Reinventing No Child Left Behind - by Stephen Lendman
Enacted on January 8, 2002, the 2001 No Child Left Behind Act's (NCLB) sponsors claimed it would close the achievement gap between inner city and rural schools and more affluent suburban ones by setting high reading and math standards, then testing to assure they're achieved. However, the law's real aim is to commodify public education, end government responsibility for it, and make it another business profit center.
Renewing NCLB stalled in both houses of Congress for good reason. It's long on testing, school choice, and market-based reforms, but short on real achievement. It's built around rote learning, standardized tests, requiring teachers to teach to the test, assessing results by Average Yearly Progress (AYP) scores, and punishing failure by firing teachers and principals, closing schools, and transforming them from public to charter or for-profit ones.
In other words, it's a thinly veiled scheme to privatize public education, control costs, run schools by marketplace rules, decide what's best for students based on bottom-line considerations, and end a 374 year public education tradition in America.
Obama plans to reinvent a failed policy, give it a new name, and claim it will fix NCLB's shortcomings. On April 14, The New York Times reported that his administration will rewrite the law, toughen standards for teacher quality and student performance, keep testing as a core element, and increase the federal government's control over educating the nation's youths.
Then on July 24, The Education Department announced its $4.35 billion "Race to the Top" scheme with Obama linking federal funding to compliance with Washington's standards:
"What we're saying here is, if you can't decide to change these practices, we're not going to use precious dollars that we want to see creating better results; we're not going to send those dollars there. And we're counting on the fact that, ultimately, this is an incentive, this is a challenge for people who do want to change."
In fact, it pits one state against others to see which gets most and sacrifices quality education, local autonomy, and the interests of parents and youths doing it.
For months, Education Secretary Arne Duncan has been stumping for the new plan even before it was announced because the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act allocated $100 billion for education. In a July 24 press release, eligibility, it was explained, depends on complying with federally mandated reforms that include:
-- "Adopting internationally benchmarked standards and assessments that prepare students for success in college and the workplace;
-- Recruiting, developing, rewarding, and retaining effective teachers and principals;
-- Building data systems that measure student success and inform teachers and principals how they can improve their practices; and
-- Turning around our lowest-performing schools."
ObamaEd, in fact, mandates:
-- open-ended switching of public schools to charter or for-profit ones;
-- running them by marketplace rules;