bill maher: Leave No Child Behind means make 'em vanish

Discussion in 'Politics, Religion, Social Issues' started by zimv20, Aug 12, 2003.

  1. macrumors 601

    zimv20

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    #1
    http://www.chron.com/cs/CDA/printstory.hts/editorial/outlook/2038779

    Aug. 10, 2003, 8:20PM


    Leave No Child Behind means make 'em vanish

    By BILL MAHER

    New_rule: Stop believing slogans, especially the ones that come out of the White House. Slogans are not policy, and they're not truth. Twinkies aren't wholesome goodness, and The Clear Skies Initiative isn't really going to bring clear skies. And, it turns out, the Leave No Child Behind law actually leaves lots of children behind.

    So many, they even have a name now: pushouts, as in were pushing you out of school so that our cumulative test scores will be higher.

    Yes, that's what this is all about. Our Leave No Child Behind law is written like this: As a state, you get federal money for your schools, but only when you make a few things happen, mainly get test scores to go up and dropout rates to go down. How best to achieve both of those goals? By making the dumber kids disappear!

    The program President Bush brags about in Houston was all about raising test scores by making almost the entire bottom half of the class drop out, and then lowering the dropout rate by putting those dropouts in phony categories like transferred or enrolled in general equivalency diploma, or GED, classes. Sure, it was a little suspicious the way the testing system seemed to funnel so much money to old Bush friends McGraw Hill, but what can you do? You can't make an omelet without making a few people rich. What mattered was, it worked.

    Except it didn't. We weren't really improving the system, but we were improving it where it matters: on paper. It's not for nothing that all Texans looked up to Enron. When Bush ran in 2000, Houston's dropout rate was given as 1.5 percent. It's been revised to 40 percent. Probably by the same guy who does the budget. Enron was gaming the energy futures; here it was the kids' futures.

    Not that every kid should go to college; I've always believed every kid should not. But every kid should finish high school, and if you call your law No Child Left Behind, it does take a special kind of Texas-size nerve to then treat those children like cards in a gin rummy hand, where you get to ditch the two low ones, and where bodies just disappear like dissidents in Argentina, or that Julia Louise Dreyfuss sitcom.

    No child means none, and I don't need a degree in fuzzy math to know that 40 percent is not none. Are inner-city schools tough, with high dropout rates? Yes, but again, when you say no child, the implication is that were going after the section of kids who are harder to reach.

    And who can be reached, as we've learned from scores of movies about impossible high schools where one really dedicated actor, I mean teacher, makes a huge difference and gets the kids to dig Shakespeare. George W. Bush ran for office as the education guy, as the Sidney Poitier or Edward James Olmos or Michelle Pfeiffer character, I mean candidate, and his caring about leaving no child behind is what softened him into a compassionate conservative. So it does seem wrong when we find out that were doing, apparently, is just handling lots of kids a GED kit.

    Our president has made speeches in which he chuckles at himself for being a C student at Yale University. Of course, given who his father was, he could afford to chuckle at it; falling behind would not really keep him behind. But the rest of us aren't so fortunate. And as no one could tell you better than George W. Bush, we don't all blossom early in life, so maybe writing off so many kids at 15 or 17 isn't such a wise policy. It might amuse the president to know that this is exactly what they do in his favorite country, France, but the French don't lie about it and sell it as leaving no child behind, and France has more of a social safety net than we do. We have one, but it's called prison.

    People say education is the cornerstone of our democracy -- they're wrong, of course, it's campaign cash, and lots of it. But shouldn't it still count for something? As the president himself might say, we can do gooder.
     
  2. macrumors 68040

    mactastic

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    #2
    My biggest complaint about the whole "No Child Left Behind" thing is that it forces teachers to teach to the lowest common denominator in their class. Roughly translated, it means "slow it down so that the dumbest kid in class, who probably isn't going to college anyway, gets it and all the smart ones are begging for mind altering drugs to kill the boredom". On top of all the extra tests mandated by the feds, it has had the effect of dumbing down classes and to "teach to the test". Of course the teachers union's position of demanding tenure for even the suckiest of teachers doesn't help either. Nor does the mandated reduction in class size followed by the scratching of heads as to how they can find (and pay) enough teachers who are credentialed in the subject they are teaching to meet said mandated reductions.
     
  3. macrumors 68000

    Sayhey

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    #3
    I think Maher's point is exactly the opposite. The "dumbest" kids are being forced out of the system so that test scores can be artifically inflated. This results in slaps on the back all around when nothing has been accomplished.

    I'm not sure what problem there is with class size reduction, as it seems to be the number one reform that can have an immediate impact on kids. If teachers have fewer kids, they can spend less time in discipline problems and more time in actual teaching. Unfortunately, to do that and to get more teachers, who have the proper credentials, means more money for education. All the cursing the teacher unions doesn't get around that.
     
