“NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND” LEAVES CHILDREN BEHIND
Hal Pepinsky, firstname.lastname@example.org, “peacemaking” at pepinsky.blogspot.com
July 10, 2015
Whatever emerges from the current US Congressional and Executive debate over how to renew the 2001 No Child Left Behind Act, the federal government will continue to collect nationally standardized test results on schoolchildren from the age of 8 on, and states and school districts will be given power to use those results to hold back students, to set pay or fire teachers, and most dramatically, to close both public and private schools. (Interestingly, home schooling is never mentioned.) Like measures of “crime” and “criminality,” National grade-by-grade standardized test results have become embedded politically as the index of whether children are failing, succeeding in learning what everyone needs to know, in the order in which every student needs to learn it.
The very existence of standardized scores implies their political validity for use in determining relative success and failure in learning and teaching. If it were granted that a student who scored in a low percentile might still be learning in equally significant ways and in different progressions, there would be no point in going to the expense of paying experts to construct and administer the tests and standardize the results. If results are socially and politically valid indicators, there must be a percentage of test-takers whose results are unacceptable. They, their teachers or their schools have failed. It is inevitable that odds of success and excellence will favor those who group in places and families most highly represented among the learned test-makers—the substance and hierarchy of the test questions closer to the learning experience of children in their social milieu. Combine this social and political bias as to what should be known when and what demonstrates learning with the privatization of tax-funded schooling, and “no child left behind” becomes validation of the socio-economic status quo—that their inferiors really deserve to be left behind. Our ignorance of the many things “they” know that “we” learn becomes all the more invincible, more firmly embedding de facto segregation in US schooling, all the way through higher education where the science of “curving” grades has greatly evolved since I started there.
In my last blog post, “beyond passing judgment” (July 7), I criticized the bias implicit in degrading the status of entire persons based on a single act. Deciding students, teachers and schools fail when they don’t bring test scores up above a certain percentage of other test-takers is a case in point. Love and peace, ha