February 18, 2007

Latest VDARE.com column: NCLB

Why “No Child Left Behind” Is Nuts
By Steve Sailer

A reader who teaches math in a public high school in northern Orange County, California recounted the following dialogue with one of his students:

Student: "My mom is 28 years old."

Teacher: "How old are you?"

Student: "Fifteen."

Teacher: "So, your mother had you when she was thirteen?"

Student: "Wow! You can do that in your head that fast?"

Teacher: "Uh, well, uh, don't worry about it. That's why I'm a math teacher!"

And his student went away happy, self-esteem reassured by knowing that only nerdy math teachers can quickly subtract 15 from 28.

Meanwhile, America's Great and Good carry on making plans for America's schools based on assumptions that wouldn't survive an hour in an average classroom. (Not that they would ever send their kids to a typical school.)

The Aspen Institute's bipartisan Commission on No Child Left Behind, co-chaired by former governors Tommy Thompson and Roy E. Barnes and paid for by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (among others), has just issued 75 recommendations for improving the NCLB legislation when it comes up for renewal by Congress this year.

Despite the many small reforms advocated in the Commission's report "Beyond NCLB: Fulfilling the Promise to Our Nation’s Children" (222 page PDF), not one word of criticism is uttered against the original legislation's most important and implausible requirement: "that all children should reach a proficient level of academic achievement by 2014" in math and reading. The report declares this goal of 100 percent proficiency by 2014 to be "audacious … morally right … and attainable."

What they don't mention about this demand: It's nuts. [More]

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer


Anonymous said...

That is pretty ridiculous. I was astounded when I got to the part about Taiwan and Sweden.

I wonder what you and the gnxp folks have to say about the Dead Reckoning blog (which has been critical of Murray's WSJ op-eds on NCLB) and the recent study about telling kids intelligence is not innate causing them to do better.

Anonymous said...

Debates about NCLB and like-minded programs are always so depressing. It's not a matter of people simply being wrong about things relevant to public policy. They're acutely uninterested in and hostile to facts contrary to the program's underlying assumptions. What a poisonous and dysfunctional atmosphere for a nation's politics...

Anonymous said...

NCLB is not going to be changed. Too many people on the Right and the Left have invested too much in this stupid program.

All that will happen is states will find out new and innovative ways to get around the testing standards.

Anonymous said...

Your fellow iSteve has thoughts on school:

Anonymous said...

This is how to deal with both sides: is adult height genetically or environmentally determined?

As per usual, the answer is it depends. In areas where people are malnourished and there's lots of childhood disease, everybody pretty much will be short except for those rich enough to get plenty of food -- it will seem that nutrition and health are the determining factors, not genetics. In a place like the U.S., where kids get more than enough food, almost all height differences will be due to genetics.

So what about academic achievement? Yes, many American students can do much better than they can do now, but that's mainly because they have crappy schooling and are not putting much work into their education. So yeah, telling those kids that if they work hard they can do better educationally is not a lie. The majority of American students aren't in danger of maxing out on what they can achieve academically.

However, that doesn't mean every child can achieve any academic level, no more than every kid can make it into the NBA, and some can achieve much more modestly than others. I have seen people maxing out in grad school, people maxing out on the actuarial exams, and people maxing out at much lower levels. I have several relatives who teach special education (of different levels), and though the mentally retarded can achieve much more than was thought decades ago, there is the realization that they have real cognitive limits. My grandmother retired from teaching when the state was trying to apply the same tests to her students as everybody else, as well as when they kept trying to cram those of normal intelligence but with "other issues" into her classes (probably to make the stats look better.)

There's no reason to believe that there's a cliff of cognitive abilities and potentials, and it's likely that like most other human characteristics there's a continuum. I have no problem with setting high standards, but there's got to be a realization that some people will never be able to get there, and you've got to think of what to do with those students.

Anonymous said...

"I have no problem with setting high standards, but there's got to be a realization that some people will never be able to get there, and you've got to think of what to do with those students."

LOL! The problem is that it is politically incorrect to point out differences in intelligence. So, how do you set standards if you can't even talk about IQ?

