Friday, June 24, 2011

The Purpose of NCLB

Over on Language Log, Mark Liberman has a post about the latest fuss over Kids Today -- that NYT article which you have probably seen, which claims standardized tests show that 4th graders don't know who Abraham Lincoln is, and high school seniors don't know what Brown v Board of Education did, and so on.  Liberman doubts the veracity of the test, and shows us why.

I doubt the value and benefit of standardized tests and assessment in general, frankly, and always have.  Assessing art or novels or movies doesn't work (this film tests well with teens in Peoria!); you get crap art.  Assessing students -- at least with standardized tests -- does not work either.  (How to assess them, then?  Well, the way we did for centuries.  Put a professional teacher in charge of the classroom and let that teacher say whether the student has learned or not.  Does this always work?  No.  Does it work better than NCLB?  My shit yes.)

But!  Here is why I am posting about this!  A comment, made over at LL:

"The point of the exit exams as they exist in the US today is not to assure that students are emerging with what they need to know in order to take up their next task in life, but to sell tests and programs and charters and other crap to schools which are not being funded for their actual purpose."

And this, I think, is true.  The real aim of Mr. Bush's crap plan is not to hold teachers or schools accountable, and that is not why the Right likes it, either, as you can tell if you hang out on their blogs when they are discussing teachers or public schools for the ten minutes you can stand to do this.  They hate public schools and public school teachers with a passion.  Their aim is to destroy public schools and the teachers who work in them.  NCLB is a tool that will do this.  If we stop viewing it as an assessment tool that, bewilderingly, doesn't seem to be working very well, and start seeing it as a tool to destroy public education in America while making some friends of the Republican very rich along the way, well, everything becomes very much clearer.

It's like the Voter ID bills, and the drug testing for Welfare and Public Worker bills, and the Union busting bills, which all work hand in hand, notice.  The poorer you get, the less likely you are to have the time or energy to be invested in voting, or have the means to vote or the means to be politically involved.  

So it's not that Right is actually worried about voter fraud -- they're fine with that as long as it's fraud that aids them, as the 2000 election showed.  No, they want to disenfranchise certain segments of the population, and if they can make their friends rich while they do that, hey, that's a bonus.

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