Tuesday, October 28, 2008

How Low Can You Go?

When the No Child Left Behind Act was passed, it was supposed to fight the "soft bigotry of low expectations" by testing all kids and making sure that each state had specific goals that it had to meet and would be held accountable to. The only problem is that no one at the federal level said what those goals had to be. Given that states lose money in NCLB if they don't meet their goals, guess what happened. The states set ridiculously low goals.

If you check out the chart here you can see the high school graduation goals as set by state. Some states like Indiana have the bar set at what looks to be about 95%, meaning their goal for 95% of Indiana school kids to graduate from high school. That's a nice ambitious and meaningful goal. A few other states have the bar set at about 90%. But then you get down to the New York section of the chart. New York, the cultural center of the nation, has set as its goal a graduation rate of 55%. That's not even where we are now, that's the goal! Just incredible. The state set as its goal 0.1% progress each year. How is that a goal? How is that really going to be helping kids? What happened to getting rid of the low expectations?

Perhaps even more than the unfunded mandate part of NCLB, the thing that bugs me most is how it looks like we're holding schools and teachers and kids accountable, but we aren't actually doing any of those things. It's just a big show to look busy in case anyone happens to look over and see what we're doing.

Given this, it's not a huge surprise that kids today are less likely than their parents to graduate from high school. That's right. The system is regressing so that kids today have less opportunity than their parents. Kind of like the American Dream in reverse.

That's bad enough. It's worse that we're pretending to make progress when we aren't actually progressing.

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