America famously suffers from short-term memory loss, and the image of the idiot cowboy who drove this country (and several others) into a ditch is fading fast. But we can't afford the luxury of forgetting history this time.The first to discover that teachers make perfect scapegoats was George W. Bush. When he ran for president for the first time twelve years ago, Bush had a problem. He wanted lower taxes to be his rallying cry, but while taxes in Texas, the state where he was governor, were indeed low, the schools in Texas were notoriously bad.The numbers are no better today: Texas ranks 47th in the county in literacy, 49th in verbal SAT scores and 46th in math scores. To blind the public to the evidence of what low taxes do, Bush produced evidence of a miracle: When it comes to education money is not what matters, he declared; what matters is holding teachers accountable. In Houston, Bush told voters, the superintendent of schools held teachers accountable, and as a result Houston saw a dramatic improvement in school quality, particularly when measured by high school graduation rates. So convincing was the miracle that as soon as he took office Congress agreed to pass the Bush tax cuts and the No Child Left Behind law.Eight years later the “Texas miracle” was exposed. It turned out that the numbers had been cooked: Instead of the 1.5% drop-out rate that Houston had reported, the actual rate was somewhere between 25 and 50 percent. And in order to boost test results children who were considered weak in even just one subject were preventedfrom entering the 10th grade, the year in which the tests were administered. But by then the truth no longer mattered because the ideas that taxes are not needed to run a democratic government and that teachers, not budgets, are responsible for the failure of schools had invaded the body politic. [emphasis mine]
Certainly Bush's unnecessary war and the hundreds of thousands dead, including the very best of this nation's men and women, is the most despicable part of his horrid legacy. His sickening indifference to the victims of Katrina is also a major blight on his record, as is his inevitably catastrophic apathy toward the burning of our planet. And, of course, there's his role in creating a nearly unprecedented economic Armageddon.
But this - the destruction of the American education system - is a huge part of the trail of destruction George W. Bush wrought; in many ways, it's the most pernicious. Everyone with half a brain in their head acknowledges that Iraq was a mistake and Katrina was a failure of leadership. And there is at least a real debate between the two parties about climate change and the cause of our economic woes.
But far, far too many folks on the ostensible "left" have bought into the premises of No Child Left Behind. Obama and Duncan are pushing "accountability systems" that will only serve to solidify the harmful testing regime already in place. Punitive measures pervade Cuomo's plans. Emanuel's rhetoric and actions are guided by the idea that there are hordes of "bad" teachers that need to be routed out of our schools.
There is no real difference between the Christies and the Cuomos on this stuff. Arne Duncan is, for all intents and purposes, pushing the same snake oil as Rick Scott. You would think these Democrats would be running away from anything with the taint of W on it; instead, they actively embrace both Bush's rhetoric and his policicies. These Dems don't think NCLB is wrong; it just needs to be "fixed."
I see only one politician of any stature standing up to this nonsense, and that's Gov. Jerry Brown; if I'm wrong, add others below. I have a hard enough time understanding this:
But why a Democrat would pattern himself after the worst president of my lifetime is something I will never understand.
ADDING: Read the entire article; it has another great takedown of that research that Obama cited in the SOTU about students of "great" teachers making more money:
But the statistically insignificant results for 30 year olds may have been inconvenient for the authors for another reason. An increase of $128 a year is small by any standard, so the authors resorted to estimating a lifetime increase in earnings due to this increase. To do that they assumed that the percentage increase in income, 0.9 of one percent, which they estimated for age 28, holds for each year of a person’s working life. And perhaps this is why the authors chose to ignore the results for the 30 year olds. All that their findings permit them to claim truthfully is that an excellent teacher increases average annual income by $128 at age 28, and that this effect disappears at age 30. But then there would have been nothing to report.Ouch.