The Washington Post defends No Child Left Behind

Jay Matthews in the Washington Post tries to defend the No Child Left Behind Act from what Matthews calls “a host of myths and misinterpretations” by examining “10 statements about the law that experts say are heard often but are not firmly anchored in reality.”

ABC News’s The Note finds Matthew’s piece “highly informative.” I have no idea why. It seems to me a masterpiece of illogic.

Here’s a sample: Matthews identifies the following as myth #3:

The law’s goal of 100 percent student proficiency in reading and math by 2014 is impossible.

He then explains:

True, say its framers, but emphasizing that fact misses the point. The 100 percent goal was simply a target, an admittedly unreachable goal designed to motivate schools to stretch themselves to do better, such as scientists trying to cure cancer or gardeners hoping to grow the perfect tomato. The creators of the law say they knew they would have to revise it in a few years. That, they say, is what legislators do — take their best shot with the votes they have and come back later to fix the rough spots. States mostly ignored earlier legislation with less stringent requirements.

Ahhhh…let me make sure I have this right. The mythical charge is in fact literally true: the text of the act creates what its authors knew to be an unmeetable requirement. But paying attention to that fact “misses the point.” The ridiculous provision is sure to be repealed, but in the meantime the sure-to-be-repealed requirement to do the impossible will motivate the schools to try harder.

As long as that’s clear.

Now I wish I could feel absolutely certain that the publication of this story, written largely (though not entirely) in defense of a bill that is showering dollars on the testing and test-preparation industry had nothing to do with the fact that the Washington Post’s parent company now also owns Kaplan Educational Systems, which advertises “effective, research-based programs to help schools raise K-12 state assessment scores, improve graduation rates and demonstrate the adequate yearly progress required by No Child Left Behind.” (Note: Kaplan now has larger revenues than any other division of the company: higher, for example, than the Post itself.)

In the spirit of standardized testing, let’s try a little fill-in-the blanks:

For the Post to publish a blatantly illogical story slanted to favor the interests of a sister company is a _______ of ________.

Update Well, that just shows how tricky fill-in-the-blanks is: I got several apposite responses, including “crock of sh*t” and “violation of ethics,” when all I was looking for was the pedestrian “conflict of interest.”

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: