No Child Left Behind: Football

I didn’t write this, but I sure thought it was worth spreading around.


  1. All teams must make the state playoffs, and all will win the championship. If a team does not win the championship, they will be on probation until they are the champions, and coaches will be held accountable.

In a recent experiment, the University of Nebraska football program modeled this theory.

  1. All kids will be expected to have the same football skills at the same time and in the same conditions. No exceptions will be made for interest in football, a desire to perform athletically, gender, genetic abilities or physical disabilities. . . . ALL KIDS WILL PLAY FOOTBALL AT A PROFICIENT LEVEL, REGARDLESS.

  2. Talented players will be asked to work out on their own without instruction. This is because the coaches will be using all their instructional time with the athletes that aren’t interested in football, have limited athletic ability, or whose parents don’t like football.

  3. Games will be played year round, but statistics will only be kept in 4th, 8th, and 11th grades.

  4. This will create a New Age of sports where every school is expected to have the same level of talent and all teams will reach the same goals. After all… if no child gets ahead, then no child will be left behind.

What a great idea! Maybe we should extend it further… say to global economic development? “No Nation Left Behind”?

Gotta concur. NCLB is a noble idea, but stupid in implementation.

You “thought it was worth spreading around”? Why - because it would promote plant growth?

  1. I thought it was funny.

  2. I thought it was an apt comparison.

  3. I thought it pointed out the idiocy of the original idea.

Any other questions?

You thought it apt? Football is a zero-sum game. Education is not. Like I said, it’s bullshit.

Oh wow, an e-mail forward. And because everything in it refers to the football analogy instead of actually attacking “No Child Left Behind,” I can’t even refute it without inferring what portions of NCLB the screed is trying to mock. While my inferences will probably be met with howls of “I never said that!” I’ll take it apart anyhow.

  1. I feel pretty safe refuting the assertion that the standards in NCLB are analogous to “the championship.” Education is not a limited commodity, whereas tournament slots (in any half-decent tournament) get more scarce as the tournament progresses. It’s possible – and in fact, desirable – for all of the kids in a class to pass the minimum standards. Some will exceed the standards by large margins. Some will squeak by. Some will “fail” (gasp!) and they will be held back. Life is fucking tough.

Here’s my rewrite of bullet two: “All kids will be expected to have the same academic skills at the same time and in the same conditions. No exceptions will be made for interest in learning, a desire to perform academically, gender, genetic abilities, or physical disabilities. All kids will meet academic standards, regardless.” Yeah, actually that’s a pretty good summation. Pretty stupid on a football team, where group effort and individual synergy of specialized skills is used to accomplish a goal, but the first ten years of schooling in America are for general skills. All students should be able to meet those general skill points. I certainly wouldn’t want my kid coddled because they weren’t “interested in learning” or didn’t have the “desire to perform academically.” Tell my little girl that boys are smarter and you’re going to be in trouble, buddy. As for genetic/physical disabilities, genuinely handicapped children are an exception (as always) and will be handled through a school’s special education program. Great care will need to be taken to prevent Special Ed becoming a dustbin for socially inept and poorly-behaved kids (hint: this is already a problem, and no law is going to fix it).

  1. “Talented students will be asked to study on their own without instruction. This is because the teachers will be using all their instructional time with the students that aren’t interested in learning, have limited academic ability, or whose parents don’t like education.” One of the methods used to work around this inequality is that students ahead of their grade level can be moved up until the material being taught to “the unwashed masses” is at a level that challenges them. Another choice is peer tutoring, where each advanced student helps tutor a less-advanced student; “learning by teaching” will give the more advanced students a deeper understanding of the material. One thing that would free up some of the teachers’ instructional time would be smaller class sizes, but it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen anytime soon.

  2. “…statistics will only be kept in 4th, 8th, and 11th grades.” Well, my mom is working on bringing standards to her district; they’re going to have the kids take the 4th grade test in 1st, 2d and 3d grades, and then twice in 4th grade. 5th graders start the 8th grade test and keep taking it until 8th grade. High school students take the 11th grade test until they pass it. Then they can focus on college applications, or working on their pull-ups so they can get into the military, or take afternoon classes at a trade school. Regardless, they will know the basics of math, science, and literacy that are required of them by the standards.