  4. macrumors 68040

    mactastic

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    #4
    Oh Maher is correct, probably mostly in texas, where NCLB has had the most effect. I'm just pointing out other flaws in the idea. Even though the kids haven't been kicked out yet here, the teachers still have to try to teach kids who just aren't interested for whatever reason. Those are the goals given to the teachers before the really bad kids are booted. And as for class reduction, laws were passed (not sure if they are federal or state, will check with my wife when she gets home from teaching) that mandate a maximum class size (good idea) but very little additional funding was provided, and now that budgets are being cut there is even less money to go around. Some schools get partially around this by hiring "class reduction teachers" who must be credentialed teachers, but who are not salaried, and get no benefits whatsoever in addition to being paid less than regular teachers. Any class (4th through 10th grades i believe) with more than 24 students is required to have one of these underpaid types in the class with the regular teacher. Very few schools are following this rule at the moment, and it still skirts the intent of the law since classes still have 35+ students sometimes, and even with a class reduction teacher, the regular teacher still is responsible for around 180 students. In addition, smaller class sizes require more classrooms for students, yet little money has been forthcoming for expansion of facilities etc. Particularly in California, one big problem as well, is the rise in housing costs in established city cores. This tends to drive families with school age children to outlying areas, which has the effect of shifting the facility burden from one area to another constantly. Smaller outlying areas that become havens for people trying to make it financially here often have small school facilities to begin with and must expand, while existing schools in city cores get closed because enrollment is dropping off fast.
     
  5. macrumors 68000

    Sayhey

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    #5
    Only move for class size reduction that I know about is on the state level. That certainly doesn't mean one doesn't exist on the federal level but I haven't heard of it.

    I'm amazed at what you discribe as hiring of "class reduction teachers." If they are fully qualified teachers why would anyone take such a job when throughout the state every district needs such teachers? Up here in SF what they do is hire non-credentialed teachers who are in the process of getting their credential. They are paid the same with the same benefits, but without tenure rights until they finish getting the credential. Only real way to get the qualified teachers who are needed is to pony up and pay them more. A proposition I'm sure your wife would not disagree with.
     
  6. macrumors 68000

    Sayhey

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    #6
    sorry - hit the wrong key.
     
  7. macrumors newbie

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    #7
    Not trying to defend anything, but I have a question of sorts.

    Maher said, "But every kid should finish high school..." and this bothers me for two groups: Those who just cannot complete the course material because of inherent difficulties, and those who either won't or can't because of cultural/social/whatever problems stemming from "the street" or a lack of parental push.

    When these groups are held in mainstream schools, they drag down the overall average scores. It seems to me that in some areas of some cities, there is a higher percentage of these "problem kids" than in other areas or cities--and that's to a great extent a problem within a sub-culture. (I have read that in some ghetto areas of NYC that black kids who try to do well in school are harassed as "Uncle Toms", etc. Anyway, that's what I mean by "sub-culture". In Texas, we have problems with the language skills of the children of illegal immigrants, and that affects test scores.)

    It's all well and good to talk about money, but I read within the last few days that D.C. has the highest per-kid expenditure but very low test scores. In a school district in north central Texas--a smallish community--is one of our highest SAT-scoring bunch of kids, year in and year out. Yet, it's one of the lowest in dollars per kid.

    Damfino.

    'Rat
     
  8. macrumors 68040

    pseudobrit

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    #8
    Mainstream schools should teach more than 60% of the kids. You can't say that those 40% were all retarded.
     
  9. macrumors newbie

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    #9
    I didn't.
     
  10. macrumors 68040

    tazo

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    #10
    Heh I may be the only independent conservative who was entertained by that show the other day; the president can do gooder :p

    I think effectively hiding the kids who do poorly is horrible and sort of defeats the purpose of the grants these schools in question are receiving.
     
  11. macrumors newbie

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    #11
    Regardless of the type of program or the amount of money, how do you improve education for that bottom group when too many of the parents are uninterested? When there is no inherent group or neighborhood impetus or influence for the idea that "school is good" or "education is good"?

    "No Child Left Behind" is a great sound-bite name, but it couldn't have the odds of a snowball in Hell, no matter what was attempted. Plus, in the ususal "Cherchez le $$$", it automatically leads to some sort of manipulation in order to get to the trough or maintain the flow. That's what school district administrators do.

    There are probably plenty of records showing the locale of underachievers' families' neighborhoods. Does anybody know of any program efforts to bring the parents into the equation? To get the parents to push their kids to stay in school, to do well in school? Without the parents' involvement, there's little hope for the kids...

