lundi, mars 21, 2005

Enter Money Enter Madness, or: No Child Left Behind, My Behind!

Congratulations to the O’Jays on their induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

On a related note, there are reports out of Texas that schools are cheating on the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills exams. Should we hold the phone on our plans to expand this mess to the greater U.S.? Methinks yes.

The cheating is reportedly widespread (more than 200 schools were flagged), but the reports focus on Houston and Dallas.

(The unfunded mandate) No Child Left Behind legislation requires schools to have a minimum number of students pass standardized tests. In order to believe that they prove that all the kids who pass are learning, you have to believe in the test and in how it is administered. If you require schools to have a certain percentage of its students pass, are you requiring the school to make kids learn or are you requiring the school to make kids pass?

This morning, NPR had a story on this same subject. Listening to that story, I also learned that school principals receive a bonus of $5,000 if the requisite number of students pass the TAKS exam. District Superintendents receive a $20,000 bonus if a percentage of their schools are in compliance. Enter money, enter madness.

What I’m really asking is this: what is more important – that our kids learn or that our schools have a percentage of students who appear to pass an exam? In effect, this question could be: is learning a community thing or an individual thing? If a genius passes the standardized test, has she learned? If a simple child fails the test, has he failed to learn?

Also, by adding financial incentives, have you improved student learning or promoted cheating? What do the results from Texas suggest?

I’m not sure tests prove students are learning.

I’m not sure requiring a percentage of students to pass is a good idea; I’m not sure it matters. If schools are cheating (remember the test examines schools more than students), then it really doesn't matter.

I definitely think threatening school closures and offering financial incentives to educators takes you further away from the actual goal by placing more emphasis on the passage rate than it does on actual learning.

Oh, and what does all this have to do with the O’Jays? C’mon now, you know their big hit right? You’ve heard “For Love of Money,” right?

The O’Jays told you what happens when money becomes involved:

Money-money-m-money... People will steal from their mothers.
Money-money-m-money... People will rob their own brothers.
Money-money-m-money... People can’t even walk the streets.
Because they never know when the world they’re gonna meet.
For that mean, oh mean, mean green.
Almighty dollar! Blood-money!

Money-money-m-money... People will lie, rob; they will cheat.
Money-money-m-money... People don’t care who they hurt or beat.
Money-money-m-money... A woman will sell her precious body.
For a small piece of paper, it carries a lot of weight.

Oh, that mean, mean, mean, mean... mean green!
Almighty dollar!Talkin’ ‘bout- talkin’ ‘bout...
You know that money is the root of all evil.
Do funny things to some people.
Give me a nickel - Brother, can you spare a dime?
Money can drive some people out of their minds.

Call me altruistic or naïve, but I truly believe the best approach is to adequately fund the schools and trust educators to reach individual students. It’s certainly better than all this (unfunded mandate) No Child Left Behind (wink, wink) business.

If you really want to know how the schools are doing, do what a doctor would do - go to the school and examine them. Governments monitor restaurants with audits, why not the same for schools?