The more you read about the federal No Child Left Behind Act, the more you realize what a colossal failure this bureaucratic flop has become. I have always agreed with the philosophy behind the federal mandate but I have also always recognized it was doomed from the very beginning. Why don't we just abandon the concept and accept the reality?
You know by now that the No Child Left Behind Act is designed to raise the achievement level of all students in all schools. Who can argue with that approach? But within the Act there are provisions that severely penalize schools if even one sub-group fails to achieve progress. That provision has forced schools to make a number of changes. And from my standpoint, few of those changes have been beneficial.
Now we learn this week from an Associated Press report, that there are certain sub-groups who do not have their scores counted. Generally speaking, if too few students are enrolled in a sub-group, the schools can omit their scores because they may be statistically misleading. The sub-
groups are blacks, Hispanics and students with special needs.
So, for example, if a school has just a handful of Hispanic students in a certain grade, their scores can be omitted. And that is exactly what is happening.
I agree with the schools that these particular scores can be misleading and could potentially lead to severe sanctions against the schools. And that is not fair for any student. But, as expected, civil rights advocates say the schools are trying to "hide" the low achievement scores of these sub-groups. They're probably right given the sanctions schools might face.
Why don't we simply acknowledge that the grand experiment in universal achievement has failed? Let's admit that some students will achieve much better than some other students. And let's quit threatening schools if one sub-group cannot achieve at a level that the bureaucrats think is acceptable.
We blame the schools and the teachers when a sub-group continues to lag significantly behind other students, but we misplace that blame. The failure of a sub-group is because of a lack of parental guidance, a dysfunctional home environment and a cultural bias against achievement in the classroom. Why can we not admit that which is so obvious? Are we so damned politically correct that we can't say that which is right in front of our face?
You can pass all of the laws you want and some groups of students will continue to achieve at a lower level. You can point the finger of blame at some racial bias without offering any proof whatsoever. And you can lobby for more money for beleaguered schools that post pitiful test scores. But in the end, until you get sub-group parents involved on a daily basis, you'll see no progress.
And one final note. When we worry and fret and spend our time trying to raise the level of the low achievers, what happens to the best and the brightest? Are they being ignored while we wrestle with discipline issues and achievement scores of those who suck our system dry? The answer to me is obvious.