"We're from the government, and we're here to help." President Ronald Reagan said that those nine words were the most terrifying words in the English language.
Well, again the government is here to help, using as the vehicle, the No Child Left Behind Act. And, as Yogi Berra explained to us, "It's déja vu, all over again."
Stanford Magazine (July-August ‘06) contains an analysis of the Act and other comments on educational concerns. The whole article is 13 pages and is titled, "Kids Today," broken down into two main sections: "Growing Concerns" and "Put to the Test." Growing Concerns is the edited comments of six Stanford faculty members analyzing and trying to help us understand what childhood is like today, and what we should be doing to make it better.
"Put to the Test" focuses on the secondary schools. This section states that, "NCLB is to education as the Katrina Hurricane was to New Orleans." It depends on punishment. It does not reward schools for doing well, but sanctions them for doing poorly.
NCLB mandates 100 percent of students must be proficient in math and reading by 2014. Projections of failure are built into the program. Stanford asks, "Of what use is a program that fails everyone?"
Many schools have 37 subgroups. If any subgroup fails to make "Adequate Yearly Progress" (AYP) for two consecutive years, all students in the school must be offered the opportunity to transfer to a "successful school." If fewer than 95 percent take the test, the school fails.
For Payson students, this failure could mean being bussed to the Phoenix area.
The next two years should be "very interesting," as one of the Laugh In TV characters used to say. I believe he was the one wearing the German helmet.
By now, readers will have guessed that the poor school districts have no say as to whether they are successful or not. It is the federal and state governments that have "the tiger by the tail."
This makes me very uneasy.
Excuse me. I forgot to tell you how the arbitrarily determined "Adequate Yearly Progress" is arbitrarily determined. Why, it is done by giving the students standardized tests which have been standardized themselves. But, Dean Robert Sternberg, Tufts University, asserts that our "massive use of standardized tests is one of the most effective, if unintentional, vehicles this country has created for suppressing creativity."
Richard A. Bowers, Payson
Editor's note: This letter was edited to stay within the 400-word limit for Letters to the Editor.