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Maps and Figures

"Hitler or Coulter?" Quiz
Map1 - Teen Pregnancy
Map2 - Incarceration
Map3 - Homicide Rates
Map4 - Drop-out Rates
Map5 - Bankruptcy Rates
Map6 - Driving Distances
Map7 - Energy Use
Map8 - Gonorrhea!
Map9 - Tax Burden
Map10 - State GDP
Map11 - DHS funding
Map12 - Adult Illiteracy.
Map13 - Abortion Bans:
Map14 - ER Quality
Map15 - Hospital Quality
Map16 - Coal Burners
Map 17 - Infant Mortality
Map 18 - Toxic Waste
Map 19 - Obesity
Map 20 - Poverty
Map 21 - Occupational safety
Map 22 - Traffic deaths
Map 23 - Divorce
Figure 1 - Wages vs Right to work
Figure 2 - Unemployment vs Right to work
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Thursday, March 15, 2007

NCLB is a joke
Even the Republicans can no longer defend No Child Left Behind with a straight face.

More than 50 GOP members of the House and Senate -- including the House's second-ranking Republican -- will introduce legislation today that could severely undercut President Bush's signature domestic achievement, the No Child Left Behind Act, by allowing states to opt out of its testing mandates.

They're probably sick of every single teacher in their state sending them letters calling it a cynical political ploy that detracts from real education. Scans two more paragraphs ... yep.

Burson Snyder, a spokesman for Blunt, said that after several meetings with school administrators and teachers in southwest Missouri, the House Republican leader turned against the measure he helped pass. Blunt was convinced that the burdens and red tape of the No Child Left Behind Act are unacceptably onerous, Snyder said.

Some Republicans said yesterday that a backlash against the law was inevitable. Many voters in affluent suburban and exurban districts -- GOP strongholds -- think their schools have been adversely affected by the law. Once-innovative public schools have increasingly become captive to federal testing mandates, jettisoning education programs not covered by those tests, siphoning funds from programs for the talented and gifted, and discouraging creativity, critics say.


"So many people are frustrated with the shackles of No Child Left Behind," DeMint said. "I don't think anyone argues with measuring what we're doing, but the fact is, even the education community . . . sees us just testing, testing, testing, and reshaping the curriculum so we look good."

That's hitting it right on the head. No Child Left Behind is a cynical ploy.


Monday, December 11, 2006

HBO is truth
The season finale of HBO's The Wire was last night, and if there is a better indictment of the scam of No Child Left Behind, I haven't seen it.

This season follows a former cop, Prezboluski, as he starts as a middle school teacher in inner city Baltimore. He struggles as a new teacher, and like many new teachers is highly idealistic and tries to do his best for the kids. His main obstacle? The obsession with standardized testing brought on by No Child Left Behind.

Now, standardized testing would be a good tool, but the problem is that it is implemented as a solution in itself, with the idea that just introducing standards will somehow magically fix all the other problem the kids face. These problems, wonderfully demonstrated over the season include absent parents, crappy parents, unstable homes, dangerous neighborhoods, interactions with criminals, and the seductive draw of easy money on the corners selling drugs. The Republican solution? Testing, testing, testing.

Now, I've attacked this method many times as one of the most cynical uses of children for political gain ever invented. Basically, the testing is implemented, and the kids score horribly. The schools aren't prepared for the tests, the kids are unprepared for all the reasons above, and the inevitable result is that the politicians' claims are confirmed. The scores come back and the politicians can point them out as the failures of whatever administration came before them.

The next year of course, the schools teach to the tests, the tests are made easier, and the scoring is adjusted to make the kids appear to have performed better. Then the same politicians can point to the statistics and claim their standardized testing has magically improved the schools, when in reality they've pulled a clever scam at the cost of addressing the real failings in public schools, and the situations that are creating poor performance.

So, back to The Wire, the results have come back after a semester of Mr. Prezbo's teaching, and this interchange is telling:

Mr. Prezboluski: How in the hell did we kick up percentages in math and reading both?
Veteran Teacher: You believe the numbers?

Mr. Prezboluski: 38% proficient, 8% advanced, what?

Veteran Teacher: Proficient means they're at least two grades below their level. Advanced can mean they're at grade level, or a year below. They score them like that and say we're making progress.

The real improvement came with Prezbo making efforts to make a personal difference in the kids lives, helping them one on one, and from another class (demonized by statistics-obsessed administrators) that took the most disruptive kids and tried to prevent school-wide poor performance by segregating them and working on improving their socialization.

I love this show and when each season ends I go into withdrawal until the next great and truthful HBO series starts up. But one thing is clear, when you tell the truth, in fiction or otherwise, it's damning to Republicans and their stupid policies.

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