Letter to the editor

Reforms to NCLB are autocratic

Elena Kadvany’s Oct. 3 letter (“Reforms to No Child Left Behind are positive”) contained a reasonable critique of the failed No Child Left Behind policy. Calling standardized test scores “antiquated” and “very harmful,” however, was too radical, given the continuing success of AP courses and the undeniable value of objective testing in math and science courses.

In the scheme of things, this might be a mere quibble. Hardly anyone would call the current policy a success and most would say it privileges testing too much.

What is curiously missing is any analysis of what change she hopes the Obama administration will pursue by conditioning waivers on the adoption of “new academic standards.”

Kadvany is hardly to be blamed for not analyzing the text of the new waiver policy because there’s no text to analyze.

The Washington Post reported that waivers will be subject to the “final decision” of one unelected man, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.

The waiver application, contained in a Word document titled “ESEA Flexibility Request,” is hopelessly vague, resulting in a diaspora of contradictory analysis from confused journalists. In the end, without any democratic accountability or objectively defined requirements, any state will be at the mercy of whether or not it can effectively lobby the favor of Czar Duncan.

What is to prevent a second-coming of Obamacare waivers, which were finally eliminated after they inequitably proliferated in Rep. Nancy Pelosi’s (D-CA) district?

We, the people, are left to guess as to Duncan’s intentions. Monty Neill, working for a non-profit campaigning against test proliferation, warns that the waivers will bring more of the testing Kadvany opposes.

The waivers “are demanding more, not less, testing.” They demand states use “test results to judge teachers and principals.” States are required to create or buy new tests to hold students to “college- and career-ready standards,” which “are likely to resemble current tests — but be harder to pass.”

It is naïve to think national standards for education could veer from a test-centric approach. After all, the rule of 64 million students by one man and his elite advisers will always require the reduction of cognitive diversity to abstract statistics.

Now, Neill’s analysis might be off, but there is ultimately no way to tell in advance. Even Charlie Barone of Democrats for Education Reform admits, “the proof will be in who makes it, and who doesn’t.”

Since NCLB is a proven loser, and every state is considering a waiver application, a single unelected man now holds the power to veto the education plans of all 50 states until they are changed to meet his will, however arbitrary. To quote a voice of my generation, “No one man should have all that power.”

C. Caleb Jewett

Graduate student, interactive media