  3. “This will create a New Age of education where every school is expected to have the same level of talent and all student bodies will reach the same goals. After all… if no child gets ahead, then no child will be left behind.” Well, that’s a nice tautology, but it’s hardly relevant. Regardless of what NCLB does to the outliers at any one school, the real inequality in our schools is not within schools, but between schools. Suburbs where the parents are wealthy and value education will pass tax levies; they will have better funding, and they will have better schools. There is very little you can do in our capitalist system to prevent parents from doting on their children and passing on the privileges of wealth. There will be academies that crank out college-prepared students. So, the “if” part of that if-then is already false: there will always be students who get ahead, and there will always be children who fall behind.

The difference between the old way of doing things and the NCLB standards is that there has never been a way to definitively measure how badly behind the worst schools are. Until you can measure that against some objective standards, you have no real way of saying that a school is better or worse than any other, and no way of knowing if Johnny Average is going to do better at Springfield High or Shelbyville High, and no way of correcting the problem!

NCLB is not a perfect law by a long shot, but attacking it by saying “it’s not fair” is the favorite ploy of the teachers’ unions. Sure, it’s not fair, but it’s more fair than the current system, where a child in one of the poorer schools can make it to sixth grade before anyone figures out that he can’t read, and across town, another sixth-grader is taking the PSATs to prepare for college.

My issues with NCLB are threefold.

1.) the law doesn’t seem to make an explicit legal exception for special-education children to these standards. Cite

2.) Small schools would have much difficulty meeting the requirement that any teacher teaching a core subject must’ve majored in that subject.

3.) Our response to an underperforming school is to cut their funding, or force them to spend money busing underachieving students to a school with higher test scores? Isn’t this a bit like going to a man who’s undernourished and getting very little to eat, and telling him to meet some fitness standard, or have his food taken away? It only exacerbates the problem.

Other relevant news articles.

You’re darn tootin’ it’s not perfect. And talk all you want about ploys of teachers’ unions, I’d rank those higher than the ploys of blowhard politicians. In matters of education, I’d take the opinions of teachers over those of politicians any day. CandidGamera has it right – NCLB sounds great and noble when spouted as political rhetoric, but in practice it will be a fucking train wreck.

Consider this: Schools that are already in poor shape will have some students that fail – they will then be punished financially. How do you think those students will fare then? This is just asinine.

Consider this as well: Teachers will no longer teach students to think. They will teach them to memorize by rote. How does this help anybody?

Actually, [b[Jurph**, you’ve got a few points there that are completely incorrect.

Here’s the official Parents’ Guide to NCLB:

NCLB is an attempt to apply Title I standards to all schools. However, if you look through this guide carefully, you will see that the consequences only apply to Title I schools.

Quote: “What if a school does not improve?”

"States and local school districts will aid schools that receive Title I funds in making meaningful changes that will improve their performance. In the meantime, districts will offer parents options for children in low-performing schools, including extra help to children from low-income families (see section on Choice and Supplemental Educational Services).

The No Child Left Behind Act lays out an action plan and timetable for steps to be taken when a Title I school fails to improve, as follows:

A Title I school that has not made adequate yearly progress, as defined by the state, for two consecutive school years will be identified by the district before the beginning of the next school year as needing improvement. School officials will develop a two-year plan to turn around the school. The local education agency will ensure that the school receives needed technical assistance as it develops and implements its improvement plan. Students must be offered the option of transferring to another public school in the district–which may include a public charter school–that has not been identified as needing school improvement.
If the school does not make adequate yearly progress for three years, the school remains in school-improvement status, and the district must continue to offer public school choice to all students. In addition, students from low-income families are eligible to receive supplemental educational services, such as tutoring or remedial classes, from a state-approved provider.
If the school fails to make adequate progress for four years, the district must implement certain corrective actions to improve the school, such as replacing certain staff or fully implementing a new curriculum, while continuing to offer public school choice and supplemental educational services for low-income students.
If a school fails to make adequate yearly progress for a fifth year, the school district must initiate plans for restructuring the school. This may include reopening the school as a charter school, replacing all or most of the school staff or turning over school operations either to the state or to a private company with a demonstrated record of effectiveness.
In addition, the law requires states to identify for improvement those local education agencies that fail to make adequate yearly progress for two consecutive years or longer and to institute corrective actions."
Under NCLB, a school can literally fail to meet its students’ needs for SIX YEARS with no major consequences. And, if your school is not a Title I school, there are NO provisions in the law to cover that.

In the meantime, the law states that all children, in all demographic groups, must achieve Adequate Yearly Progress. We have children in the public schools who DO meet or exceed state standards - and they too are required to make AYP. When a kid scores 100% on a test, there can be no adequate yearly progress - there’s no “up” from 100%! Additionally, NCLB now requires state test standards to be altered for LEP students (cite:
I am in the public school classrooms on a regular basis as a parent advocate in the district. Teachers are being handed shitloads of new rules and regulations to cope with. I have seen numerous “initiatives” go through our local school board, ALL of which stress the importance of bringing up test scores for our special ed, LEP and below-poverty-level students. For students who do meet or exceed standards, there is exactly ZERO going on for them, and in fact many of the resources normally dedicated to the education of successful students has been co-opted. Funds for arts, music, sports, TECHNOLOGY and more have been drastically cut, and those funds have been redirected to low-performance students.

I’m skeptical of testing. I think a failing school and a failing student are obvious to anybody who knows them.

My aunt teaches at a school that had fallen far below state standards in Pennsylvania. That school got additional resources fronm the state to bring their performance up to better levels. Would you support such an approach, CandidGamera and tdn?

I also don’t see why schools that fail despite numerous such chances should be protected forever. The only people this serves are teachers and bureaucrats, while students suffer. We cannot ever lose sight of the fact that the schools exist for the students, not as jobs programs for the teachers or pork-barrel spending for educrats.

Not at all. Throwing money at a problem, unless it’s a debt collection agency, seldom makes it go away. The most rational and straightforward solution I could think of for the situation you describe is to send in trained observers to the school. Observe classes. Find out why the students aren’t getting or remembering the information they need. If the experts suggest that additional money for resources or additional teachers would benefit the particular school, then give it a try. But it may be a problem as simple as a boring methodology on the part of the teachers. In which case, you might schedule a summer workshop for the teachers of the school to show them ways to retain the students attention.

I’ve always been a proponent of the idea that the government should spend money to improve our general quality of life in the states, but never indiscriminately.

That depends. I certainly wouldn’t want to coddle a school, nor reward it for poor performance. However, if the poor performance was due to inadequate resources, then I’d support getting them whatever they need.

I also want to clear something up – while I maintain that NCLB is a stupid, ill-conceived load of bullocks, that doesn’t mean I think that it’s OK to let students slide, or that I think the system as it is is just hunky-dory. Far from it. But I think that NCLB, as I understand it (admittedly poorly) will do more harm than good. The only people that will see any real benefit from it are politicians.

My point with this one was the concept that all children cannot be expected to achieve standards of excellence, unless those standards are watered to the point of meaninglessness. Demanding excellence of all students is a buncha political sound-bite crapola, intended not to improve education, but to garner votes for a politician, and they benefit you and me not in the least.

It sure is. Especially when any failure on the part of the children is automatically assumed to be the fault of the school district, the administrators, and most especially the teachers, regardless of what reality might have to do with it.

Close. I was, again, harping on the demand that all kids be excellent. Of course, when you press the President about this one, he simply mumbles something like what he said in his State Of The Union address – “I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect third graders to read at a third grade level.”

No, it’s not. Of course, No Child Left Behind implies, by its very existence, that huuuge numbers of third graders could NOT read at a third grade level. News to me. And based on the President’s PR, and on the wording of the law, it seems to me that they aren’t aiming to have third graders reading at a third grade level; they are aiming to jack up the standards. From now on, all children must perform at a given level. All of them. No matter what. NO MATTER WHAT.

This is all well and good, and sounds really peachy on paper.

In reality, it is the equivalent of requiring all workers to earn the same amount of money, or all football players to be Super Bowl quality, or all lawyers to be Perry Mason. Some will succeed, naturally. Some will not. And what do we do with the kids **who for whatever reason ** fall short of the new standards? Well, we punish their teachers and their school districts by cutting their funding, that’s what!

Precisely what this accomplishes… aside from creating an atmosphere of frustration and low-grade terror in the schools… is quite unclear to me. I mean, if we’re going to demand pie in the sky, why not simply demand that all grades be “A’s”?

Tough bananas, bud. Those are the kids teachers are going to have to focus on, because NO CHILD CAN BE LEFT BEHIND! GOT IT? GOT IT? BECAUSE IF ANY CHILD IS LEFT BEHIND, THE SCHOOLS WILL BE MADE TO SUFFER!!!

