Like the stealthy shinobi, Secretary of
Education Margaret Spellings slipped in and out of Saint Paul yesterday,
accomplishing her mission with a minimum of bloodshed and outcry from those
who would oppose her in carrying out the quest laid upon her by her daimyo.
Few recognized her shadowy presence, overshadowed as it was with news of racially-charged
electoral rhetoric, newly appointed slutty
governors, and medical
incompetence of nigh-mythical proportions.
Spellings’ quest is, of course, to stump for George W. Bush’s
premier education program, No Child Left Behind
(NCLB), which has been up for renewal since September 30. Her stop in St.
Paul yesterday, complete with Pawlenty photo opp, concerned her decision to
allow some states to make modifications in how schools are penalized for not
making "adequate yearly progress". According to Spellings, the modifications
are intended to allow states to differentiate between schools that are barely
missing benchmarks and those that are dramatically underperforming on a
year-to-year basis. Strangely, no mention was made of providing the money
promised by Washington to fund the testing required by NCLB.
Spellings’ speech emphasized that this new flexibility would
not come at the price of accountability. Punctuated as it was by the secretary
brandishing her gleaming ninja-to
and threats to send her shadowy clan of kunoichi to "encourage"
adequate yearly progress from the nonconforming and recalcitrant school
districts not living up to the administration’s lofty standards, many in the
Washington offered their confidence that these measures would make a monumental
difference in closing the education gap.
Oddly, Minnesota isn’t one of the states eligible to
participate in the pilot program. Minnesota has yet to secure approval for the alternative
exams developed for English language learners, so won’t be able to participate
in the program. DFL lawmakers seized upon this opportunity to question why the
secretary chose to come to Minnesota at all if the state wouldn’t be reaping
the benefits of the Department of Education’s enlightened new policy –
wondering if, in fact, this was all just a way to bring attention to Norm
Coleman’s campaign for reelection. Given the nature of the news, this was
unlikely at best. Regardless, Spellings quickly silenced these voices of
dissent with a torrent
of shuriken before vanishing into the quickly fading twilight, as ninjas are wont to do.
Despite these modifications, which are intended to address
one of the primary complaints about NCLB – namely that a school that doesn’t
make adequate yearly progress gets bent over, sans lube, regardless of how
close or far from the mark they hit – Congress and the Department of Education
are unlikely to come to any significant agreement on renewing NCLB in the near
future. The upcoming presidential election makes it even more likely Congress
will sit on its collective arse expressing shock that baseball players would
stoop so low as to take steroids, all the while informing the public on how
hard it’s working to come to an agreement that "…will serve the best interests
of the children. My god, won’t you think of the children?" Clearly our
legislature has our best
interests at heart.
Once we reach the end of the interminable two-year slog
known as the modern election season, our elected representatives in Washington
may stop wetting themselves every time a significant policy decision needs to
be made long enough to create meaningful legislation. As a result, the act is very likely to be modified heavily, or even
disappear altogether, after the election. Obama and McCain both want to modify
the act heavily, and despite voting to put NCLB in place originally, Hillary
Clinton is the only candidate who has stated she’ll put an end to the act,
though she hasn’t yet provided a plan to replace the accountability measures
many have agreed are good for several of the groups struggling with the
And if that prognosis spawns an odd feeling in the pit
of your stomach that feels remarkably like hope for the future, there no reason for concern. You can rest easy in the near certainty that the
next administration, whoever may lead it, will almost certainly put an asinine,
overpriced and ill-advised education policy in place that makes the reaming our
schools have received under NCLB look like a threeway with Strawberry Shortcake
and Rainbow Brite.
Then again, Strawberry Shortcake turned out to be quite the tramp.