Thursday, January 27, 2005

Grading School Standards 

The main problem with the No Child Left Behind Act could have been diagnosed by a 6th grader. When you design a law where the states access adequate yearly progress of students through testing, and schools stand to be judged as "failing" based upon the results, and these results carry financial implication, then the examinations are bound to be dumbed down. This, as "A Constrained Vision" would say, is the coolness of how economic incentives impact human behavior.

Now Chester Finn, Jr.'s Thomas B. Fordham Foundation has reviewed state standards and has found them severely lacking in, well, standards:

English: "Many of the standards for literary study are vague and pretentious...or suggest that the English class may be turned into a pseudo-social studies class.... The most serious omission is...key authors, works, literary periods, and literary traditions...that outline the essential content of the secondary school English curriculum."

Math: "There are serious deficiencies in these standards, including coverage of arithmetic and the algebra indicators.... There is too much emphasis on the study of patterns as an end in itself.... Statistics and probability are grossly overemphasized.... None of the grade-level indicators require students to learn the standard algorithms of arithmetic.

In fact, the Foundation found only three states that deserve an "A" in their assessment of math and reading skills.

As we have become experts on the relationship between motives and actions (and we should also throw in our acknowledgement of a cameo appearance by the Law of Unintended Consequences), we can guess with our eyes closed what the American Federations of Teachers, the teacher's union, would find after it reviewed state exams based upon whether these tools contain "standards and accountability" Ready? Drum role please:

In 2005, only Iowa (which has no statewide standards whatsoever) gets a failing mark in that category while a dozen jurisdictions receive A's.

As the President pushes to extend NCLB to high school students we can only expect (yes, you got it right) more of the same...

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