Thursday, August 13, 2009

No Keillor Reference Left Behind

One of the mostly-forgotten relics of the second Bush administration was the No Child Left Behind Act, which, as best as I can fathom, was designed to make sure every child in America was safely above average in academic achievement. Standards that weren't clearly explained (at least, not so an uneducated software engineer that used to work on nuclear weapon systems like myself could understand) are applied to every public school in America. If a school doesn't meet these standards, they get on the government's list of schools that are falling behind.

It appears that Macy's school, Ellen Hopkins Elementary in Moorhead, just made the list. I received a government-mandated notification letting me know that my child was now in a "district in need of improvement". This doesn't sound good. My first thought was that Macy was getting a substandard education; her school was spending too much time making dreamcatchers and not enough time studying the deficit.

Then I remembered that the federal government was involved and I relaxed. What's the problem with Macy's school? The truth is, I don't know. The email contained a link to the official letter from the district, but that didn't clarify things much. Here is the letter (click on the image to enlarge):

Apparently, while All Students are showing acceptable rates in math, reading, attendance and graduation, the same cannot be said for black kids, American Indian kids, ELL kids (east Lithuanian Lollygaggers?), Hispanic kids or special ed kids. How individual groups can fail while All Kids pass, I don't know. I also don't know why we, as a nation, continue to put up with a free- and reduced-price lunch program that continues to fail at math and reading.

I should also point out that there are about six black kids at Macy's school, which is actually quite high for a Minnesota public school not centered in Minneapolis-St. Paul. But if just one or two of those kids don't perform, the failure percentage skyrockets.

I have no idea what this means for the school in general. I can't imagine funding will be cut (how would that improve things?). I'm not too worried about Macy as an individual, and you shouldn't either. When she finished 2nd grade she was reading at a 5th grade level. As for math, she struggled a bit with counting money, but we worked on that. Considering the routine manner in which she wipes the floor with me in Monopoly, she seems to have the money thing down.

In the meantime, I'll just hang onto this letter as another reminder of the efficiency of the federal government. I won't bother to draw the obvious tie-in to government-run healthcare; you're smart enough to do that yourself. But you might want to explain it to any school lunch programs you know that may be lagging behind in reading comprehension.

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