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Government & Politics        < Previous        Next >



Goals 2000 = Outcome-Based Education = No Child Left Behind


Q. The only thing the federal government used to do when it came to K-12 schools was help pay for special education services, and help low-income kids with basic academic skills. Now, the "feducrats" are up to their eyeballs in all kinds of programs, grants, mandates and regulations that are affecting the way our local schools operate in all facets. I want local parents and local teachers to run our schools, not Washington, D.C. Is there any way out of this?


Well, you could blast off to another planet, but it will probably already have the same standards, outcomes, assessments and graduation requirements in place as everyone here does, thanks to the standardization of our schools.


It started with America 2000, the federal education bill under the first President Bush prompted by the National Governors' Association. It came into full flower as Goals 2000 under former Arkansas governor and then-President Clinton in the 1990s. It was refined and finalized by the No Child Left Behind package under former Texas governor and then-President George W. Bush right after the turn of the century.


Goals 2000, enacted in 1994, was supposedly a "voluntary" educational restructuring plan. But that's an ironic joke. States would lose their federal funding for their schools if they opted not to comply with the Goals 2000 mandates. They have come to depend on the 7% to 10% of their operating budgets provided by tax dollars through federal funding for such things as special education and Title I remediation programs. Although a few valiant state and local politicians tried to stay out of the "system," they've all basically caved now, and No Child Left Behind (NCLB) has set in stone what Goals 2000 laid out.


Under NCLB, each state must set a single level of achievement for all students in that state. The "outcome" of NCLB is to get all students to that same standard of "proficiency." Government officials and politicians may CALL them "high" standards, but of course, they are not. They are at or below the level of the midpoint, by definition "dumbing down" the educational experience of the top 50% of the student body. The emphasis is on lifting the bottom of the learning curve up, so educators have basically been forced to "teach to the test," and it's an overly easy test. Meanwhile, the middle and top tiers of students pretty much twiddle their thumbs because of the way the federal law "incents" educators to have all students meet the simple standards that most of their students already meet.


Each state must establish a statewide annual objective for getting ALL students to the "proficient" level within 12 years, or suffer "sanctions" that could mean the educators lose their jobs or the state takes over the school. That's why the NCLB testing is called "high-stakes" testing - because the educators have a lot to lose from it - nothing to do with KIDS. This annual objective aimed at ALL students is called "Annual Yearly Progress," or AYP. To get there, schools must navigate a maze of testing requirements, figure out how to get enough computing power to get all the kids online to take the test at about the same time, and get all their kids in Grades 3-8, and once in high school, to take reading, math and, now, science assessments, which all must be consistent with the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).


Up to now, the NAEP has been given on a spot-check basis around the land, but few observers doubt that the intention is to develop it into one national assessment that all children will take.


Goals 2000 and NCLB are the two main reasons the cost per pupil of K-12 education in this country has gone through the roof in the last 10 or 15 years, with what most observers say is declining performance of students and happiness of educators as the result.


As one teacher recently put it, "We send our tax money to Washington, then Washington feeds it back to us only if we do what we're told. Something is wrong here."


Homework: A Minnesota-based group with an excellent grasp of government standardization of education and its consequences, as well as the many related issues, has this website:


By Susan Darst Williams Government & Politics 05 2008


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