March 14, 2007

NCLB "just like a communist country"?

In today's Washington Post story on NCLB and the 100% proficiency goal, Peter Hoekstra (R-Mich.) is quoted with the inevitable comparison to outlandish claims from the Soviet era:

"It's just like a communist country saying that they used to have 100 percent participation in elections," Hoekstra said. "You knew it wasn't true, but a bureaucrat could come up with that answer. And that's what will happen here."

I thought Hoekstra would say something about Five-Year Plans, the Great Leap Forward, and so forth, but instead it's about electoral participation.  Sheesh, guy: If you're going to try the rhetorical roundhouse punch, do it with gusto.  This wimpiness is obviously why Republicans lost Congress in November.  (No, it's not, but I refuse to let this good line go unused.)

My concern with the debate as portrayed in the Post story is that it's all black-and-white rhetoric: Either our opponents are unreasonable or lowering expectations. It's easy to say that we want students to have a "world class education" (whatever that is) or to be "proficient" (whatever that means), and it's tempting to say that instead we should be rewarding "growth" (whatever we decide that might be).  Nowhere is the hard work of deciding what we should expect from students.

Here's an exercise for the reader: take the best work of students from a sample of graduating students in the nearest high school. Get 15 members of the community (some educators, some politically involved, some small business owners, others), and have them look at the work and then answer the following questions:

  • Is the school expecting the right things from students?
  • Are students meeting those expectations?
  • If the answer to either of the first two questions is no, what should happen next?

I expect that the discussion will be long and interesting, but not easy.

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Posted in Accountability Frankenstein on March 14, 2007 8:37 AM |