A twisted definition of ‘success’

We in Moore County just received news that only THREE of our 22 county schools achieved Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) status under the federal No Child Left Behind Law.

… “Every year, I look at the [AYP] results and what’s going on in the classroom,” [county schools superintendent Susan Purser] said. “When I get the opportunity of pairing those two together, I would say that we are on the right path.”

Purser said that schools maintained their test scores this year, despite several variables that could have contributed to poorer results.

“Our teachers are honoring our students,” she said. “Given the introduction of additional instructional strategies and the reduction in resources [from budget cuts], I applaud our teachers in their ability to sustain success.”

School system officials point to a sharp increase in North Carolina’s target goals for student proficiency as the main reason most schools did not make AYP this year.

Last year, 12 out of 22 schools made their AYP goals.

“We are moving rapidly toward 2014, so consequently, the watermarks keep moving up,” Purser said.

Since NCLB went into effect in 2001, the N.C. Department of Public Instruction has raised the state’s increments of proficiency every three years in steps toward meeting the target goal of having 100 percent of students in public school performing at grade level by 2014.

Last year, the proficiency benchmark for reading was 43.2 percent of students performing at or above grade level and 77.2 percent in math. This year, that benchmark was raised to 71.6 percent for reading and 88.6 percent in math.

Purser said she and her staff use AYP data on subgroups to assess growth, but they do not see the “yes” or “no” distinction of AYP as an effective measure of a school’s academic progress. ..’

So — ten of the county’s 22 schools could not get 43 percent of their students to read at grade level, and our superintendent calls that SUCCESS ????    Purser and her aides cite the state and federal government’s raising of the AYP benchmark standards as an excuse for fewer schools achieving adequately yearly progress status this year.  SO — it’s BAD to raise standards, to expect more, from our students each year?  Seriously?

Government — especially the public school bureaucracy — is one of the few places where your performance standards can decline and you can still get away with calling yourself a success.  People in the private sector get fired, demoted, or retrained when their performance standards decline.  But Purser and other education bureaucrats get new contracts, bonuses, and pay raises.

We can’t blame Purser, or classroom teachers,  totally for this development.  Bringing Purser in to replace her predecessor Pat Russo was kind of like switching out captains AFTER the Titanic hit the iceberg.  The ship — in this case, the public schools — are going to sink no matter who is in the captain’s chair.

Many of our nation’s greatest thinkers and leaders got their educations in one-room classrooms in the absence of state and federal departments of education.  The decline in the quality of public education is inversely proportional to the increase of government meddling in the schools.  The more regulations get passed, the more money that gets spent, the more the standards fall.

Tests like those which produce the AYP results are more about money than they are about measuring student success.  For the education bureaucrats, it is CRUCIAL that the kids do well on these tests.  Success on those tests = more tax money dumped into the local school board’s treasury.  Many teachers are ORDERED to spend weeks, prior to the testing period, leading cram sessions to prepare their students for the test.  Public education has completely evolved into one big campaign to shake loose the most tax money possible.  The kids are merely means to achieving that end.

The teacher unions and the education bureaucrats dismiss AYP standards as a product of “that idiot Bush.”  [Some folks are apparently not up on their contemporary history.  If they were, they would know that the late, often-inebriated Senator Ted Kennedy (D-Mass) wrote the law and ushered it through Congress during the George W. Bush administration.]

As an instructor at the community college level, I see firsthand the end products of the K-12 public school system.  I have had students, fresh out of high school and bearing a diploma, struggle with reading my course’s textbook.  I have also seen written work submitted by my college students which is not all that different in quality from what my friends’ nine-year-old produces in school.

We’ve got a mess on our hands.  The definition of insanity is doing the same WRONG thing over and over again, expecting a different result each time.  We keep dumping tons of money on the education bureaucracy, which neglects the 3R’s while spoon-feeding our kids a lot of politically-correct nonsense, and using them as props in their effort to shake loose more of our tax dollars.

We don’t need any more tax increases or school bond issues. We, as a state and a nation, need to dramatically retool our public schools so future generations in this country can compete with those in India, China, and elsewhere.  But THAT is going to require some real courage in Raleigh and Washington.