The recent decision by the Indiana legislature to scrap the current standardized test, called “ISTEP”, and replace it with something new comes as no surprise to anyone in the education game. We all expected it. The news also comes without much excitement. We fully expect the next test to be much like the one it will replace, except that the change will no doubt come at the expense of many millions of taxpayer dollars. What is not likely to change is the fact that, whatever form the new test takes, it will still be a one-size-fits-all test. It will still come with a one-size-fits-all accountability system. It will still rank (pit) one school system against another. And it will still likely serve to do nothing to help close the socio-economic achievement gap.
This being an election year, and I being one who likes to view the world in analogies, I thought I would play Grand Poobah and poke a little fun at the well-intentioned disaster known as No Child Left Behind, or NCLB. They say the road to hell is paved with good intentions. When I look down that road, I see NCLB in yellow stripes, right down the center lane.
As president, my money saving stroke of genius won’t even require us to change the acronym on our official letterhead, which will still read “NCLB,” but will stand for No Citizen Left Behind. What follows is a thumbnail version of my plan.
No Citizen Left Behind is meant to guarantee that EVERY citizen in these United States will excel in their chosen field of endeavor. States will be held accountable to see that every citizen has a high paying and upwardly mobile career. Furthermore, to ensure the proper growth for each citizen, the state must see to it that, each year, every citizen keeps their job, gets a raise and, preferably, a nice promotion. To hold states accountable, the work of all citizens will be analyzed and they will be divided into one of three categories each year, low growth, typical growth, and high growth. The high growth group will consist of the 33% of the state’s citizenry that got the biggest raises and/or achieved the most impressive promotions. The typical growth group will consist of the 33% of the citizens that achieved raises or promotions that did not make it into the top 33%. The low growth group will consist of the citizens that achieved the smallest raises, least important promotions or, God forbid, somehow lost their jobs or fell on hard times. Towns and neighborhoods that have the most citizens in the high growth category will be given a letter grade of an A and, of course, they will receive the most federal money the following year as a reward for being model communities. They will also be provided with “welcome to town” signs with their letter grade proudly embossed in gold lettering. The towns and neighborhoods that end up in the typical growth category will recieve a letter grade of a B or C and basically receive the same amount of government funding as they did the year before, but certainly no more. Towns and neighborhoods that are labeled as low growth will be graded with a D or F and, logically, they will receive less money the following year, until such time as they can prove they have gotten their act together. Towns and neighborhoods that continually end up with the low growth label may be removed from the control of the state and taken over by the federal government.
You may be concerned that some neighborhoods and towns may be at an inherant disadvantage compared with others. Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. If you live in a neighborhood that ends up labeled low growth, you can get help from the government to move to a high growth neighborhood. Problem solved!
Now I ask you, doesn’t that sound crazy?
Well, dear citizen, that is essentially the game your schools in Indiana have been forced to play.
Think about it.