Tuesday, April 18, 2006

No Loophole Left Behind

The Associated Press conducted an investigation into George Bush's wonderfully-named No Child Left Behind Act and found that, like the Clear Skies initiative, a pretty name can hide an ugly policy.

In a nutshell, the AP found that schools are using a loophole designed to protect the privacy of minority students to exclude minority scores from the statistics that determine whether schools are meeting the standards of the act.
Overall, the AP found that about 1.9 million students—or about 1 in every 14 test scores—aren't being counted under the law's racial categories. Minorities are seven times as likely to have their scores excluded as whites, the analysis showed.
As might be expected, blacks and Hispanics are the most likely to not be counted. So, what's the problem? This is good for the schools if they're able to avoid being shut down, right?

According to a teacher interviewed by the AP, "the loophole is enabling states and schools to avoid taking concrete measures to eliminate an 'achievement gap' between white and minority students." That's the crux. The law lets schools sweep inconvenient scores aside, so there's no incentive to make sure that these kids are actually achieving anything, which seems to run contrary to that pretty name, No Child Left Behind.

Furthermore, this scandal underlines just how stupid it is to judge schools based on standardized tests. As has been shown again and again, when schools need to rely on tests for their survival, they just teach to the tests. Actual learning goes out the window. And this scandal is just the latest example of what schools will do to jump over the artificial hurdles placed before them by the federal government.

Stupid laws lead to stupid policies that lead to stupid kids. Hooray for America.
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