August 7, 2007

Chairman Miller Remarks on the Future of the No Child Left Behind Education Law

Last week Congressman George Miller, chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee, gave a speech to the National Press Club on the future of the No Child Left Behind law.

Supposedly, it was an important speech because Miller fancies himself as an important guy whose agenda includes education. Let's see if he knows what he knows what he's talking about.

Over 40 years ago, President John F. Kennedy had a vision of sending a man to the moon and bringing him home again.

That vision fueled a massive investment by this nation in all levels of education – an investment that drove nearly four decades of discovery, innovation and economic growth, allowing America to have the world’s strongest economy and lead the community of nations for generations.

Sadly, this investment fell off over the years.

There we go. It only took three paragraphs for Miller to get his facts wrong. "Investment" in education has not fallen off over the years. If anything, it's grown dramatically.

And, the Fed's portion of that "investment" has pretty much remained constant at about 10%.

I suppose Miller never heard of this thing called the Internet where anyone can find out that he's( a) lying to us, (b) doesn't know what he's talking about or (c) both. My money's on (c).

(BTW I'm giving him a pass on "an investment that drove nearly four decades of discovery, innovation and economic growth" since we can't disprove the causation that Miller's suggesting, though the objective measures of improvement implicitly reject the theory that all this money thrown into education has gained anything.)

With the report A Nation at Risk, America woke up and saw an education system that no longer served all its children and was failing our future.

There is little dispute that our public education system continues to "fail[] our future;" but, I take issue with the statement that our "education system ... no longer served all its children." This implies that at one time our education did serve the needs of "all its children." It never did. There never was a golden age of public education in this country (or an other). The lofty goal of public education have never been realized. Ever. Anywhere.

Then he gives us a couple of paragraphs of blustery flapdoodle about the motives behind NCLB, what lawmakers thought it could accomplish, and the supposed gains we've made since the law was enacted. Those gains are based on shaky standards and are mostly illusory at this point. But when Miller says:

The law is shining a bright light on the achievement gaps among different groups of students in the U.S. and among the states. Now – for the first time – we know exactly which students, and which groups of students, are not learning and performing at grade level. This information makes it impossible for us to ignore those students who are not succeeding.

And finally, the law has provoked an energetic national debate about our nation’s system of public education and the need for the next generation of investment in our schools, students, principals and teachers. That is a good thing.

I find it hard to disagree. If NCLB has achieved anything it certainly has made the many failings of our education system more transparent and has shown us "exactly which students, and which groups of students, are not learning and performing at grade level." And, as this embarrassing data has come to light, it has certainly sparked debate since the public now knows that those in charge of providing a quality education to our children have been failing miserably at the task. Unfortunately, the debate has largely been about the opponents of NCLB trying to do away with or water down NCLB so this data could be more easily suppressed rather than improving education outcomes under NCLB. Pity that.

Even more unfortunately Miller appears to be succumbing to this mentality. He spends the rest of the speech trying to come off as a champion for NCLB will systematically offering revisions that would undermine the efficacy of NCLB.

We'll cover Miller's proposals in part II.


Anonymous said...

There’s a (relatively) new book, "How Computer Games Help Children Learn" that talks about the problems of No Child Left Behind--and what we might do instead about education. The book describes about how No Child Left Behind is taking our schools in the exact opposite direction from where they need to go in the age of computer technology and global capitalism—and how the new technologies of computer and video games can help get schools (and students!) where they need to go. From the introduction:

“Young people in the United States today are being prepared—in school and at home—for standardized jobs in a world that will, very soon, punish those who can’t innovate. Our government and our schools have made a noble effort to leave no child behind: to ensure, through standardized testing, that all children make adequate yearly progress in basic reading and math skills. But we can’t “skill and drill” our way to innovation. Standardized testing produces standardized skills.... But... here’s the good news: The very same technologies that are making it possible to outsource commodity jobs make it possible for students of all ages to prepare for innovative work.... and this book is about how we can use computer and video games to do just that....”

If you’re interested in the future of schooling, the book might be worth a look....

KDeRosa said...

I wonder how the author gets around the inconvenient fact that it takes lots of "skill and drill" to become proficient at playing video games? But, I suspect the author has probably never become proficient at playing a video game.

Anonymous said...

1. champion for NCLB while(sp?) systematically offering revisions that would undermine

2. I suspect the author has probably never become proficient at playing a video game.

What does that have to do with the author's credentials on the faculty of a prestigious and influential school of education? Grow up. Stop taking cheap shots. Learn to evaluate scholarship on its merits, like:

"In this paper I argue that current work in sociolinguistics, cognitive science, and literacy studies, work not directly involved with assessment, suggests a more complicated view of assessment and its ties with learning and equity. This view challenges the current testing and accountability agenda, but can also redefine more broadly how we have to think about learning, assessment, and equity in schools. I develop this view around one key notion, namely opportunity to learn."


Anonymous said...

Info on the book's author (rather than the author of the book's foreward) is here.

Also see Video Games and the Future of Learning.

For the record, I have no issue with kids playing Sim City or Oregon Trail. My first priority, however, would be developing the literacy and numeracy skills appropriate for casting a vote to select the Commander in Chief of a global superpower.

KDeRosa said...

Gotta love that impenetrable prose: the hallmark of scholars in fields that don't produce any useful scholarship.

Eric, I'm with you on the videogame issue.

anayeli said...

Awarded a half million dollar grant to write a book based on qualitative research.