Progress of Schools
In mythical Lake Wobegon, "all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average."
Or at least that's what public radio personality Garrison Keillor says every week on "A Prairie Home Companion." That bit of would-be humor never made much sense to us. And neither does No Child Left Behind, the federal education act that seeks to establish the patently impossible goal of seeing to it that all public school students will be performing at or above their grade level by 2014.
Clearly, if every kid passes a particular test, then you might as well say nobody passed it. To attempt to meet the goals of the well-intentioned but seemingly rather silly legislation is to chase after the wind - and to worsen the already unfortunate trend of "teaching to the test."
Test Scores Held Even
This time around, only three schools in the Moore County system - Academy Heights Elementary, Cameron Elementary and Pinehurst Elementary - achieved "adequate yearly progress" on end-of-grade tests. That's down from 12 last year. And the system as a whole also failed to qualify.
That's bad news, supposedly - though the only reason we look as if we ran less yardage last year appears to be that they've moved the goal posts on us.
In Moore County, in fact, our public school students appear to have held their own on their test scores, compared to last year, though the numbers haven't been released yet. That's good news. But our schools still did much worse under AYP.
Why? Because the rules keep changing. You may be doing as well as or better than last year, but that's not enough. After all, the year 2014 is drawing nearer, and time will soon be running out to achieve that statistically meaningless, Wobegonesque milestone that sees every child in every school performing at or above average.
Some suspect that No Child Left Behind, enacted during the administration of Republican President George W. Bush, is a conservative plot to set the public schools up for a fall. That theory holds that when 2014 rolls around and the public education system has failed to measure up, it will give a boost to those lawmakers pushing for alternative programs like charter schools and vouchers.
We'd rather believe that NCLB has a legitimate goal of improving education in America. But by the way it goes about doing that, it often seems to succeed only in demoralizing most of those involved by means of its unrealistic and unfair all-or-nothing nature.
If a school can still perform well and still not make AYP, then what good is the whole exercise? Nobody seems to know - least of all our own Superintendent Susan Purser, who has trouble disguising the frustration the whole thing causes her and her colleagues.
The ideal of leaving no child behind sounds as American as apple pie. Who is against encouraging every student to progress? But as now set up, the program does not appear to be meeting the need for which it was ostensibly created. And the Obama administration has hardly lifted a finger to make sense out of it.
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