“Pretty good?” Is that like OK? Could be better, but..? Not nearly as bad as… ? Believe me, this headline is NOT from The Onion. It’s from the MSM and posted on an official U.S. government website on NCLB. In fairness to the House majority, the aforementioned state-by-state NCLB spins on this site are not their own work-product.* The authors are anonymous and could well be interns. Actually I hope they’re interns. But whoever they are, they cut and paste for the Dept of Education, perhaps via one of the spin-shops set up to promote NCLB. While I am all for promoting and implementing and enforcing the many good things in the law, these selective, anecdotal reports don’t help the cause. There’s no standard, objective format, and it looks like they had to scrape and stretch for something nice to say about many of the states, while conveniently ignoring all the news that’s harder to spin all warm and fuzzy. “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all” may be among the maternal words of wisdom we share with our kids. But in the case of a $24 billion investment, don’t the Department’s customers have an interest in getting “the whole truth and nothing but the truth?” And haven’t we learned from Eduwonk himself that it’s really bad form to skimp on things to say when you are building a case for or against NCLB? I wouldn’t be taking time from my day job to dig this far into an amateur production, except that the stakes in this debate are high and the “truth” (aka the evidence) matters. A lot. Some examples:
Connecticut Spin: Danbury is doing “a pretty good job of educating black students.” Laura Bush is planning to visit the state, and – surprise! – the Amistad Academy is doing very, very well. That’s it, entire story. Inconvenient Truth: CT’s other cities, like Hartford, Bridgeport, New Haven have gaping gaps. Chartering restrictions prevent more Amistads from opening up in these cities. The state’s failed to comply with the court orders in the long-running Scheff v. O’Neill case. And the state is suing the Secretary to avoid having to fully comply with NCLB.
Virginia spin: Big achievement gains in Norfolk and Richmond. Good news from the 5th grade assessment. Missing Truth:No other grade level results reported; so are the kids regressing in 3rd, 4th, 6th, 7th and 8th grade and high school?Inconvenient Truth:Perhaps the biggest achievement scandal to hit the state: the terrible performance of African American students in Fairfax, one of the most resource-rich and self-congratulatory districts in the D.C. metro area. The state is doggedly seeking waivers on everything from NCLB choice to AYP requirements. The Dem governor goes around taking cheap shots at NCLB, while the GOP Senator is trying to gut it entirely. Obvious truth: Last count there were 2 Presidential candidates from Virginia, one highly influential member of the Congressional Black Caucus (and the House Ed and Workforce Committee), a very powerful Republican Congressman from northern VA, and a major national media market dipping into a sizeable portion of the state.
*In contrast, the Committee’s own writing on NCLB topics is good quality for the genre. I may not always agree with the Rs (particularly on their bottom lines on funding) but their pieces are cogent, intelligent, relevant and often convincing. Margaret Spellings should offer one of their writers a job. Guestblogger Dianne Piche