    'Rat
     
  12. thread starter macrumors 601

    zimv20

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    #12
    again, a tough question.

    i wonder how much of it is cyclical. i.e. are these uninterested parents themselves dropouts? i suspect a lot are.
     
  13. macrumors newbie

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    #13
    A lot of it's cyclical. Ask any street cop or school teacher.

    I've sorta paid attention to the demographics of schools around Texas, since I grew up in the middle of a bunch of school teachers. I've noted the various changes since I graduated from high school in 1951, and my son graduated in 1981. Lord knows, there are enough "analytical" articles of varying degrees of objective thought, talking about the problems.

    In a nutshell, we're trying unsuccessfully to cope with a large and growing underclass, who perceive little or no value to formal schooling. They see no hope for a better future, even if they do make very good grades. It's a nationwide problem, more prevalent in the inner portions of major metro areas.

    However, it's not just blacks. Whites, and native Latins in some areas. Immigrant Latins are more prone to follow the tradition of pushing the kids to get an education and get ahead.

    I don't have an answer, and so far, neither does anybody else. I've met quite a few teachers who seemed quite bright and quite competent, and almost all plan on retiring as early as possible.

    'Rat
     
  14. macrumors regular

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    #14
    If it wasn't for the horrid pay, I'd love to be a teacher. I know I'm damn good at it. I had kids coming to me all the time in high school to have me teach something because I was better than the teachers.

    In fact, I'd definitely give teaching a go if they offered me $35K a year to start (Chicago cost of living level, increase as needed as per area).

    Quite frankly, I think there is a LOT we can do to improve our schools. What Bush did and is trying to do is immoral and un-American. (HA! A liberal using that phrase against a conservative. Eat your heart out.) Having graduated recently (June '01), I've got a lot of inside experiences and I know many, many areas that can be improved.
     
  15. thread starter macrumors 601

    zimv20

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    #15
    NYT weighs in

    http://www.nytimes.com/2003/08/13/education/13EDUC.html?pagewanted=print&position=

     
  16. macrumors 6502

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    #16
    And so the cycle goes

    If we base the amount of money we give a school district on it's "rated" preformance, people will find a way to "fudge" the rating. Thus is the nature of the beast. So we either find a way to give money to schools without "rating" them, or grow the government even further to include School watchdogs. I'll give you 3 guesses which way they will go with this, and the first two don't count.

    IMHO this is how it should work:

    All the education money flows first to the Federal Government. Then every student gets an equal amount of funds spent on them. i.e. Each student in a school district counts for $x, regardless of whether they are in "po-dunk" Kentucky, or North Shore Chicago. The feds are only there to divy out the money, all control belongs to the locals (those in the school district). This means that the locals control how the money is spent without any federal interferance. Every child that leaves, for whatever reason, reduces that school district's funds by the same $x.

    That I believe is the only fair way to fund education.
     
  17. macrumors 68000

    Sayhey

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    #17
    Re: NYT weighs in

    The options as I see it: 1 - they lied (the point of the article), 2 - maybe Texas school administrators can't do simple arithmetic, 3 - Someone stole 700 kids and the principal didn't think it was important enough to report it.

    Seriously, this is the model the "education" President is pushing to save inner city kids?
     
  18. thread starter macrumors 601

    zimv20

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    #18
    Re: Re: NYT weighs in

    looks like it.

    and it seems part of an overall strategy:
    1. pick an aspect of "compassionate conservatism" and give it a fancy name
    2. sell the idea in the press and SOTU
    3. underfund it
    4. answer critics w/ the sales pitch again

    as is painfully obvious from the houston school example, all one has to do is look at the details to know that the "solution" is only exasperating the problem. my great fear is that the idiot public stop at #2.
     
  19. macrumors 65816

    rueyeet

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    #19
    Here in Baltimore, there was an article not too long ago in the Sun about the effect of one of the other aspects of the No Child Left Behind mandates: restrictions on social promotion (the practice of letting failing students go onto the next grade anyway because of the percieved negative social effects of holding them back). Seems they've now got kids there who've been held back three or four years in a row. You're talking high school seniors old enough to be college graduates--high school juniors old enough to buy alcohol. And they keep failing, and the school system simply doesn't know what to do.

    Desertrat is right; some of the problem in the system is the kids themselves, and their parents as well. There really are cultural predjudices against a proper education in some places. I have one friend from such an area who's been looked down on by his peers his whole life because he actually valued his education.

    I think one of the fundamental problems here is we're looking at this as if it's not only the government's job to ensure that every child has fair and equal access to a good education, it's the government's job to make sure they accept that education as well. The personal responsibility of each and every child who has access to that education to take advantage of it, study, and LEARN no longer enters into the debate. Neither does the parental responsibility of the parents or guardians who are supposed to ensure that education is a priority for those children.