So forget your child. Sounds to me like she’s pretty sharp, and a good kid, with a halfway intelligent parent, and she’ll just have to limp along as best she can, because her teachers are going to have their hands full with the slower kids. Oh, and the new paperwork. Oh, and the standardized testing intended to hold the teachers accountable, which also cuts down their time to actually teach anything. Oh, and …

Ha, ha, ha. No Child Left Behind has ALREADY fixed it, bud! By sharply limiting the percentage of children in any given district who CAN be tested as if they were Special Ed! Generally, about five percent, depending on a variety of factors. If your school’s SPED population is more than five percent, well, you’ll just have to test the rest as if they were right up to speed with the rest of the kids! And if they don’t somehow magically perform up to speed, the schools will be made to suffer! Ha, ha, ha! Fixed THAT problem, now, DIDN’T we?

You’re making entirely too much sense here, and I can’t very well argue with you. But do you think it’s right to demand that teachers ignore their best and brightest, in order to focus on coaxing miracles out of the dumbest and least motivated? Certainly, a good teacher should work with the bottom end of the class… but at the cost of ignoring the best?

Bet the El Ed teachers love that. “Hey, let’s take time away from instruction, and devote it to superfluous testing, just so we can track the little buggers’ progress and make sure they can pass the Big Honker in fourth grade.”

Assuming their teachers find time to teach them, that is; all this testing and paperwork eats up a lot of time. And due to the failure of the government to FUND any of this mandatory stuff, there will likely be fewer teachers to actually DO it. And assuming that the student in question is intelligent, motivated, and non-impaired enough to do so. Oh, wait, never mind. It’s *illegal * to be stupid, now… and if they insist on being stupid, we’ll keep cutting funding and firing teachers until the students get smarter

Yeah, I’ve thought the same thing about most of George W. Bush’s sound bites.

Um… yes. Except when the local taxpayers vote “no.” Otherwise, you’re quite correct. There are “Robin Hood Laws” that swap funds around between richer and poorer schools… and the richer school districts scream bloody murder about it every time elections come up. After all, THEIR budgets have been cut, as well…

You mean to tell me after this entire argument you AGREE with me?

Um… wrong. Statistics about grades, performance, dropout rates, and so on and so on and so on have existed about as long as schools have. Small-town papers are very fond of publishing them, in fact. And the standards NCLB imposes are hardly objective; take a ghetto school with intense gang culture, violence, and bad craziness, and I guarantee that regardless of funding and qualification of teachers, the students there will NOT do as well as a small, suburban school where the parents will bust the kids for skipping out, making bad grades, and so on. Show me how NCLB measures these standards, please; I was under the impression that it did not. NCLB measures ONE thing: test scores. It provides nearly no milieu information under which those scores were generated, measured, or brought about. And, lastly, it does not penalize the kids who made the scores, but the school… whose fault it may or may not be.

Screw the teachers’ unions. I have yet to encounter a teacher who thinks NCLB is anything but political crapola. This would seem to indicate that the people in charge of educating your children think it’s a joke, and a joke in poor taste, at that. This would seem to indicate that it may BE a joke.

…unless you simply choose to believe that all teachers are lazy, venal, stupid, and aggressively opposed to doing their jobs. I believe this is the impression that our politicians are working hard to promote, since it gives them a simple problem to fix, and a jolly issue to wave around when elections come about.

…then wouldn’t it be a better idea to replace NCLB with a system that addresses the specifics? As it is, the system you are endorsing simply bashes the teachers if the kid who can’t read can’t read, and ignores the college-prep kid entirely. Is this right? Hell, is this SANE?

Testing tells you ONE thing: what the scores are. Period. It is possible for brilliant students to do poorly on them, due to lack of motivation. Case in point: Practice Testing. Why should I show up and take a test that I don’t actually get a grade on? We’ve had loads of fun with this one.

Is there independent evidence showing that the school’s problems are rooted in a lack of funding? Is there a clear solution in sight which requires funding? If so, yes. If not, then plainly the situation requires more study.

Quite true. I think that finding out WHY the school is failing is worth something, though. Plainly, if the teachers are incompetent crackheads and the principal is running a prostitution ring out of the Home Ec department, protecting the school is pointless. On the other hand, if the teachers and administrators of this school are competent professionals, desperately trying their best, how does punishing them achieve anything?

But it’s been my experience that “pork barrel spending by educrats” isn’t so much a reality as a neato sound-bite. Man, I’d love it if TEXAS had “educrats” like this. Instead, we get politicians who say “Make things better somehow, or LOSE the money we trickle into your budget.” Man, I can’t REMEMBER the last time a politician offered us MORE money…

Do you hear an echo when you talk?
Because you are a tremendous ass and your head is stuffed up there pretty far so I’m just wondering if you hear an echo when you talk?
IF two football teams of the same proficiency played each other, odds are one of them would win. One would have to win if you played with sudden death rules.
So the analogy is for crap.

Is this your question? If so, the answer is “No, except when I’m in a very large room, in a cave, or on the edge of the Grand Canyon, or similar surroundings.”

Yes, I’m very much aware than when two football teams play, one will win and one will lose. Any other outcome would be idiotic, as you very astutely pointed out.

The point I was making is that expecting all children to achieve at identical levels is every bit as idiotic as expecting all football teams to win the championship.

Thank you for informing me that the analogy is for shit. I will certainly keep this in mind in the future, when discussing “No Child Left Behind” with people who would rather pick an analogy apart than think about an issue, or who are not smart enough to figure out the point of the analogy.

Which tends to support the idea that we don’t all achieve intelligence at identical levels, now that I think about it…

National Education Association:

Quite so.

But you know what? I’m sick to death of hearing about how the teachers’ unions are only in it for themselves, and how they’re trying to destroy what Our Saintly Politicians have built, and yadda yadda yadda.

I’m tired of talking about teachers’ unions, because as far as some people are concerned, unions = evil, and end of discussion. Most of these same folks would stop before saying “All teachers = evil,” but they don’t want to hear about how professional organizations operate in such a way as to protect the rights of their members. Unions = evil, and that’s all she wrote.

So forget the unions. Not talking about unions. Talking about professional educators.

Gee, guess what? Every educator I know says “NCLB is crap.”

It ain’t just the unions.

My mother is an elementary school teacher who has been trying to figure out what to do with this ‘No Child Left Behind’ thing for quite a while.

She spends quite a lot of her unpaid time at home trying to work up lesson plans that are interesting and challenging, but aren’t too hard for the slowest kids in her classes. The problem is that no matter what she has tried, there are some kids who can’t keep up, and some kids who are so far ahead as to be bored for lack of a challenge.

She has thirty students per class, some of them abused, some of them with mild mental retardation, one with Down’s Syndrome, one blind student, a couple of students with ADHD, lots of very average 10 year-olds and a few really bright students and one or two exceptionally gifted students. She is held accountable for the success of all of them, to the standards of the NCLB initiative. Because of this, a lot of her classroom time is spent with the students who are currently below the standards, trying to ‘catch them up’, and very little is left over for the students who excel. She has brought home the Christmas cards that her students have made for her, and for some of them she’s quite proud that the student could spell our last name (a very short, common English word) because for that student, momsix knows that it takes considerable effort to write anything at all.

She has also had to deal with the frustration of preparing the students for the standardized tests that they’ll have to take, which apparently is quite an effort for a student who has mild mental retardation. It takes much of her time and effort to do this, leaving less and less time for instruction that goes beyond rote memorization. She refers to this as the government making sure that the kid gets on the train (passes the standardized test) but nobody giving a damn whether or not the bags are packed (actually comprehending the concepts of her class). She loves her job and her students, but is frustrated by the fact that although she (and other teachers) can recognize that each student has his or her own potential, they are treated as if they must all meet the arbitrary line in the sand. What for one kid is extremely easy is very difficult for another kid, and those kids that struggle the most are constantly feeling ‘left behind’ as they struggle to meet the line in the sand.

It seems that what bothers her most is that kids are no longer being encouraged to reach their potential and be proud of their accomplishment, but that those who have more difficulty are always feeling behind, and those who have a higher level of mental ability are constantly bored and unchallenged.

Her remarks to familysix (if they make sense) are that instead of making sure every kid is on the same train, regardless of whether the bags are packed or not, what would be better is to make sure everyone’s bags are packed as well as they can be, and then each kid take the train that is best for him or her. We don’t all have to take the same train to the same place for each one of us to be the very best each one of us can.

But what would momsix know about educating children as compared to some Senator or Representative or President? She’s only been in the field for thirty years.