THE NATIONAL SHAME OF OUR SCHOOLS
By Alan Caruba
These kinds of sweetheart deals exist everywhere state teachers' unions wield the kind of political power that exists in New Jersey. Political pundits have concluded that, if the National Education Association — a union — ever deserted the Democratic Party, it could no longer exist. They are the volunteers and much of the money that keeps the party going.
A week prior, my daily reported “High Schoolers See Grades Rise Even as they Lag on Tests,” a story by Associated Press reporter, Nancy Zuckerbrod. She noted:
One report was the National Assessment of Educational Progress. It was created in 1964 when Congress concluded that American students were lagging behind those in other nations. They still are. The only difference today is that they are getting passing and better grades because no school wants to be deemed a failure under George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind Act, enacted in 2002. We were assured it was going to be the cure for all our educational woes.
Instead, five years later, critics say that the No Child Left Behind Act is the source of the problem. Have a problem with high standards? Don’t want a school to be labeled a failure? Just lower the standards! The definition of “proficient” is such that not one, single State achieved the standards set by the National Assessment of Educational Progress, while, at the same time, showing that their kids were somehow doing just great.
Why we even have a federal Department of Education defies a decent answer. Ronald Reagan took office with the intention of eliminating it from the federal bureaucracy. By contrast, George W. Bush put it in charge of how education is to be conducted coast to coast, thereby insuring that this, along with just about everything else the federal government is responsible for, will be done poorly.
The Department of Education is the FEMA of education. Got a crisis? They will study it to death and still not come forth with any other answer than to test, test, and test! The National Assessment of Educational Progress, often referred to as the nation’s report card, has been flunking teachers and administrators for decades.
Meanwhile, the Leave No Child Behind Act comes up for review in Congress this month. Does anyone think the people elected to public office, many of whom are the products of our failed educational systems, are going to find a way to improve it?
The Leave No Child Behind program currently requires reading and math tests annually in grades three through eight and once in high school. The Bush administration wants to add more testing in high school. The U.S. News and World Report recently noted: “Two top Senate Democrats have introduced legislation that would require the federal government to define the standards against which all states would be measured.”
That’s what we need, a new definition! New federal standards! More tests!
By now, anyone who was blessedly home schooled or has any common sense knows this is not the answer. Something is horribly wrong when just one-fourth of twelfth graders score as proficient or better in math and three-fourths were deemed “proficient” readers at the basic level. One assumes this means that they can read a paragraph without having to move their lips!
Less than half, forty-three percent of the white students scored at or above “proficient” levels on the reading test, compared with twenty percent of Hispanics and sixteen percent of black students. Putting aside the more than half of the white students that were not deemed “proficient,” no one can tell me that Hispanics and blacks possess brains that cannot, if properly taught, master these fundamental skills.
That, however, brings us to the crux of the problem of education in America. The teachers. Thanks to the unions, it is virtually impossible to fire an incompetent teacher. Merit has nothing to do with teaching. Longevity is the name of the game. And the multitudinous layers of “administrators,” the top among whom receive salaries that rival and surpass those employed in private industry, are part of problem too.
America needs another Revolution, an Education Revolution. Parents must rally, school by school, to wrest back control from the teacher’s unions. They must find a way to hire people who are actually competent in their subject areas. States must demand real standards for graduation from their colleges of education.
The Education Revolution can begin by writing to your U.S. Senator or Representative in Washington, D.C., and demanding that the No Child Left Behind Act be allowed to go inactive. Then you will have fifty laboratories, the States, in which new curricula can be tested to see what works and what doesn’t. That knowledge will be shared and the overall quality of education will improve.
And maybe students will not have to attend schools that require armed guards at the doors and patrolling the hallways to maintain some semblance of civilization. Maybe students would not be just so much sausage to process through what passes for schools these days.
A Practical Guide to Homeschooling
Alan Caruba is a veteran business and science writer, a Public Relations Counselor, and Founder of the National Anxiety Center, a clearinghouse for information about media-driven scare campaigns. Caruba writes a weekly commentary, "Warning Signs," posted on the Internet website of the National Anxiety Center, which is located at www.anxietycenter.com.
Caruba’s new book, Right Answers: Separating Fact from Fantasy, has been published by Merril Press.
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