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I had no idea! None! Whatsoever!

By Margaret Burns
This is a rant! I am not going to be anywhere near rational, cool, calm, composed and coolly analytical — like all my other writing with a byline for the Winters Express. This is personal. Purely personal.
Until I wrote the story this week on the change-up from the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act, a legacy of the Bush Administration to last month’s new education act, Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), a product of the Obama administration, I was pretty much
totally oblivious to what was going on in the education world. Yes, I had heard bitching and moaning about ‘teaching to the test,’ schools and teachers being evaluated by nationwide test scores, but I had no idea what was involved or what was behind this, nor did I have any sense of why it was important.
Smack! Slap on two sides of my head! Doh!
The provisions of whatever federal education law is in effect determines how and for what money flows from the federal coffers to the states, to the counties, to the local school districts. Early in the Bush administration, Uncurious George signed a bill into law (No Child Left Behind) a system for testing schools, grades, teachers that was supposed to constantly improve their education, as monitored by annual test scores. The expectations of proficiency were increased every year. And, if you were a school or a teacher that was found deficient over time, you could be punished, even to the point of losing your job or having the school taken over.
How in the hell did this happen? First of all, there was what was later proven to be a myth, of the Texas Miracle of Education when schools in Dallas or Fort Worth, or somewhere, improved test scores miraculously by paying attention to standardized test scores. As was later proven, part
of the improvement happened because the students who did not do well on standardized tests were moved to other venues, but were not counted as dropouts. No one apparently noticed that the freshman high school class had 12,000 students but only 4,000 seniors graduated. And there were no dropouts!! Definitely a miracle!
My question is – where were the experts? How did this bill become law? Supported by the Republican John Boehner, the Democrat Ted Kennedy and other bipartisans. How did such an obviously wrong-headed idea become the law of the land? What allows anyone to think that 100 percent of all students – black, white, purple, Spanish speaking, Hmong immigrants, disabled, special education needy – could reach a level of proficiency in math and English in just twelve years time? And that the public school system was going to be able to carry out this feat, while being threatened with loss of funds and maybe jobs in order to do it?
All you have to do is spend one hour a week in a kindergarten class at Waggoner School listening to 5 year olds read, and you know this is not going to happen in twelve or even in 50 years. At age 5, the kids at Waggoner are already a diverse group of individuals.
Why did this act become law? Where were the cooler heads? Where were the professionals who know how educating students
really work? Why were they not listened to? Where was the National Education
The bigger question is why is education of the children of our country not the topmost priority of our lives? Not just education in the sense of rote learning, but teaching people to think for themselves, to question, to be the nerds
of the coming generation. Whenever money gets tight in budgets, education, schools and libraries are often the first to feel the
effect of cutting money. Why? Why? Why?
Why are not teachers the most valued professionals in our society? How else do we transmit basic knowledge and value systems to the next generation?
When we, as human beings, were a purely agrarian economy — dependent on what we grew from year to year, saving seed corn to plant for the next year, rather than eating it — we knew we were in big, big trouble when starvation came and we had to eat the seed corn, just to stay alive.
When we do not truly educate our children, we are eating our seed corn.