Congressional Republicans are nervous about a G.O.P. poll that shows them losing ground over education. But how could voters not be disappointed by the Bush administration’s mishandling of education policy generally, and especially its decision to withhold more than $6 billion from the landmark No Child Left Behind Act, the supposed centerpiece of the administration’s domestic policy?

The new law is supposed to place a qualified teacher in every classroom and wipe out the achievement gap between rich and poor children. Schools that fail to make steady progress are labeled deficient and required to provide students with costly tutoring and allow them to transfer to more successful public schools in the same district.

In some districts, more than 40 percent of the schools are called “in need of improvement.” The lack of money from Congress has licensed a backlash by states that never wanted to comply with the law anyway, especially the provision that requires ending the achievement gap between rich and poor.

This is classic statism. A bunch of people have a notion about how the world should be which they get all excited about. So, they get the government to say: that’s what must happen. Within a few years it becomes clear to all that these ‘education reformers’ would have done far, far better to have just sat on their porches, drunk liquor, and said howdy to passers-by.

The point is, the everyday language of government, so to speak, is a language of compulsion and suppression. No Child Left Behind was sold as … well, as: no child left behind! What it actually says is: you must supply “better” education, which turns out to mean education done by people with fancier exam results to their names, to everybody, and especially to poor people. If, on the other hand, you have been teaching poor people with great success for the last few years, but without fancy exam results to your name, guess what? Stop it at once you bad bad person!

No Child Left Behind – a textbook example of statism in action – has, because it is statism, made things worse.

I guess it’s all education in how the world works, but the people who need to learn their lesson are the idiots who unleashed this shambles. They need to learn how wrong they were. And it’s all part of statism that they will do anything rather than learn their lesson.

The Democrats will now make the running in this argument, but sadly, the only lesson they want anyone to learn is that More Money should be spent.

If more money is spent, that’ll be yet more education, this time in the folly of stealing money from one bunch of people and spraying it over another bunch.

As Perry de Havilland would say at this point: the state is not your friend. And that applies just as much to education as it does to anything else.

10 comments to No Child Left Behind – different lessons to the ones they thought

  • Dan

    Ad hominem arguments aside, one part of the law that shouldn’t be thrown out is the reporting requirements. Sure, there’s manipulation of the numbers, but the reason the education establishment is so upset is that it’s now far harder for administrators to hide behind averages and divert low-performing students into special education whether they belong there or not.

    Fund the mandate? Yes. Improve the tests? Yes. Change the terminology? Sure. But let’s not throw out the mandate to break out, measure and track the progress of low-performing subgroups. Otherwise smiling administrators will be free(er) to spin their performance while hiding the facts.

  • R. C. Dean

    What really pisses off the Democrats is that for once they (through their masters the teachers unions and assorted monolithically Democratic municipal and education bureaucrats) are getting a taste of what statism tastes like from the receiving end.

    Somehow, listening to these bureaucrats bleat about unrealistic standards with no funding to meet them doesn’t exactly bring a tear to my eye.

    Well, I guess we all knew that it was more comfortable to wear the jackboot on your foot that on your neck. Nice to see the most unreconstructed statists on the American scene, the education establishment, learn that lesson. Not that it will take, of course, but I’ll take my schadenfreude where I find it.

  • toolkien

    Point number 1 proving that there is little small governmenteers left in the Republican Party (point number 2 is the drug entitlement). There now runs a large streak of Big Government Conservatives who apparently have given up the ghost and operate under the dictum that if you can’t beat’em, join’em, and perhaps mitigate the damage. But all it ends up to be is whether it is the Right foot or the Left foot on one’s throat. Of course the culprit ultimately is ourselves in allowing this to happen (another dictum, You get the government you deserve). As long as people allow themselves to be doped with promises and ignore the consequences, both parties, under the two party system, will continue to shill to their constituents. It is interesting to observe all the while that these constituencies are becoming rather homogenized and centrist, and though they hurl dark glances at each other, it all seems rather orchestrated in a 1984-esque sort of way as there seems to be little fundemental differences left between the two parties (are Bush and Clinton so far apart in practicality?).

  • Rossz

    To see exactly what all schools in the country would look like if Congress had their way, you don’t need to go any further than Washington, DC. That school district is under the complete control of Congress. It is also consistently rated as the worst school district in the country. No school should allow Congress to dictate teaching guildlines until they can prove they know what the hell they are doing by turning the DC schools completely around (fat chance).

  • R. C. Dean

    Just to add a little spice to Rossz’s post, the DC schools have just about the highest per student spending in the country, and they are still the worst.

  • Sandy P.

    Here’s 2 interesting sites:

    Education Intelligence Agency which breaks down school district spending and statestats.com which ranks states by smartest.

    The feds only provide up to 8% IIRC of school funding. The rest comes from state, local and taxes.

  • Abby

    The thigh-slapping irony of it all is that the federal government funding and control in the bill was put there as grease to get the school-choice element passed. Of course, when school-choice was gutted, the craven GWB and those sniveling cowards on the Hill had to be seen to be doing something (anything) to improve education. Thus we get “Every Child Left Behind”.

    This just all goes to support the RNC chairman’s remarks in the Manchester Union Leader to the effect that “the Republican party is no longer the party of small government”. Duh.

  • I agree with Brian. This program, like most educational “reform”, is like a Soviet program to improve agriculture. Five years go by, and there are still people lined up outside the bread store.

    More aggressive centralized management is not the answer. Instead of mimicing market forces, let’s try actually using some!


  • polly

    it’s a new world order agenda folks. wake up wake up wake up ! this surpasses the republicans vs. democrats squabbling that americans stoop to. that tatic is in place to divide americans and everybody who engages in it is guilty of fueling the globalist fire. if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck (regardless of party affiliation) then it’s a duck. get back to the constitution and stop this madness. the federal government has no business in our education system (read the constitution for proof of this) ! AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH WAKE UP

  • Jessica

    As an educator I can say that it is an honor for me to serve America’s children and prepare them for
    whatever the future may bring. Unfortunately, the No Child Left Behind Act places an outstanding financial burden on an educator. I agree that testing helps to ensure that proficient individuals are responsible for educating future citizens, but didn’t anyone consider how much money it costs to prove that you are competent???
    It is going to cost nearly $1,000 to become highly qualified. In addition to teaching, I am also a divorced single mother of two daughters making only $30,500 a year.
    When this act was passed, did anyone consider the fact that teachers typically make barely enough money to provide for their families, but we have a long list
    of costly requirements just to be allowed to go to work? Where is the balance here?
    As a war is funded, and a better life is created for another culture, the No Child Left Behind is leaving
    many teachers behind. Not just any teachers- passionate, caring, competent, understanding teachers!!