"I like to talk about No Child Left Behind as Ivory soap. It's 99.9 percent pure," Spellings told reporters over coffee. "There's not much needed in the way of changes. . . . As much grist as there was for the mill five years ago on various fronts . . . we've come a long way in a short time in a big system affecting 50 million kids."
While I appreciate the focus the act has placed on education, its flaws far outweigh its positive aspects. Instead of putting its focus on the improvement of public schools, which is where it should be, federal education leaders have been extolling the virtues of charter schools, private schools, and educational vouchers, usually using dubious studies to make their points.
Even worse, the annual yearly progress, the hallmark of the bill, has no meaning whatsoever. How can we actually compare progress in different areas of the country, or even between neighboring states, when each state is allowed to set its own criteria with no real oversight over that criteria.
The folly of that was shown when Missouri, which has always held its students to higher standards, found it was not making sufficient annual progress, so naturally, it took the most logical step and lowered its standards. You can't blame Sen. Gary Nodler, whose bill was responsible for the change. Had it not been done, we would have been unfairly placed below states where students were not making as much progress. At the same time, it points out how ludicrous the entire system is.
Of course, Secretary Spellings completely disregarded the study released last week that showed charter school students performing public school students in tests:
Spellings acknowledged that the federal clearinghouse to screen charter schools needs work, but she all but dismissed the study, saying it has only "modest utility" when parents look for options.
"Some charter schools are fine, excellent, do great work -- some less so," she said. "The difference between charter and public schools doesn't have anything to do with method of instruction or curriculum. It's just a different governance model. What charter schools need to do and what public schools need to do is figure out how we make any classroom work."
In other words, the administration is going to go full steam ahead on a dangerous educational policy without even acknowledging criticism (sounds similar to the way it behaves in other areas, too, doesn't it?)