Gambling with the Children
by Jamie McKenzie (about the author)
Whispers of displeasure and anxiety have risen to a louder pitch across the land as school leaders, teachers and community members are beginning to band together with state leaders to challenge many of the features of the hastily conceived educational law pushed through Congress by the present administration.
Strip away the slick packaging and comforting rhetoric and NCLB turns out to be a radical document.
After decades of both parties supporting a limited federal role in educational matters, we now face a broad-based assault on public education from the Beltway. State rights? Local control? This education law makes a mockery of those concepts as it imposes radical and often untested change strategies across all districts.
Republicans and Democrats should join together to challenge this serious violation of state rights.
Washington knows best?
Although couched in soothing talk of saving children, there are many risky strategies embedded in No Child Left Behind that could do great damage to the very children it claims to protect. These strategies lack the scientific research evidence now required before schools act.
Virtual PUBLIC Schools?
The timing of NCLB is punitive rather than supportive. Instead of building school capacities prior to implementing this vast accountability empire, NCLB rushes to judgment, applying damaging labels and unleashing a school choice campaign that includes federal tax support for virtual elementary schools chaired by former Ed Secretary William Bennett.
Bennett's company, K12, was launched with financial support from Knowledge Universe, a huge educational software company related to the Milken Family.
"When you hear the next pitch about cyber-enriching your child's education," Mr. Bennett and his two co-authors wrote, "keep one thing in mind: so far, there is no good evidence that most uses of computers significantly improve learning." (Reported in December 28, 2000 New York Times article by Jacques Steinberg, quoting from Bennett's book, "The Educated Child.")
Now the Department of Education is approving the use of our tax funds for just such virtual charter schools. While there is "no good evidence" (to use Mr. Bennett's own words) to justify these tax expenditures, the Secretary of Education has endorsed such schools as acceptable alternatives to the regular public schools.
Some home schooling supporters have found this corporate effort to extend publicly funded virtual schooling quite objectionable. (Note this November/December, 2002 critique in Home Education Magazine by Larry and Susan Kaseman.)
Click on the diagram below or the table of contents on the left to consider serious problems and issues raised by this law and the departmental regulations emerging in recent months.