George W. Bush’s resume padding reached new heights when during an interview with The Washington Times he referred to No Child Left Behind as civil rights legislation. Isn’t civil rights legislation supposed to promote equality instead of penalizing those who need help the most?
“No Child Left Behind (NCLB) is a piece of civil rights legislation. And it’s going to be important for future Republican leaders to remind people that accountability in the public schools is leading toward closing an achievement gap, and that it was a Republican president who worked with both Democrats and Republicans to get it passed,” Bush said.
The fact that Bush would call NCLB civil rights legislation is a sick joke. The flaws in the program were numerous and obvious from the beginning. The biggest flaw has always been that schools will teach students the test. A standardized test is not an adequate measure of educational quality. All standardized test measure is how well students take tests.
The real motivation behind NCLB was never really to improve educational quality. It was to present the illusion of improving public education. Conservatives have always wanted to use the test results to promote school choice, and voucher programs. That is what this program is really about. The reality is that the federal government has little impact on the public education system. The decision making occurs at the local level.
Even if one believed that standardized tests were an adequate measure of school performance, what sense does it make to withhold funds from schools that tested poorly? By giving a struggling school fewer resources aren’t we making the situation worse, and creating more educational inequality? I don’t think this is the intent of civil rights legislation. I am all for educational accountability, but there are better ways to hold schools accountable without getting the federal government involved.
I know President Bush has very few positive accomplishments to hang his hat on, but my guess is that NCLB will be gutted or at best seriously reworked. This legacy enhancing publicity campaign is getting ridiculous. Bush has been our first non-reality based president, so it is no surprise that he would think that No Child Left Behind was civil rights legislation.