Thursday, February 13, 2003


A Nebraska reader who self-describes as "involved in public education" writes:

"I am concerned by the top-down education which we are experiencing. Each school is required to adapt their curriculum to the State expectations, and those come from the Federal level. So much for local control.

"The schools have had to do assessment tests and now curriculum is run by teaching to the tests. No matter that there is no time for Kindergartners to learn music, etc. The teacher is busy teaching to the test.

"I am concerned about the increasing Federal control and the increasing amounts of time and paperwork for teachers to do, instead of their supposed job of teaching children. No public school in the U.S. is immune to these directives. Currently private and home schools are immune but constant vigilance is imperative for them."

Reader, you are right on. Sad, but true!

Nebraska is already in the confusing situation of not having in place a set of the federally-required statewide assessments in apparent violation of the new "fed ed" law. Of course, most of us can see that these new-fangled assessments, which are pretty much boilerplated from coast to coast, constitute de facto, dumbed-down, ideologically problematic nationalized curriculum. What on earth are we doing, accepting the deformation of America's diverse and strong schools all across the land into a bunch of matchy-poo McSchools?

So even though Nebraska looks like we're stubborn rebels who won't toe the line with our own federal government, actually, we're doing the right thing for the moment. And the best move of all, both financially and academically, would be to can any kind of state-mandated, state-monitored, state-pre-chewed assessments right here and now.

It gets wackier. Beyond our borders, now we have the weird spectacle of parents suing their own school districts and states in federal court for not living up to their obligations under the federal No Child Left Behind act of 2001. According to Education Week, citizens in New York City and Albany, N.Y., sued because they contended their children were denied a chance to transfer out of what were considered non-performing schools under the new legislation, or did not receive supplemental services.

Meanwhile, the California State Board of Education is sued because its own decision to reduce class sizes in kindergarten through third grade, coupled with California's high standard of living, caused the hiring in that state of 34,000 teachers, or 11 percent of its workforce, with "emergency certification." Now, most of those teachers were totally bona fide, professionally, but merely had just moved to the state or otherwise didn't have their papers in order. But under the new "fed ed," their own citizens are contending, kids have to have "highly qualified" teachers, and teachers without formal certification don't measure up, no matter what.

So much for even the semblance of local control now. The feds even get to "spec the teachers."

It's a crazy, mixed-up, un-American situation when we have local parents in local school districts suing their own education leadership. And to make it stick, they are siccing on their own local leaders the feds -- who, under the Tenth Amendment, are supposed to be totally hands off education matters, leaving those calls to the local yokels.

No Child Left Behind? We will be leaving American principles behind, if we stick with this mess.

I say, pull out of all federal funding, Nebraska educators, and do it now, before it's too late. Transfer special ed and ESL functions to our ESU's so that those federal funds can still flow. But pull out of everything else . . . and now's the time.

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