Media: More Misleading Descriptions Of NCLB
There are lots of things to like about the Washington Post's preview of the Obama waiver announcement tomorrow (Obama prepares to revamp ‘No Child Left Behind’), but the basic description of NCLB is misleading and inaccurate, creating the impression that the law has had much more (negative) impact on schools than the facts can support and omitting the benefits of the law that have civil rights groups and others extremely concerned about any changes. Of course, this isn't the first time anyone's mischaracterized the requirements and the impact of the law but it's sad to see yet another example of a newspaper passing along unfounded criticisms of the law without stopping to ask whether they check out. Read below for all the details.
The downside is Layton's description of NCLB, which is to my eyes overstated and unfairly negative. For example, she describes NCLB's "potential consequences" as fired teachers, removed principals, and schools shut down. Those things are commonly cited by NCLB critics in the Obama adminstration and they could all potentially happen, sure. So could anything else. I could potentially play on the US men's World Cup soccer team. The reality is that firings, removals, and shutdowns are neither common, or widespread. They're actually quite unlikely outcomes -- and to the extent that they are happening, it's the Obama administration's own SIG school turnaround program that's the cause, not NCLB. (Someone should ask Duncan why he's all about providing relief to states from NCLB while at the same time he's cracking down on them (sort of) through SIG.)
Moving along, Layton passes along the Administration's argument that states are dumbing down their own tests, writing that "nearly one-third “dummied down” standards to inflate test scores, according to a 2009 Education Department study." Hmm. Nearly a third did that? Seems like a really convoluted way of saying that more than two thirds of states are holding strong or ratcheting things up.
What's missing from the piece? Much of any description of the law's benefits and positive impacts, which may be undercut by the waiver process, or any discussion of the Administration's checkered performance implementing and monitoring Race To The Top upon which the waivers will be based. Some mention of how the Duncan folks have performed implementing this law for 12 states seems integral to any discussion of expanding it to all 50 states.
I know Layton is new to the beat and getting an earful from all sorts of powerful and savvy people and organizations, but I'd love for a more accurate, balanced take the next time around. Also these are fairly persistent problems in coverage of NCLB and the waivers in the mainstream media.