When I hear people talk about "high standards" I always laugh. Until IQ can be talked about honestly, this talk about "high standards" is pointless.

Leonard said...

Steve, I doubt our elites think that Asian immigration will bail them out; they don't understand immigration's effects nor do they know anything about IQ in the large. Certainly they know about IQ as it pertains to their kids, schools, property values, etc. But even this is pushed down into the unconscious when possible.

However, I am curious as to why you don't propound more Asian immigration. (Meaning East Asian, of course.) It would seem logical that America should import people to make us smarter, and therefore, more competitive. Certainly I see you decrying the importation of people who are on average dumber than us.

Bush's Guest Worker Brigades plan, if implemented "fairly", and combined with actual enforcement, could have the effect of replacing part of the Mexican stream with Chinese.

Leonard said...

One other comment on the piece, certainly I don't think all of America's kids can be above average. But I don't understand why you would be against the idea of nationwide testing. (I suppose you might oppose it on essentially Federalist grounds, but you don't make that case.)

As you obviously understand, nationwide testing would make clear the fraud happening at the state level. But while you seem to be viewing the current fraud as a "solution" to the problem of how all kids can be above average, I don't see why. Live not by lies! Isn't the Commission to be commended for trying to expose the fraud in the states?

With nationwide testing, the Lake Wobegon lobby would have to water down the national test to get the right effect. Which may well be what happens; I don't know. But it may well be that this sort of thing is tipping point, that will break open the taboo on IQ discussion in the public and allow the sunshine in.

Even with what NCLB does now, we are getting far more discussion of IQ than we did before. And I say that as an opponent of Federalizing education.

Anonymous said...

Sometimes I think that Steve is writing about obvious facts that almost all of us know (except maybe those who go to Harvard and Yale and have never mixed with regular people) but that we all pretend for good reason do not exist. But in cases like this it seems that the pretending does become a negative rather than a positive and thus it is good that he writes about them.

Anonymous said...

Confucius say, good to call stupid donkey stupid and smart head smart. This make for clean and tidy barnyard.


"Confucius believed that social disorder resulted from failing to call things by their proper names, and his solution was "Rectification of Names/Terms" (zhèngmíng, 正名). When Duke Jing of Qi asked about government, Confucius replied, "There is government, when the prince is prince, and the minister is minister; when the father is father, and the son is son." (Analects XII, 11, tr. Legge). He gave a more detailed explanation of zhengming to one of his disciples."

Anonymous said...

this is all beside the point. the federal government has no business in this area. the department of education should not exist.

the federal government only has a few legitimate functions. sadly, it cannot even perform some of those.

as we drift away from states' rights, the purpose of the federal government becomes even more murky. it now thinks it should be involved in gay marriage, rather than in defense of the border.

dobeln said...

"the recent study about telling kids intelligence is not innate causing them to do better."

That paper is not out yet. We are trying to get our hands on it.

Anonymous said...

Actually the study's been out for several years. Here is the citation:

Mueller, C.M., & Dweck, C.S. (1998). Intelligence praise can undermine motivation and performance. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 75 , 33-52.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, I just realized that's a different study. The one about teaching that intelligence is not innate was just published.

Anonymous said...

Leonard - why dont you advocate not having children of your own and adopting some east asian kids instead. After all they might well be harder working and more intelligent than any you could have yourself. The average IQ of the Leonard family might go up. Thats all thats important right?

Anonymous said...

"Leonard - why dont you advocate not having children of your own and adopting some east asian kids instead. After all they might well be harder working and more intelligent than any you could have yourself. The average IQ of the Leonard family might go up. Thats all thats important right?"

That is a good point. You think that Leonard would understand it. Why not just invite all of China to come here, after all, maybe that could raise the national IQ a few points?

I think Leonard is a chink posing as a white man.

Anonymous said...

All you people using words like "chink" and "nigger":

There's no need for that.

I'm by no means saying don't hate. If you feel hate, go ahead and tell us why, your reasons might be sound.

But this is a fucking forum. Here, people who have evidence present it, backing up their opinions in an attempt to persuade others.

