Posted on September 7, 2004

Good Schools Rated Poorly By No Child Left Behind Regulations

Randall Parker, Parapundit, Sep. 5

To meet compliance requirements of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act schools must test 95% of their students including 95% of the students of each ethnicity and in special education due to learning disabilities. This requirement leads to top schools being rated as poorly performing.

In Westport, Conn., the Bedford Middle School, where test scores are often among Connecticut’s highest, was called low-performing because the school failed to meet the 95 percent standard for testing for the disabled by one student.

“It really bugs me that we got a black eye for a mechanical reason rather than for anything legitimate,” said Dr. Elliott Landon, Westport’s superintendent.

Montgomery High School in Skillman, N.J., was honored by the federal Department of Education as a Blue Ribbon School of Excellence in 1993, and last year its mean SAT score of 1220 was 194 points above the national average. But Montgomery, too, failed to meet federal targets last year because one student’s absence brought the school afoul of the rule requiring that 95 percent of students take standardized tests.

Imagine a grade in a small school that has, say, 20 students. Well, if one kid misses the testing day then 5% of the students did not get tested. Or if the test is administered on a day when the flu hits the absence rate could be that high.

Then there is the testing requirement per ethnicity and for the retarded kids (how politically incorrect of me not to say “learning challenged”). If a grade has 5 Hispanics then just 1 Hispanic is 20% of the Hispanics. Or if it has 4 retarded kids then 1 retarded kid is 25% of the retards.

The bigger problem with NCLB is it is basically a denial of human nature. Some kids are dumb. Some are super fast smarties. Most are in between. A school in an upper class neighborhood is going to have smarter kids on average than a school in a lower class neighborhood. It is not the fault of the teachers or administrators or even of the parents (who didn’t choose their own genes after all) that the kids in the lower class school are mostly not too bright. Granted, their are drug and alcohol using and cigarette smoking moms whose treatment of their own bodies lowered their kids intelligence. But surely the cause of most low intelligence in the United States is not due to irresponsible parenting.

Teachers and schools ought to be measured on how well they do with the raw material they are given. Are the kids at an average of, say, 87 IQ? Then if the teachers manage to get the kids reading at the 9th grade level by the end of 12th grade the teachers ought to be given cash awards, medals, and congratulated by notable dignitaries. If the kids have an average IQ of 130 then the kids ought to be reading at 12th grade level by the end of 8th or 9th grade or else there is something wrong that needs fixing.

The failure to consider differences in innate cognitive abilities means the whole NCLB debate is based on a massive lie. You won’t see “IQ” or “intelligence” mentioned in the vast bulk of articles about failed schools and low student test scores. The elephant is in the room, it is in plain sight, and the vast bulk of our commentariat will not mention it. What passes for education policy debate in America is intellectually bankrupt. What would Orwell make of this?