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Friday, January 13, 2006

Education, NCLB, and Nap Time

I have a five year old and a two year old. My oldest is in kindergarten, my youngest at home. I am a stay at home dad. We keep busy: doing the arts, sports, reading, all the good stuff. I take my little guy, Charlie, for coffee and bookstore runs. Like his dad, he enjoys these things. He chatters on about coffee and books--not bad for a two year old.

Yet I worry about my kids. I worry about school, as an English teacher by trade and a curriculum and instruction guy, I hate to say that my anxiety is all too well informed.Since the advent of the school reform era, the school curriculum has been hijacked by the government-testing-industrial complex. It's all about the numbers baby, because the numbers show up all over the place and are interpreted by folk who have no clue. The uninformed make decision based on numbers all the time. The numbers aren't necessarily fuzzy, but the interpretation of them is up for grabs. For example, what constitutes a good school? I've asked a bunch of people this over the years and there is little consensus.

A buddy of mine--a stats and evaluation guy--argues that NCLB will implode because its targets are unattainable. Let's hope. In the meantime, teaching and learning in public schools have homed in on a discrete set of standards--those that are tested, and ignored the rest. Why? Because the fear of failure is palpable. Nervous laughter and jaded cynicism are just as bad as neophetic optimism when it comes to standardized testing.

Let's be clear, NCLB fulfills one neoliberalist goal--comparison. In the global economy comparison is essential to the open market. When did our children become data to be compared in the open market? Don't believe me, check out the The Interactive Illinois Report Card that allows anyone, anywhere to do just that. Most disturbing is the tab labeled student data that allows those with passwords to examine data by student. I don't care how secure it claims to be a talented hacker could have a field day. Well my little data packet to be is getting up from his nap so it's time to go change a diaper, get some coffee, and let my thoughts percolate.

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