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"Fatal flaws" in NCLB Legislation

Posted By: Dick Schutz on December 2, 2005
This is an illuminating analysis. But it omits a few fundamental points and skates over a few others.

The Omissions
The law proclaims and mandates the “New Science of Reading,” defining it in terms of five reified unbounded abstractions: Phonemic Awareness, Phonics, Comprehension, Vocabulary, and Fluency. Without guidance regarding how to put the abstractions together “on the ground.” The “science” is empty and teachers get stuck with working out both the science and the technology of instruction.

The law mandates the use of “programs based on scientific based research.” This double “based” mandate is baseless. I won’t belabor the point. For proof of the contention look at the shelves of the “What Works Clearinghouse”

The Clearinghouse was established by the Government in 2002. To date it includes three fragmentary products for teaching middle-school math. Products pertinent to early reading instruction were scheduled to be reported in “Fall 2004.”

The Skating
The analysis rightfully notes that NCLB follows in the tradition of “Standards” legislation, but it starts the clock at the IASA in the Clinton administration. IASA was a follow-on to the Goals 2000 of the Bush-1 administration. Of course, the year 2000 came and went with the goals totally left unachieved, but the “standards” were left in place. These standards represent consensus rhetoric regarding “content.” They are not grounded in performance. Performance is measured by “standardized tests” which are loosely coupled to the “content” That the same tests fit the “standards” of all states indicates that the clock is striking 13.

Deceptive terminology also undergirds the tests used to assess “annual yearly progress.” The rest results are commonly reported in terms of levels of proficiency with phrases such as “basic proficiency” and “advanced proficiency.” These designations do not reference student’s expertise. They are simply segments of the normalized distribution of the scores on sets of test items. Differences in how the scaling is performed result in the confusing and contradictory information the profession and the public receives. Again I won’t belabor the point, other than to note that reputable psychometricians have documented that it is statistically impossible for any state to achieve the aspirations of the legislation by 2014.

Bottom Line
Resolution of the political and economic issues wick still leave the “fatal flows” noted above as impediments in attaining the aspirations of NCLB.

Dick Schutz

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 "Fatal flaws" in NCLB Legislation by Dick Schutz on December 2, 2005
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