There’s a story at the Gazette, that nicely summarizes area schools’ performance on the federal government’s ‘No Child Left Behind’ (NCLB) standards. Although one school in Whitewater appears on the list, there’s no reason for concern: the challenge is so limited that it holds no overall meaning or statistical significance for our schools. Whitewater shows on the report only because of the appearance of one small group of special education students’ performance in one subject area.
(For the state’s overall results on ‘adequate’ yearly progress, see Wisconsin Schools and Districts that Missed AYP, with data for one special education population in one school in Whitewater.)
The NCLB flag for Whitewater is merely for one year’s result, in one school, in the tiniest and most vulnerable population in that school, in a single subject area.
1. The result is statistically insignificant — the population is too small as a part of the whole district, and by its definition is the one population with special needs that makes comparison to the rest of the district foolish. Candidly, anyone looking at these results — and thinking carefully about education — should see that one will know very little about the thousands of students in the district from special education students’ performance in one school, on one subject, in one year.
2. The problem isn’t that standards have increased this year — it’s that the results for the small group of special ed students in the middle school is a reed too slender on which to pile conclusions. Even if testing standards were the same as every other year, the data are slight and unpersuasive.
3. Stigmatizing the vulnerable. If there are problems in this community, they will not be solved through a crude reliance on inadequate data to further stigmatize a fragile population. Of all the challenges to highlight as a problem of education, or of the community, or of Wisconsin, this one would be on the very bottom of any sensible person’s list. Flagging this issue belies a claim of understanding of it.
One can see that I have been willing to criticize any number of policies in this community; yet that criticism, and all criticism, depends on discerning big problems from petty concerns. Worry about our schools because of these NCLB results is a petty concern.
4. Generally, for all America, No Child Left Behind is bad legislation. Nationalizing these standards has been a mistake for America — we need diverse and competitive local standards, not a one-size-fits-all federal standard. The scholarship against No Child Left Behind is compelling, and nearly overwhelming. Here are a few good starting points, from the fine education analysts and scholars at Cato:
5. A challenge: I will debate anyone in this community — anyone at all — on this issue, or the general NCLB policy. Readers many reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’ll devote as much space at this website as needed for a debate of these results or of NCLB.
We’ve no reason to be concerned about these results — the real work of teaching special needs students goes on just as well as before — and limited federal data do not change that truth.