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Volume IV, Number 4, April, 2006

NCLB Loopholes

NCLB is full of holes. Loopholes.

This should come as no surprise.

The news media were crowded this month with reports of NCLB loopholes that had allowed millions of children to go uncounted and unnoticed - shameful loopholes that make a mockery of NCLB and the President's commitment to disadvantaged minorities. (Click for list of articles.)

Overall, AP found that about 1.9 million students — or about 1 in every 14 test scores — aren't being counted under the law's racial categories. Minorities are seven times as likely to have their scores excluded as whites, the analysis showed. (AP)

From the outset this President, his Ed Secretaries and NCLB have allowed states to use cheap and easy tests to create false impressions of progress.

From the outset this President, his Ed Secretaries and NCLB have allowed states and schools to ignore poor children and minority children.

From the very beginning NCLB has weighed more heavily on the poor and disadvantaged districts.

NCLB is not an educational reform. It is a human disaster of monstrous proportions twisting and distorting educational agendas in ways that damage children and schools. NCLB has hit schools as Katrina hit New Orleans, and the Bush team is handling this disaster with the same miserable performance it gave for the hurricane and the ill-considered invasion of Iraq.

Despite the fancy words and rhetoric, NCLB has done the opposite of its own name. NCLB began by leaving many children behind and has actually increased the numbers being ignored, neglected and under-educated.

The Invisible Child

Many years ago Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man shocked the nation, but the Bush Administration has effectively revived the racial isolation and neglect Ellison decried so many decades ago by creating a system that rewards schools and states for hiding children.

The NCLB Big Lie

While claiming to champion minority students, this President and his Ed Secretaries have set in motion a flood of changes that have discriminated against the very groups they promised to help. Quick to accuse critics of the "soft bigotry of low expectations," they allowed states to set sub group numbers in ways that encouraged many states and schools to set low expectations for those children.

State educators decide when a group is too small to count. And they've been asking the government for exemptions to exclude larger numbers of students in racial categories. Nearly two dozen states have successfully petitioned the government for such changes in the past two years. As a result, schools can now ignore racial breakdowns even when they have 30, 40 or even 50 students of a given race in the testing population. (AP)

These low expectations happened on the Bush watch with Ed Department approval. The problem was predicted at the outset by critics of NCLB but the Bush team turned a blind eye to the games played by states to avoid NCLB punishments and consequences. The Ed Department approved hugely varying numbers used to determine if a sub group was large enough to count in measuring a school's AYP (Acceptable Yearly Progress).

Putting Blame Where Blame Belongs

These Ed Department approvals were unconscionable. They were damaging. The President and his team are at fault here.

In schools that are predominantly white, large subgroup cut off numbers would mean that members of those subgroups might be failing but would not cause those schools embarrassment or problems with AYP. As a result of this loophole, the very groups the President promised to aid became invisible. They slipped through the cracks and down the drain. Their host schools could safely perpetuate school failure for such children as long as "there were not too many of them." This system rewards schools for pushing certain children out of school early and playing "musical children." It rewards schools for the kind of educational triage described in "From Classroom to Emergency Room - Educational Triage in American Schools," No Child Left, November 2005.

In all, the tests of more than 24,000 mostly minority children in Missouri aren’t being counted as groups, AP’s review found. Other states have much higher numbers. California, for instance, isn’t counting the scores of more than 400,000 children. In Texas, the total is about 257,000. (AP)

When Punishment Prevails

The stupidity of NCLB boggles the mind.

The entire measure relies on fear, punishment and public humiliation as drivers of school improvement. These harsh aspects of NCLB do little to help school children but create a climate of foreboding that violates everything we know about healthy organizations and change.

By stressing annual testing and a scheme of public humiliation for schools that fail to achieve AYP, the President's team actually set in motion serious neglect of children. When threats and punishments are accompanied by loopholes and easy escapes, they reward the targets of the punishments for avoidance and misdeeds. Some two dozen states were let off the hook, granted exemptions and allowed large sub group sizes.

This debacle was all predicted at the outset, so it is preposterous that the Secretary of Education now claims innocence and shock as the true impact of her program and its harsh bigotry comes into public view.

Her Department's special exceptions have made a mockery of NCLB's claims.

No Highly Qualified Secretary

It would help if the Secretary of Education were qualified for her job. It is shameful that the President appointed someone who has never worked in schools to give them advice and preside over their fate. How ironic that public schools must hire fully qualified teachers under NCLB's demands while he may hire an unqualified right wing policy wonk to run the whole system.

It becomes evident that she and her team do not know what they are doing.

They are like amateur bowlers throwing nothing but gutter balls.

They impose untested and unproven strategies like annual testing.

They suggest the dumbing and cheapening of tests.

They reward fake reform and fraudulent reporting of test results and drop out rates.

They allow widely varying definitions of sub group size from state to state that dilute the impact of the law in some states while leaving it harsh and unreasonable in others.

Under their leadership schools look best when they do the least, lower their standards and ignore the weakest students.

This journal has been calling NCLB "Helter-Skelter" for several years now as it became clear that NCLB was a perfect storm, an absurd and risky venture that threatened to drown schools in foolish regulations and divert them from true reform.

NCLB is bad education. It is bad policy.

NCLB Must End

Coming up for re-authorization in 2007, NCLB should be killed rather than extended. Its flaws are too numerous and too interwoven to permit tinkering or amendments sufficient to remedy the defects. It is a total wreck.

In addition to its flaws, NCLB is fundamentally unconstitutional as Congress and the President are dictating educational policy to states and schools.

Loophole Articles

© 2006, Jamie McKenzie, all rights reserved. This article may be e-mailed to individuals by individuals, but all other duplication, distribution, publication and use is prohibited without first receiving explicit permission. Contact for information.