Why I am Fasting: An Explanation to My Friends
Kozol is fasting to protest NCLB. Except that it isn't a fast; it's a partial fast, whatever the hell that is.
This morning, I am entering the 67th day of a partial fast that I began early in the summer as my personal act of protest at the vicious damage being done to inner-city children by the federal education law No Child Left Behind, a racially punitive piece of legislation that Congress will either renew, abolish, or, as thousands of teachers pray, radically revise in the weeks immediately ahead.The one good thing about NCLB and all those nasty tests that the perpetually pre-prandial Kozol hates is that we now have lots of school and district level disaggregated data on student achievement. And, the data does not support Kozol's crackpot ruminations.
NCLB hasn't done damage, vicious or otherwise, to schools. NAEP data shows that NCLB hasn't had much of an effect at all, good or bad, on student achievement at the macro level. Kozol can decry "teaching to the test" and "narrowing the curriculum" all he wants, but that doesn't change the fact that these questionable practices don't seem to be having any more of an adverse effect on student achievement than the equally questionable teaching practices that preceded them. The only difference being that Kozol likes the latter and hates the former.
The poisonous essence of this law lies in the mania of obsessive testing it has forced upon our nation's schools and, in the case of underfunded, overcrowded inner-city schools, the miserable drill-and-kill curriculum of robotic "teaching to the test" it has imposed on teachers, the best of whom are fleeing from these schools because they know that this debased curriculum would ever have been tolerated in the good suburban schools that they, themselves, attended.
Where to start?
In Kozol-speak, one extra test a year means "mania of obsessive testing."
Some schools may have responded to NCLB by "teaching to the test," but the choice was theirs. I can't lay my finger on a single provision of NCLB which forces such a regime on any state, district, or school. But, then again, bad-decision making has been a hallmark of public schools since well before NCLB was enacted. In fact, many would say that this bad decision making was the "root cause," if you will, of the accountability provisions of NCLB.
"Drill and kill" is education's "sick and tired." Two words that must always go together to create a handy false dilemma. Let me suggest that if your drilling is resulting in killing, you don't know how to drill or teach properly. Same goes for "robotic" teaching. If an actor can perform from a script in a lively and engaging manner, then so should a teacher be able to perform from a similar script.
And, as far as suburban schools tolerating a particular "debased curriculum," all I know is that based on the data, at-risk kids are fairing just as poorly in suburban schools as they are in "underfunded, overcrowded inner-city schools." The debasing is in the eye of the beholder and I think Kozol's eye has been addled by his partial food strike.
It goes on and on like this. This post could set a record for most factually-challenged education post. Ever.
P.S. Be sure not to miss the obsequious edu-blogger, Jim Horn, sucking up at the foot of the hungry master in the comments. "Thank you for your eloquent commitment to what's right for so many years ... A trusted lieutenant, should you need one. Jim Horn" What a jackass.