Who Moved My Cheese? (NCLB)

NCLB in the News: In a relatively lackluster week (so far), the only real NCLB highlight is a cluster of recent Washington Post columns by the esteemed Jay Mathews and the fiesty Marc Fisher that do a remarkably good job in just a short space of detailing the latest arguments, realities, and misperceptions surrounding the two year-old federal education law. In How No Child Left Behind Helps Principals, Mathews debunks several NCLB myths in two recent Fisher columns, including Law Leaves Better Schools In Worse Spot and Falls Church School Won't Teach to the Test. For his part, Fisher details the concerns and complaints of even the most reasonable educators.

The only thing that makes Mathews/Fisher a fair fight is that so many more people seem to believe Fisher's take on things. Now, I haven't conducted my own $700,000 study on coverage of NCLB like the USDE recently did: Study for U.S. Rated Coverage of Schools Law (NYT), or see the whole shebang at Archive of Ketchum Research for the USDE (People for the American Way). And by all accounts the USDE-funded study was inept and incomplete. So I don't know whether it's objectively true that NCLB coverage is overwhelmingly on the skeptical "what are they doing?" side of things.

But it certainly feels that way. And my completely unverified take on why news coverage of NCLB may be skewed is that --

(a) too many of us reporter types get our basic understanding of things from listening (sometimes gullibly) to readily-available teachers and administrators and talking heads rather than to the elusive few parents and researchers who lack an obvious axe to grind;

(b) as Jimmy Traub and others have noted, NCLB is much better suited (and designed) for the most troubled, low-performing urban school systems rather than relatively better-performing (but not as good as they think they are) suburban school systems; and

(c) NCLB's flaws, real and trumped-up, tend to make everyone forget the longstanding problems that existed in many education systems long before NCLB came along.

In any case, you could read a lot more about NCLB this week -- more and more whole districts (and possibly fewer individual schools) are getting into trouble with NCLB -- but you don’t really have to.

The Best of the Rest (NCLB):
Schools Struggle to Meet Federal Education Mandate NPR
Schools Are Breaking Law on Transfers, Suit Charges New York Times
Colorado's Biggest Districts Flunk Federal Test Rocky Mountain News
School tutoring enrollment way up Chicago Sun-Times
63,000 enlist in tutoring program Chicago Tribune
A failing teacher will fail as tutor, says Education Dept. Chicago Sun-Times
Failing schools may lose tutor OK Chicago Tribune
Thousands of students missing out on free tutoring NEPA News
Pupils miss free tutoring; Parents say they didn't know Pittsburg Post-Gazzette
Time near for city school district plan Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
US officials visit, laud Bush's policies Philadelphia Inquirer
State revises list of failing schools Philadelphia Enquirer
Law hurts better schools Cincinnati Post
OUR FAILING SCHOOLS in the San Francisco Chronicle
Juggling boosts schools' results Wichita Eagle
MEAP Scores Rise But Thousands Left Behind Detroit News
More schools face federal penalties Star-Ledger
CATS scores miss a heck of a lot Lexington Herald-Leader
Fuller's Work Touches Off Controversy Education Week
No Child Left Behind penalizes larger schools El Defensor Chieftain
Vt. Students' Scores Better; Gaps Remain Rutland Herald
Arizona schools show improvement Arizona Republic (Phoenix)
School choice not much of one Nashville City Paper
Hall schools OK tutoring for 119 students Gainesville Times
Ratings upend school transfer eligibilities Lexington Herald-Leader


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