Turn the Paige?

You pretend it doesn’t bother you, but you just want to explode…

Secretary of Education Rod Paige cut loose in the Wall Street Journal yesterday criticizing the NAACP on several fronts, but in particular about NCLB.  The same day, moderate John McWhorter said essentially the same thing in the LA Times. There are larger politics at work here as parts of Paige’s too partisan op-ed make clear. (Hint to reflexively partisan ghostwriters: Cheap shotting Clinton is (A) ridiculous on the merits and (B) doesn’t help your case. Clinton was in the trenches laying the groundwork for what became NCLB in the ’80s and early ’90s and by almost any measure the 1990’s were a pretty good decade for low-income Americans).

Nonetheless, this increasingly loud debate will impact education and only an ostrich can still think something is not happening. Here’s the nut of Paige’s NCLB argument:

School should be a leg up on life, which is why No Child Left Behind is designed to provide a quality education to all children, regardless of their race, spoken accent or street address. How a civil-rights organization could characterize NCLB as “disproportionately hurting” African-American children is mindboggling, since it is specifically designed to close the achievement gap between disadvantaged children and their peers.

By the time African-American students reach 8th grade, only 12% can read proficiently and only 7% are proficient in math. Or, as education researchers have put it, the average black high-school senior is leaving 12th grade with 8th-grade skills. We know they can learn. Now we must educate…

Although the NAACP says it is committed to erasing this pernicious achievement gap, has it put its money where its mouth is? No Child Left Behind is the most aggressive attempt to attack this problem to date, and it is the law. Yet, the NAACP would prefer to attack it merely because of its origins in the Bush administration. How sad for black children everywhere.

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