Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Texas Fined Under No Child Left Behind 

I've been clear about my position regarding the ironically named No Child Left Behind program. See earlier posts on paid propaganda, possible end outcome, limitations on free speech at "blue ribbon schools," and comments by a couple of speakers at the 2004 Democratic National Campaign.

Now comes the news that Education Secretary Margaret Spelling (of the school of thought holding that animated bunnies should not converse with lesbian moms) has announced a $444,282 fine against the Texas Dept. of Education for a 6-week delay in notifying schools and school districts about their status regarding NCLB student achievement benchmarks on required standardized test.

The delay came about because the administration declared that school systems could only allow 1% of disabled students to take alternative exams, but Texas ignored this requirement and approximately 9% of disabled students took the alternative tests. The Dept. of Education has determined that this action resulted in illegitimately higher total scores for "hundreds" of schools in Texas.

What is the purpose of this 1% limitation? Can it be hypothesized that in the long run this would discourage schools from accomodating special needs kids? Would these kids then end up concentrated at schools that are willing to accomodate, but which are then punished if the resulting test scores fail to meet benchmarks? Only 1% of the students could take anything but the standard test, after all. I've speculated before on the long term effects of this program, and this news does nothing to invalidate my conclusions.

School doesn't meet benchmarks. Funding is cut and vouchers are issued. Modestly wealthy parents use these vouchers to pay part of the tuition at private schools (while poor families still couldn't swing the tuition, even with the voucher). Poor and special needs students become a higher percentage of the population at now lower funded schools, and the downhill trend spirals. The children of the privileged receive a higher proportion of quality education and in turn go on to take their places in the halls of power.

Quite a system, eh?

Posted by Beth Henderson at 10:32 AM