Yet More NCLB

YET MORE NCLB….There’s just no getting away from NCLB. Here’s the latest from the Washington Post:

More than 50 House and Senate GOP members — including the House’s second-ranking Republican — will introduce legislation today that could severely undercut President Bush’s signature domestic achievement, the No Child Left Behind Act, by allowing states to opt out of its testing mandates.

….Some Republicans said yesterday that a backlash against the law was inevitable. Many voters in affluent suburban and exurban districts — GOP strongholds — think their schools have been adversely affected by the law. Once-innovative public schools have increasingly become captive to federal testing mandates, jettisoning education programs not covered by those tests, siphoning funds from programs for the talented and gifted, and discouraging creativity, critics say.

This is, admittedly, pretty much what several people told me after my earlier NCLB posts: it’s silly to think there was a conservative conspiracy to use NCLB to destroy public education because most conservatives didn’t support NCLB in the first place. They just voted for it because George Bush wanted them to. Now, with Bush an unpopular lame duck, they’re free to revolt and vote their conscience.

What’s more, this article suggests precisely the vector by which NCLB is most vulnerable: self-absorbed suburban kvetching. Even at this early date there are suburban schools that have fallen afoul of NCLB, and invariably this produces massive backlash among local parent who are convinced that their school is just fine and they’d better not lose one thin dime of federal funding just because their school fell 1% short of NCLB’s outlandishly complex testing requirements. And as we all know, when suburban parents complain, politicians listen.

Of course, this also leads me to one of my biggest complaints about NCLB and education policy in general. No, not testing. I’m agnostic on that for the moment. What really bugs me is that politically we’re forced to create (and fund) a system that applies to every school system in America even though we all know perfectly well that 80% of our school systems are basically OK and could probably be left alone. It’s the other 20% — the low-income schools located largely in urban inner cities — that need help. But for a variety of reasons, it’s nearly impossible to target our reform efforts there. So instead we end up with broad brush efforts that waste lots of money and eventually fail because they piss off suburban voters. Bleh.

But maybe I’m off base on that. I invite our ed experts to chime in.