Let's see what a year in the trenches has taught Dan.
Bloomberg is proposing retaining eighth graders who fail one of the state tests or a core class. Brown thinks he knows the reason why these kids are failing:
Students come to school with low academic skills for a variety of reasons. In New York, many are faultless victims of the ever-present crush of poverty and its far-reaching tentacles. The school system’s obsession with high-stakes testing— a game struggling students are poorly equipped to play— exacerbates their frustration. Their self-esteem levels are rock bottom and oppositional behavior often takes root. Can you blame them?
Underlying this argument, which is masterfully hidden by Brown's use of the passive voice, is the premise: New York City schools don't know how to educate kids who come to school with low academic skills. Ultimately that is the root problem. Fixing poverty or eliminating NCLB, as Brown implies, won't fix that condition.
Poverty correlates with low academic skills, but no one has been able to prove that poverty causes low academic skills. And, No one has been able to show, outside of Kozol's and Rothstein's overactive imaginations, that eliminating poverty will improve these low academic skills.
Students who aren't learning in school receive a constant stream of negative feedback on a daily basis telling them that they are failures. Failing a NCLB test is just one drop in this tidal wave of negative feedback. Blaming NCLB for this condition is a large, disingenuous stretch.
Blindly pushing struggling students forward (social promotion) is not the answer, but neither is holding them back for another lap around a failed track. Retaining low-achieving students does not improve their academic future; in fact it often does quite the opposite.
The struggling student conundrum can’t be solved with false choices like the ones offered in the social promotion political debate, but with serious assessments of the short-term and long-term needs of students.
Oddly enough, Brown is complaining about false choices while giving us his own false choices. Why does moving a student to the next grade have to be done "blindly" and why does retaining a student have to be for "another lap around a failed track." These are false choice too.
Brown correctly identifies that these kids need remediation, but the underlying question is how best to deliver that needed remediation (short term solution) and how to prevent it from happening in the future (long term solution). Unfortunately, Brown flubs both answers, as you'll soon see.
The short-term answer for failing students is a major investment in remediation and individualized support. Clearly, the traditional classroom set-up isn’t working for these students.
Brown's short term solution relies on magic, specifically the magic of the "major investment" platitude. According to School Matters, New York City was spending $15,455 per student back in 2005. Dan, that is a major investment already. Spending even more, didn't help Kansas City, and it isn't going to help NYC either.
Disappointingly, Brown's long term solution also relies on the same magic.
Many of Bloomberg and Klein’s school reforms are dynamic and exciting, but the ones that they have not yet made are essential. A more substantial up-front investment in supporting all students will pay manifold dividends.
No doubt because it's worked so well in the past.
At least Brown gives us an idea how he'd spend the money this time: on hackneyed bromides naturally.
- preschool -- Brought to you by the same clowns running every other grade.
- reduced class size -- Another expensive bromide with dubious results.
- more skills tutoring -- Brought to you by the same people who didn't know how to do correctly it the first time around.
- more counseling -- In what? Coping with failure?
- supervisors more concerned with the student's real needs, not test scores -- Except that the the student's real needs are learning all the fundamental skills being measured by the test scores.
Brown, naturally, blames NCLB for denying these things to students. That's like blaming the thermometer for cold weather and thinking that breaking the thermometer will bring warmer weather.
Brown channels Marx for his big conclusion:
Bloomberg is an expert of the business sphere, but bottom-line-driven business models are an ill fit for the education of young human beings. Focusing on holding struggling students back rather than intensively attending to their academic needs is tantamount to blaming the victims. Many socially promoted students have unwittingly suffered the collateral damage of suffocating poverty at home and a depersonalized, test-obsessed regime at school. It’s time they had some doors opened for them, not slammed in their faces.
Too bad half-baked Marxism and circular reason haven't quite had the successful track record that Brown is hoping for.
If these arguments are any indication of the writing in his Brown's book, my advice to you is not to waste your money.