August 8, 2007

Miller's Speech Continued

Let's take a look at the second part of Miller's speech: the part where he gives us his learned suggestions for improving NCLB.

Throughout our schools and communities, the American people have a very strong sense that the No Child Left Behind Act is not fair. That it is not flexible. And that it is not funded.

And they are not wrong.


We want a bill that is fair and flexible – that maintains the integrity of the law through accountability while responding to the legitimate concerns that have been raised.

What a lame rhetorical device that "the American people have a very strong sense" line is. Notice how it allows Miller to weasel out of giving us his opinion and taking a strong position. Political hackery at its finest.

Is NCLB not fair? NCLB permits states to create their own assessment devices, their own standards, their own passing cut scores, and their own definition of AYP. To the extent that the results aren't fair, much of the blame can be laid at the feet of the states.

Is it not flexible? Hello, safe harbor provisions. And, do we really want schools to have the flexibility to excuse the performance of the difficult to educate? That's why NCLB exists in the first place. Schools are all too willing to excuse performance and create phony "disabilities" to excuse their inability to educate.

Is it not funded? The only additional requirement NCLB added was the assessment provisions. Those are fully funded and then some. the predecessor to the NCLB already doled out plenty of free funding to schools. That funding continued. The only difference was that schools would have to achieve demonstrable results under NCLB. The chickens have come home to roost.

Let's see what Miller has to say.

I have always said that I am proud to be one of the original coauthors of the No Child Left Behind Act. But what I really want is to be the proud coauthor of a law that works.

To that end, for the last five years I have traveled this country listening to teachers, administrators, students, parents, governors and many others about how the law can be improved. I have listened carefully, as have my colleagues. We have heard an emerging consensus about needed changes.

An emerging consensus? There used to be an "emerging consensus" that the earth was flat, that bleeding was an appropriate medical treatment, and that the sun revolved around the earth. In each of those instances, the "emerging consensus" proved to be wrong because the "experts"doing the consenting relied upon their uninformed opinion. rather than on solid science.

Think global warming. There is "consensus" in the absence of hard science. The "consensus" is all but worthless, especially when you consider that the "science" underlying that "consensus" can't accurately predict the weather next week, let alone a century from now.

Same deal with education. Those doing the consenting have never reliably educated the difficult to educate children NCLB is concerned with, have never reliably induced learning in these children, and have no "science" informing their opinion. Plus, they have a vested interest in avoiding the requirements imposed by NCLB since they are the ones under its yoke.

Miller is, of course, pandering to the special interest groups behind this "emerging consensus" pure and simple.

My vision for this next bill is to take America’s education policy in a new direction by doing six key things:

  • Provide much-needed fairness and flexibility.
  • Encourage a rich and challenging learning environment and promote best practices and innovation taking place in schools throughout the country.
  • Support teachers and principals.
  • Continue to hold schools accountable for students’ progress.
  • Join the effort to improve America’s high schools.
  • Invest in our schools.

Exactly the sort of vague non-specific recommendations that have failed to achieve results in the past. We'll cover each point in the next post.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Miller: "America needs and must have an education law that insists on ..." Any Californians out there who can help me on this one? There was once a sheriff and the district attorney in California who were asked to read the Constitution of the United States, but they were in Kern County, far from Rep Miller's district. Last time I checked, education was a state responsibility and the federal role would be at most to ensure effective use of federal funds and equal protection for students in schools governed by the states. Isn't this addressed in the California civics standards? Is reading the constitution at all common before Californians become eligible to vote?