    There comes a point where all the funds in the nation combined with the dedication of every school employee in the system is not enough to overcome the refusal of a student to be educated. And no one treats this as if the student, or their parents, have any responsibility in the matter.

    And that's a real tragedy, because a good education would go far to break the cycle of low income despair and lack of opportunity that keep the children of each successive generation from breaking free....if they'd just make the effort. American history is fall about those who took what little they had, ran with it, and changed the world instead of complaining that it wasn't enough to even try.
     
  20. macrumors 68000

    Sayhey

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    #20
    If we are going to be real about making a difference in the lives of inner city kids then it can't be just around educational reforms. As important as the school system is it is only one component of the lives of kids. If we deal with crime, unemployment, lack of recreational facilities, breakdown of social support networks and a dozen other factors, maybe we can start to have an impact. First, it will take leadership based not on made-up facts to support a preexisting policy aim.

    Sorry, zimv20, but what's SOTU? otherwise, I like the post.
     
  21. thread starter macrumors 601

    zimv20

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    #21
    totally agree. that's pretty much why i identify more w/ the democratic party than w/ the GOP.

    state of the union
     
  22. macrumors newbie

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    #22
    The school district of Thomas County, Georgia, was sued for discrimination by the NAACP. This all started while I was away, so I don't know all the details, but apparently it involved the comparative quality of the education and the comparative SATs of blacks and whites. It's an integrated system, but some of the elementary schools are predominantly black--which actually reflects the black majority in the population here.

    Anyway, the defense attorneys, going through all manner of records, discovered the superintendant and some principals had been manipulating test scores: Raising some black kids' scores and lowering some white kids' score so they would appear more equal.

    As I said above, cherchez le $$$. Compassion don't do squatley. "More money!" doesn't do squatley. Shoveling out piles of tax dollars leads to some form of chicanery, as shown in Houston and even in little backwater Thomas County, Jawgia.

    If you want educated kids, you must bring their parents into the deal or you're just peein' in the whiskey. You must have teacher authority in the classroom to control the behavior--and that's an absolute.

    Now, it's purely opinion, but I think that getting rid of the US Dept of Edu would be a righteous step. Get rid of those associated administrative costs, and the local districts would have more money for teachers and not waste so much on testing and record-keeping.

    Before integration, the biggest problem was the relative quality of teachers and the relative amount of money for school equipment, for blacks vs. whites. Now, the teachers are there and the equipment money is there (mostly; I realize some places have dramatically mis-spent facility-maintenance monies.) The US DoEdu has been pretty much in charge of all manner of school stuff.

    And yet, in these last forty years, things have gone all to hell.

    It damned sure ain't a need for "More money!"

    'Rat
     
  23. macrumors 68040

    mactastic

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    #23
    Although it may not actually require more money (I suspect it might need some), like most aspects of government, the money needs to be reallocated to the places its needed instead of wasted by bureucratic noonsense. Stop the waste!
     
  24. macrumors 68000

    Sayhey

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    #24
    Don't know about "peein' in the whiskey," but I agree getting parents involved is very important. As I said in my last post I think it will take a more comphrehensive approch to make a real impact. I don't think doing away with the Department of Education will help in any regard. Sure there is waste in any bureacracy, but you could also make the argument that a few less billion spent in Iraq that could be spent on education would be helpful. Most of the dollars for public education are still controlled at the local and state level, not the national, so if you're looking for waste in underfunded budgets that's the best place to start.

    One thing that drives me crazy is the self fullfilling prophecies of right-wingers who want to get rid of public education and have over the last forty years have succeeded in making it among the lowest priorities and now deliver speech after speech lambasting the problems in public education. They are so busy crying crocodile tears over the waste in public education. That's not directed at you, 'Rat, but rather the folks who have been pushing the vouchers and other similar schemes for so long.
     
  25. macrumors newbie

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    #25
    My first ten years were in public schools. My grandfather taught in both elementary and high schools from 1905 to 1955. My grandmother taught in elementary schools. My mother taught Psych at the University of Texas. I have no gripe at all with public schools except as how the curricula have been dumbed down and the efficacy of the teaching--overall--has declined.

    Dumbed-down example: I learned the "times tables" in the Second Grade; through 12 x 12. In 1987 on the TV news for an elementary school in Las Vegas, NV, the Third Grade teacher was quite proud of her kids having learned the times table through 10 x 10.

    Efficacy: How do high school students in Dallas, TX, NOT know the name of the country lying to the south of the U.S.? How do they graduate without the ability to make change? Enough, there're plenty more...

    'Rat
     

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