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Volume IV, Number 5, May-June, 2006

Dumbing Down the Nation

While claiming to reform education, this Congress and this President have launched damaging changes that are effectively reducing the quality of learning as states turn to easier tests1 and simplified curricula2 in order to evade the punishment and humiliation built into NCLB/Helter-Skelter. Instead of raising standards and improving education, NCLB is doing the reverse, rewarding those who lower requirements, buy cheap tests and reduce the rigor of instruction. NCLB is a disaster, a lunging, disorderly change effort managed with the same low level of competence we saw applied to disaster relief when Hurricane Katrina arrived.3

The Worst of Times

We truly are a nation at risk educationally. The elders fake reform while the young must shoulder the consequences of their bungling and often fraudulent efforts. NCLB has spawned a wave of misleading educational accounting practices that makes Enron's book cooking seem amateurish.

Because of NCLB, this generation of children must suffer through at least a decade of factory style education, especially those with the bad fortune to attend a school that is failing AYP. The impact of NCLB falls unevenly across the schools of the land, effectively doing the most damage to those children in most need.

Under NCLB, most children of the rich and the powerful can still look forward to recess, art, social studies and science. It is the children of factory workers, farm workers, dishwashers, domestics and illegal immigrants who must swallow the thin gruel of basic reading and math served up in simply scripted spoon fulls. Dickens would find ample material for New Century novels of work houses, sweat shops and street orphans.

NCLB divides the nation into educational haves and have-nots, furthering the work of this President and Congress to widen the social divide by granting tax cuts to the rich while dismantling decades worth of social programs meant as a safety net for the disadvantaged. Introduced as a scheme to help disadvantaged minorities, NCLB under the Ed Department has allowed many states to set rules so that such children are not counted and do not count.

We are seeing a shameful shift in educational practice that will take many years to reverse.

Bush's `No Child' Goals Aren't Met by Quarter of U.S. Schools March 28 (Bloomberg) -- More than a quarter of U.S. schools are failing under terms of President George W. Bush's No Child Left Behind law, according to preliminary state-by-state statistics reported to the U.S. Education Department.

At least 24,470 U.S. public schools, or 27 percent of the national total, didn't meet the federal requirement for ``annual yearly progress'' in 2004-2005. The percentage of failing schools rose by one point from the previous school year. Under the 2002 law, schools that don't make sufficient academic progress face penalties including the eventual replacement of their administrators and teachers.
Standardized Tests Face a Crisis Over Standards Published: March 22, 2006
By Michael Winerip in the New York Times.

Pressure to test all students has led to a series of serious problems with the quality of the tests being administered and the kinds of learning goals measured. Costs have dictated lowered standards in many places.
Schools Cut Back Subjects to Push Reading and Math Published: March 26, 2006
By Sam Dillon in the New York Times.

Thousands of schools across the nation are responding to the reading and math testing requirements laid out in No Child Left Behind, President Bush's signature education law, by reducing class time spent on other subjects and, for some low-proficiency students, eliminating it.

© 2006, Jamie McKenzie, all rights reserved. This article may be e-mailed to individuals by individuals, but all other duplication, distribution, publication and use is prohibited without first receiving explicit permission. Contact for information.