KANSAS CITY, Mo. - The Kansas City Star reports that of 1,855 Kansas Public Schools, 255 failed to meet their AYP (adequate yearly progress) targets set by the No Child Left Behind act, George W. Bush's signature education program. Failure to meet the targets means that schools will lose their funding under the provisions of the law. If a school does not perform under these standards, they are punished by having their money cut off. Presumably the schools will do a better job educating the kids with less money.
The Byzantine logic of this program is to scare schools into doing a better job at the risk of losing their funding. Losing funding means people losing their jobs as well as schools losing the resources they need to operate. Conservative logic may say that this system will scare schools into performing better, but once a school fails to meet the target and starts losing funds, it is hard to make a case that it will lead to an improvement. A school that is losing funding based on poor performance is on a slippery slope. How can it recover if it has less support than when it initially failed to meet its targets? It's like sudden death. If you miss once, you are out.
The result, if not the intent of this law is to write off any school that fails to meet the target as a lost cause and thereby relieve the government, or the taxpayers, of having to support the school. As with many conservative principles, it has a certain primitive, vicious logic, but as a principle by which to organize public education, its a manifest failure. It seems evident upon casual observation that the spirit of the law is not to improve education, but to cut education costs.
The No Child Left Behind Act is a fraud, one of the many Bush-Rovian exercises in Orwellian doublespeak. As someone pointed out, No Child Left Behind really means "many kids left behind, but hopefully not mine." It's a masked attack on education. Eliminating public education, at least on a federal level, has long been a goal of Republicans.
Ronald Reagan made it a campaign pledge to abolish the federal department of education, but he couldn't fulfill the pledge because of Democratic opposition in the House of Representatives. In 1996, Republicans were still overtly trying to eliminate the department of education. Then they changed their tack. Under Bush, with master conman Karl Rove directing the political show, Republicans adopted a doublespeak approach. If they couldn't get unpopular policies through, they just named them the opposite of what they really were and then shoved them through before people noticed. Since they couldn't overtly wipe out the department of education, they cooked up a swindle that would pretend to be offering help to schools, when in fact it was stabbing them in the back.
Now that schools have been subjected to this two-faced tyranny for a number of years, they have had to adapt. They have had to become increasingly preoccupied with teaching kids how to pass SAT tests, spending more and more time on tactics and strategies to maximize scores on the tests. Education has become a national SAT competition. Though called "intelligence tests" these tests are based on the most primitive kinds of mental operations. True-false, multiple choice, and questions based on memorization measure only a sliver of intelligence at best, and it's questionable if they measure much of anything objectively. These are basic stimulus-response exercises that have been elevated to the status of being the principle activity of education.
Higher levels of analytical, critical or creative thinking are being de-emphasized and we are turning our children into trained laboratory rodents seeking pellets by pushing levers. And that's fine with Republicans. An effectively dumbed-down population, punch-drunk with relentless whacky propaganda from Fox News seems to suit Republicans fine.