Reinventing No Child Left Behind

Published on Global, by Stephen Lendman, August 17, 2009.

Enacted on January 8, 2002, the 2001 No Child Left Behind Act’s (NCLB) sponsors claimed it would close the achievement gap between inner city and rural schools and more affluent suburban ones by setting high reading and math standards, then testing to assure they’re achieved. However, the law’s real aim is to commodify public education, end government responsibility for it, and make it another business profit center.

Renewing NCLB stalled in both houses of Congress for good reason. It’s long on testing, school choice, and market-based reforms, but short on real achievement. It’s built around rote learning, standardized tests, requiring teachers to teach to the test, assessing results by Average Yearly Progress (AYP) scores, and punishing failure by firing teachers and principals, closing schools, and transforming them from public to charter or for-profit ones.  

In other words, it’s a thinly veiled scheme to privatize public education, control costs, run schools by marketplace rules, decide what’s best for students based on bottom-line considerations, and end a 374 year public education tradition in America …

…Around 4700 charter schools operate in 40 states and the District of Columbia, representing the largest alternative and gravest threat to public education. CREDO studied 2403 of them and found 46% had math and reading gains “statistically indistinguishable” from public ones, 17% scored better, and 37% fell way below public school performance.

CREDO concluded that “aggregate charter (school performance isn’t) advancing the learning gains of their students as much as traditional public schools. The results are significant in both reading and math, though the effects are small in size.” Data obtained is current as of the 2007 – 2008 school year and provide updates on earlier studies.

Arne Duncan – Obama’s Point Man in Charge

In 2001, he became CEO of Chicago’s public schools (the nation’s third largest district after New York and Los Angeles) despite having no educational background. He headed an autocratic Board of Education that:

  • closed dozens of public schools in black and Latino neighborhoods;
  • replaced them with nearly 100 charter or contract ones, many run by for-profit companies;
  • undermined the teachers union;
  • fired teachers and principals;
  • displaced thousands of disadvantaged youths;
  • militarized the city’s high schools perhaps more than anywhere else in the county to institutionalize JROTC programs with some schools entirely for military studies;
  • fought against desegregating over 300 city schools;
  • opposed special education programs; and
  • ignored parents’ complaints to defend corporate involvement in city schools.
  • His mandate as Education Secretary is to do for the nation what he did to Chicago:
  • control K-12 education in America;
  • require states and local school boards to comply with federal mandates;
  • destroy public education;
  • privatize the nation’s schools;
  • militarize them to create a stream of future recruits;
  • destroy teachers unions and their ability to bargain for better schools, higher pay and benefits for teachers, and tenure for the most qualified;
  • educate the well-off, not the poor, disadvantaged, and most youths of color;
  • turn education in America into a class and income-based system; and
  • shut out opposition voices to advance his reactionary agenda.

Later in the year, a reinvented, renamed NCLB bill will be introduced in Congress, likely passed, and signed into law, advancing the worst of the above measures that will wreck the American dream for millions of disadvantaged youths who’ll be sacrificed on the alter of marketplace education. (full text).

(Stephen Lendman is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization. He lives in Chicago and can be reached by e-mail).

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