by Christopher Paslay
U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings has a new plan to cut drop-out rates in America: Publicly humiliate high schools with poor graduation rates by placing them in the spotlight. She plans to do this by forcing states to use a uniform reporting system to track drop-outs, graduates and transfers (this will allow states to better compare rates and thus hang poor performers out to dry). She will also use No Child Left Behind to raise the goals for graduation rates in the 2012 school year, and penalize schools who don’t meet these goals by firing principals and forcing them to pay out of pocket for extra tutoring (if only the drop-out rate could be fixed by more tutoring!).
The power of the spotlight is what’s important about No Child Left Behind,” Spellings said. “We haven’t really tracked high school accountability, and this is a giant step toward doing that.”
Spellings vision is interesting indeed. Hold the school accountable for students dropping-out, not the child or the parents. I wonder how this is supposed to work? Are we going to make every public high school a boarding school so teachers can keep 24 hour tabs on wayward teenagers and eliminate truancy? Are we going to send out the National Guard on camouflage trucks every morning to yank disillusioned students out of bed, hose them down and haul them off to school?
Are we supposed to use mental telepathy like Carrie White from that Stephen King novel? Wiggle our noses and make students show up for class? Tap out feet and make them get off drugs, put down their cell phones and iPods and come into the building all smiles, motivated and ready to learn?
These new requirements initiated by Margaret Spellings are further proof that her grasp of public education in America is tragically limited. It’s one thing to hold schools accountable for the content being taught inside classrooms (such as English and Math), but it’s another thing to hold teachers and principals accountable for the values a student is suppose to be learning at home—their desire to take advantage of a free public education.
Everyday hard working educators across America do their best to offer students a top notch education. And how does Spellings thank us? By threatening to publicly humiliate schools because unappreciative teenagers from dysfunctional families throw their educations out the window.
Spellings and her logic are as broken as our nation’s drop-outs. Let’s just hope President Elect Barack Obama has more sense when it comes to schooling America’s children.