Friday, April 29, 2005

"Measurements" and Accountability

Congress held a hearing on the tutoring industry which has grown enormously since the passage of No Child Left Behind in 2002 required states to provide tutors for children attending "failing" schools.


The money quote from the Times: "Much of the questioning and commentary at the hearing focused on accountability and achievement: how to measure them and whether, ultimately, they are best judged by school districts, the states, the tutoring providers, the federal government or some combination of them."

Ah yes, accountability. Bush is a big on "accountability" (unless it's his own, of course). He's also big on "measuring." In fact the president responded to a question about No Child Left Behind in his April 28th primetime news conference by saying

"I think it's working. And the reason why I think it's working is because we are measuring. And the measurement is showing progress toward teaching people how to read and write and add and subtract. Listen, the whole theory behind No Child Left Behind is this: If we're going to spend federal money, we expect states to show us whether or not we're achieving, you know, simply objectives, like literacy, literacy in math, the ability to read and write. And yes, we're making progress. And I can say that because we are measuring. Look, I'm a former governor. I believe that states ought to control their own destinies when it comes to schools. They're by far the biggest funder of education. And it should remain that way. But we spend a lot of money at the federal level, and we have increased the money we spend here quite dramatically at the federal level. And we just changed the policy. Instead of just spending money and hoping for the best, we're now spending money and saying, 'Measure.' And some people don't like to measure. But if you don't measure, how do you know whether you've got a problem in the classroom? I believe it's best to measure early and correct problems early before it's too late. That's why, as a part of the No Child Left Behind Act, we had money available for remedial education. In other words, we said, 'We're going to measure.' And when we detect someone who needs extra help, that person will get extra help. And absoultely, it's making -- it's a good piece of legislation. And I will do everything I can to prevent people from unwinding it."

Yes, the preznit likes to measure. He likes to measure so much, he said some form of the word eight times during his answer. He especially wants to measure public schools, to see if they are failing or not, and public school teachers, to see if they need to be fired or not.

He doesn't want to measure tutoring providers, however. You see, the tutoring providers are part of that "remedial education' he talked about at his press conference. When we "measure" and see that kids are failing, we provide "extra help" in the form of remedial education. But while the whole theory behind NCLB I is "measurement" and "accountability" for public schools and public school teachers, the private tutoring companies are exempt from the "measurement". Why? Because their private, silly! Everybody knows that the free market does the best job of "measuring" success in private enterprise. Or, as Federal Education Department official Michael Petrilli put it, "We want as little regulation as possible so the law can be as vibrant as possible."

So the Federal Education Department is considering allowing the tutoring providers to "measure" themselves. Isn't allowing the tutoring providers to measure themselves kind of like allowing General Ricardo Sanchez to investigate himself for torture allegations? Isn't it kind of like awarding CIA Director George Tenet a Medal of Freedom for coordinating massive "intelligence failures" in the Iraq War? Isn't it kind of like allowing energy companies to write their own energy legislation in secret with the Vice President? Isn't it kind of like giving Condi Rice a raise and a promotion for failing to look into the August 6th, 2001 "Bin Laden determined to attack inside the U.S." presidential daily briefing memo? Isn't it kind of like making Ahmad Chalabi Minister of Oil in Iraq even though he may have been working as a double agent for Iran? Isn't it kind of like -

You get the idea. The preznit is big on "accountability" and "measurement" for everyone outside of his circle of screw-ups, criminals, con men, religious fanatics, and ne'er-do-wells. Just stay loyal to the preznit and you can fuck up as big as you want with no penalties. But be a member of a nasty teachers union and you better watch out, sucka! We're gonna measure your results and hold you accountable!

BTW: One of people making millions from the "remedial education" component of No Child Left Behind is Neil Bush, the preznit's ne'er-do-well brother (think failed S & L's, think insider trading scandals, think hookers, think crony capitalism, etc). Neil co-owns an educational software company called Ignite! Neil believes educators make education too complex, especially for our "hunter-warrior types" who we place in "prisonlike environments" and "label them attention-deficit disordered and put them on drugs." So he developed a software tutoring program that makes education "fun" for kids who don't like to read (presumably like himself and his brother, the preznit).

The software program uses music, graphics, animation, and games to teach middle-school kids social studies and science. In the first course of the program, eighth grade American history, the software teaches a lesson on the Seminoles Wars by using a cartoon football game between the "Jacksons" and the "Seminoles". The Constitutional Process is taught through rap. When schools purchase the program, they also receive "The Purple COW," a mobile "Curriculum On Wheels" cart with projector, computer, speakers, and pre-loaded courses, that makes teaching easy and fun. According to the Ignite! website, "You just plug it in and start teaching!"

Many teachers and students believe the program is silly and dumbs down education. The program relies on rhyming and games to teach lessons that seem, according to one teacher, more suited to "kindergarten". Students at one school in California where the computer program was tested even argued directly with Neil over his program. One girl, probably not a "hunter-warrior" type like Neil or the preznit, said she liked calculus after Neil told the kids he thought calculus was "useless". She told Neil that calculus was the branch of mathematics that made space travel possible. Neil said nothing.

Neil's company Ignite! first made its educational software commercially available in late 2003. It is being used in Texas and Florida, both Bush family strongholds. Houston bought the educational software after Bush family friends Wells Fargo made a $115,000 donation to the school district contingent upon the purchase of the Ignite! software.

Yes, the free market system sure does hold these tutoring providers accountable.

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