Specifically, it was designed to fail poor children. It was designed to take money away from their schools as “underperforming” so that the money could be given to more deserving (middle class) schools. And furthermore, it was deliberately designed so that schools attended by poor children can’t succeed.
At least, that is the impression I get from reading this very depressing article at The Atlantic by Meredith Broussard.
The first depressing thing I noticed while reading the article was the horrific effect that the NCLB testing regime has had on the curriculum. In order to pass the tests, you must buy the exact textbooks that have the answers expected for the questions on the test — even if those answers aren’t actually correct if a subject matter specialist looks at them. And answers from other textbooks that aren’t worded exactly the same will be marked wrong even if they’re actually technically correct. What a soul-deadening experience this must be for our children, nevermind the teachers who know that they’re not going to be judged on how well their students can perform in real life, they’re going to be judged by how well their students memorized what’s on the test. Our children are being taught that school is solely about memorizing what is going to be on the test — a soul killing experience that teaches no learning or reasoning skills that will persist beyond school days, and fosters a hatred of all things school on the part of both students and teachers.
But the article wasn’t about that, exactly. It was about how poor schools are deliberately set up to fail the tests. See, to perform well on the tests, your students must be studying the exact textbooks that contain the answers… and for many inner-city school districts like Philadelphia PA, the textbook budget is ZERO dollars.
Yes, ZERO. As in, they are NOT going to be studying the exact textbooks that contain the answers, because they don’t have any textbooks new enough to have the answers. Their book rooms are a mishmash of textbooks scavenged from other schools (I know when I taught in an inner city school I paid close attention to what the neighboring suburban school district was throwing out, because that was going to be what we used for our textbooks the next year), and assembling a complete set of textbooks for any given classroom is half the battle for teachers. They end up calling teachers in their subjects all over the city to see if any of those teachers have a couple of extra copies of the 8th grade math textbook that they scavenged from the dumpster at the suburban middle school last year. No joke. Been there, done that, got the scars to prove it.
So let’s recap: 1) NCLB punishes inner city schools if their students don’t pass the standardized tests. 2) NCLB does not provide money to inner city schools so that they can buy the materials needed for their students to pass the standardized tests. So… what am I supposed to conclude, other than that NCLB was deliberately set up to punish poor children and take away their school money to give it to more “deserving” middle class kids in the suburbs?
Of course, to do that, it had to force a mind-numbing curriculum onto the suburban students… but maybe that was a feature, not a flaw. I report, you decide. As that fine faux news channel often says ;).
– Badtux the Depressingly Unsnarky Penguin