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Jeb's raising smarter sheeple future voters in FL

No Child Left Behind is one kick-ass Bush plan. It is designed for force educators to teach to the test instead of teaching fundamentals to young people. The horrorshow consequence of NCLB, since it draws a test-score line in the sand, is that schools that fail have two choices:

* ask for increased funding and programs to help the kids learn and reach grade performance

* lower the academic bar so you can pass the Chimpy NCLB standard.

Which one do you think schools (and taxpayers) will pick? In Florida, the choice is clear. They want to churn out even more sheeple that learn just enough to pass a test and nothing more. Move those goal posts, Jebbie. (Palm Beach Post):

After 77 percent of Florida schools failed last year under the state’s version of the federal No Child Left Behind law, Education Commissioner John Winn said Tuesday he’s considering lowering student achievement standards under that law. The changes would alter standards Florida set for itself under the federal law, something Gov. Jeb Bush and Winn said they wouldn’t do just a few months ago.

Changes are needed because Florida has “such a high number of schools not making” adequate yearly progress, Winn said at a state Board of Education meeting in Miami. He said he wants Florida’s plan changed before this year’s calculation of adequate yearly progress.

Winn said he and Bush recently went to Washington and spoke with federal Education Secretary Margaret Spellings about changing Florida’s requirements. A formal request is due by April 1. Under the No Child law, states must create standards-based tests, test students with them annually and 100 percent of students must be passing the tests by 2014. But each state sets interim benchmarks, called adequate yearly progress, for meeting this long-term goal.

In Florida, schools are labeled as making adequate yearly progress if enough students pass the math and reading FCAT, including students with disabilities and children who are learning English. Every one of eight groups that are measured at a school must meet the threshold.

The way Florida’s plan is written, one of these subgroups can be just 30 students, who may make up a tiny fraction of a school. One of the things the state wants to adjust is the size of these subgroups, Winn said. The state superintendents’ association also has proposed counting only subgroups that make up at least 15 percent of a school’s population. In Palm Beach County, the only reason some schools didn’t make adequate progress last year was because of one group.

Winn also wants to lower requirements this year that 48 percent of each subgroup pass the reading and 53 percent must pass the math test, which are significant increases over last year when so many schools failed.

“We talked about different approaches in the annual increases for our proficiency goals going up,” Winn said of his conversation with Spellings. The state superintendents’ association proposed using last year’s benchmarks for another year.

It should be noted that this is wonderful news for Neil Bush‘s enterprise, Ignite Incorporated, which profits handsomely under NCLB (see an earlier Blend post on this), Ignite’s a software company that helps students prepare to take comprehensive tests required under the act. Neil can rake even more dough by pimping his software to school systems since there are so many students wholly unprepared to succeed on their own. Ignite has charged 30 dollars-per-year-per-student for its software (netting 60 million dollars).

The obvious tragedy in all of this is that the children are the big losers, because the adults are playing political football with their education. No one is really asking the question why did 77% of the schools still fail, given their mandate to teach to the test. That level of failure suggest Florida’s schools are broken and they need to get back to fundamentals of considering class size, teacher qualifications and a whole host of other basic things — and that costs money. It’s clear that those issues are now going to be swept under the rug by educators that are running scared of school failure rates — instead of looking at how to improve Johnny and Jane’s ability to read, write and add.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding