Wednesday, March 14, 2007

No Child Left Behind

Kevin Drum and Matthew Yglesias disagree about the meaning of the 100% goals in the No Child Left Behind legislation, this one:

No Child Left Behind, the landmark federal education law, sets a lofty standard: that all students tested in reading and math will reach grade level by 2014. Even when the law was enacted five years ago, almost no one believed that standard was realistic.

But now, as Congress begins to debate renewing the law, lawmakers and education officials are confronting the reality of the approaching deadline and the difficult political choice between sticking with the vision of universal proficiency or backing away from it.

"There is a zero percent chance that we will ever reach a 100 percent target," said Robert L. Linn, co-director of the National Center for Research on Evaluation, Standards and Student Testing at UCLA. "But because the title of the law is so rhetorically brilliant, politicians are afraid to change this completely unrealistic standard. They don't want to be accused of leaving some children behind."

Drum suspects that this is a plot by the conservatives to have almost all public schools fail. Perhaps coincidentally, a Republican politician already introduced legislation that would give parents money for a private school placement if the public school of their child failed for five consecutive years.

Yglesias finds this paranoid and points out that states can define what a 100% proficiency means, to make it such a low level that all children can pass.

Of course the program is then nothing but political mouthwash.