All Children Left Behind

According to and, The Florida Board of Education decided in an emergency meeting last Tuesday to lower the passing grade on the writing portion of Florida’s standardized test, after preliminary results showed a drastic drop in student passing scores.

The results indicated only about a third of students would pass this year’s tougher Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test exam, compared with a passing rate of 80 percent or more last year.

What does this say about education as we know it? And what does it say about public education in particular?

Florida is a pretty wealthy state and pours plenty of tax money into public education. Plus, the federal Department of Education spends billions of federal taxes every year. We’re led to believe that more money always leads to more quality. Outside of government, this may usually be true. It certainly isn’t true with anything that government touches. In fact, the more government spends on something, the worse it gets. Do we know of any better example than public education?

“They’ve asked students to do more, but that’s pretty dramatic,” said Florida Education Association spokesman Mark Pudlow. “We need to examine what led to this, not just paper over the problem.”

Does anyone think these public officials are going to examine anything, other than the best way to handle this public relations disaster? And make it go away? If so, I have a plot of beachfront property in the Florida swamp to sell you.

Students and teachers have to do more. This shouldn’t be ‘dramatic.’ Put simply, teachers should be allowed to rationally teach, without any government interference, and students should be required to live up to their capacities. Most agree with this principle, but government has never yet delivered.

This all started with ‘No Child Left Behind,’ passed about a decade ago. Passed and supported by both conservatives and liberals (George W. Bush and Ted Kennedy), the premise behind this law is that public schools can be made more accountable. The focus shifted from educating kids to testing them. The idea was that so long as test scores were at a certain level, it proved that the schools were doing their job.

This was doomed to failure from the start. How do we know this? Because public schools are, in essence, a government-protected monopoly. Private schools are allowed to ‘compete’ with them, but the vast majority of people send their children to public schools. Government provides these schools for ‘free.’ People who pay taxes feel entitled to get some of their tax money back. People who pay few or no taxes feel entitled to these schools too, because we’re all told education is a basic right. Private schools are few and far between (compared to public schools), and the high tuition costs make them unaffordable to many.

The result? Public schools do not have to perform. Not really. Not like competing schools in a totally private sector would.

Public schools do not and cannot go out of business. Private schools must excel or at least perform adequately to survive. Public schools only need to make it LOOK like they’re doing so. reports: ‘This is the first year students and schools will be assessed on the basis of tougher tests and scoring systems, expecting to result in more students failing the FCAT and lower school grades. The board, though, agreed at its regular meeting last week not to let any school drop more than one letter grade this year to help them adjust to the rigorous new standards.’

Imagine if the administrators of a private school fixed the grades in this way. Imagine if tuition-paying parents were told, ‘We made the standards too tough. So we’re raising every student’s grade a notch.’ By any rational standard, parents and students would feel cheated out of an education. The government would probably intervene and charge the private school with malfeasance and fraud.

When public schools commit fraud routinely and openly, it barely generates a yawn. And billions more will be thrown at the problem. Obama is calling for more federal funding of education (Gee, there’s a courageous and original stand), and no matter how much Republicans scream they will hand over the loot in the end. That will fix it, for sure, because money fixes everything. Right?

‘No Child Left Behind’ means, in practice, that ALL children are left behind in the pitiful swamp of a mediocre (at best) government-run school system. It’s a system with no accountability, other than the absurd shows put on by school boards like in┬áthis recent Florida fiasco.

I suppose from a politician’s point-of-view, we need a stupid and unthinking population. People who ask fewer questions and who think less intelligently will keep voting for a bigger government, and yawning at the incredibly stupid things that government does with majority consent.