The Corner

Failing Grades

Am getting lots of emails like this one–and if readers of the Corner don’t like the “No Child Left Behind Act,” who does?

Peter-

As a new school committee member this year in a

suburban Boston district, I can tell you that in

practice No Child Left Behind too often means “No

Child Gets Ahead”. This is the result of two

dynamics. One is the legislation itself, which

focuses resources on everything but the advanced

learners in a system. The other, however, is the

near-theology of public education.

Classroom teachers come overwhelmingly out of state

colleges, are fairly pragmatic, and know better than

just about anybody what works and what does not work….

However, policy initiatives at the level of central

school system administration, or state regents or

departments of education, or the federal DOE, are

driven by a group of people who do not come out of the

highly hands-on and empirical state colleges. Rather,

they come out of the “top” graduate schools of

education in the country….[And] the

people who wnet through them and are far enough along

in their careers to have decisive influence in those

policy initiatives are still in thrall to

near-theological ideologies of egalitarianism,

universality, and mainstreaming….

The result is that kids are all thrown into a

mainstreamed classroom. Some do not belong. Some are

behaviorally disruptive, reducing everybody’s

opportunity to learn. Rather than recognize these

problems and question their ideologies, the theorists

tell the classroom teacher to implement

“differentiated instruction”, basically telling a

teacher that solving the mess that the theories have

made is the teacher’s job. The result is that a kid

who is capable of algebra slogs through a year of her

classmates not quite getting fractions. A kid who is

asking himself questions about irony, prophetic voice,

and narrative devices gets no engagement on those

topics while the class reads the umpteenth simplistic

morality play about how a multiracial kid with two

moms came to be liked and accepted and overcame her

loneliness…..if something is not done to triage the damage

currently being done, the effect on the global competitiveness of kids

educated in American public schools will be enormous.

Peter Robinson — Peter M. Robinson is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution.

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