Monday, October 18, 2004

Leaving Education Behind

I apologize in advance for the following political rant, but I am angry, and need some catharsis.

In the most recent CNN/USA Today Gallup poll, Americans have now shifted dramatically in how the view the candidates on the issue of education1. One result of the polls is that:
In the most recent poll, 49 percent of all respondents said he [Bush] would do a better job on education than Kerry, who had 46 percent. The October 9-10 poll had Bush at 43 percent and Kerry at 50 percent.

Besides the absurdity of believing that a conservative Republican on a crusade against terrorism is going to be better for education than any Democrat, there is the absurdity of Bush's only real education policy, the "No Child Left Behind" Act (NCLB), a.k.a. the under-funded, poorly planned attempt to fix education.

My biggest problem is not the fact that it is under-funded, because throwing money at a problem doesn't always fix it2. My biggest problem with it is that NCLB, by its very design, will not fix the education system. I have very strong doubts that it will even accomplish one of its main goals, which is to identify the system's problems3. The problem with the NCLB tests is that the students themselves have no accountability. If the smartest kid in the class intentionally fails the exam just to get back at his math teacher for giving his last homework assignment a D, it doesn't hurt him... but the math teacher will get in trouble. This is stupid. Especially because a simple solution would just be to make the students continuation in school dependent on passing the test... i.e., make it the final exam, or at least part of the final exam. That way, the teachers have the additional incentive (other than making sure their students learn the material) of making sure they pass so their job isn't at stake, and the students have the incentive to pass the tests so they don't have to stay behind. I'm sure there are many other errors with "No Child Left Behind," that could be improved upon as well, but this one bothers me the most.

OK, rant over. Thank you, and enjoy your day.

1Which I feel is the most important issue in just about any election, despite what Republicans say, because education is the best way to prepare for the future... including our future ability to combat terrorism, the Republican's "most important" issue
2One of the few statements of policy that I would agree with Republicans on.
3One of the big things about NCLB is the use of diagnostic tests to see if students are learning anything, and if they aren't, there are possible sanctions against schools that have "below standard" students.

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