People who suffer from a poverty of expression and an inability to think clearly, on the other hand, resort to mean-spirited name-calling and the most juvenile of insults to counter their own frustration..

If you just want to vent, go buy a diary.

You're crowding out the opinions of people far more thoughtful than you by bringing the intellectual level of this site way down. And by making shit uglier than it needs to be. Trust me the truth is often ugly enough.

Leonard said...

Anon and 1488, thank you for your concern, but I'll do better IQ-wise by having my own.

Yes, inviting all of China here would raise our national IQ. So, what? I have not particularly advocated one way or another about what we should do about immigration. However, Steve has. He has argued on many occasions that among other reasons we don't want the average immigrant, is their low average IQ. If IQ is essentially intractible, then the current immigration pattern will cause America's average IQ to decline. And if IQ is related to life outcomes -- as he also argues -- then it is a problem for all of us who will pick up the tab.

One way to avoid the problem is, of course, immigration restrictionism. However, another is to find ways to substitute high-IQ immigrants for low-IQ immigrants. It would seem logical for Steve to devote some time thinking about this, but as far as I am aware he has never addressed it directly. (I think he has at least generally favored a Canadian type system (selecting immigrants for skills), which is one way of selecting indirectly for intelligence.)

Anonymous said...

america doesn't need any more immigrants right now, of any kind. america needs less people, not more. that's probably the reason you don't see any call for large scale chinese immigration.

i'm not a big fan of idea of large scale chinese immigration anyway. china sucks. there's no good reason to re-create it here. i don't understand the drive to turn america into a crowded, sprawling mess. the politicians already want to turn america into mexico, that's bad enough.

dobeln said...

"Actually the study's been out for several years. Here is the citation:

Mueller, C.M., & Dweck, C.S. (1998). Intelligence praise can undermine motivation and performance. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 75 , 33-52."

Sorry - only took a glance and mixed it up with her new article on how a belief in the mutability of intelligence can improve the learning of children. (Jan/Feb issue of Child Development)


dobeln said...

Without having read the JPSP article carefully, it appears that the conclusion is that it is preferable to praise effort, rather than fixed ability. (Mechanism is most likely complacency)

Which doesn't seem outrageous at first glance*.

* I haven't done any careful methodological rundown, etc. here. Perhaps someone who is an expert in the field can comment?

Anonymous said...

"Even with what NCLB does now, we are getting far more discussion of IQ than we did before. And I say that as an opponent of Federalizing education."

If the suggestion here is that once NCLB fails it will be recognised and understood why it has failed then I think this is unduly optimistic. Yet more excuses will be brought into play, to explain the failure. The mentality of the closed ideologist is to never allow reality to intrude.

The moral that I think the future will draw is that America really lost the Cold War, by, in a sense, becoming Leninist Russia. NCLB is the new five year plan and everyone who says that it can't work will simply be sent to Coventry (which is the Left's version of Siberia).

I must say it is hard to watch the West slide into oblivion in this way.

Anonymous said...

Actually,the mom in the opening
bit could have been 12.If the story
is right,the exact ages of mom and
son were 28+ fractional part
and 15+fractional part.If mom's
fractional part was smaller than
the son's fractional part,then
she was 12 when the kid was born.

Anonymous said...

BTW It seems to me that we cannot assume that we cannot assume that the student knew his mothers age.

Anonymous said...

So how do we PROFIT off the dumbing of America?

What stocks do we invest in to take advantage of the dumber future?

Anonymous said...

Half Sigma,

That is the question I've been asking myself for the last few years. If you ever find out, please do tell.

Anonymous said...

Well,Disney for one! Video game companies. Any form of entertainment! (Dumb people love to be entertained!) I heard that Michael Jackson is starting his own program for kids:No Childs Behind Left! :)

KDeRosa said...

I am a little disappointed in this post. The usually reliable Steve Sailer seriously fumbles the meaning of "proficiency" (It does not mean a 'B' it is merely an arbitrary cut-score) and seems not to understand that the NAEP exam is neer meant to be a measure of student performance under NCLB (states get to define their standards and align their tests to those standards, i.e., they get to teach to the test and so get the benefit of being able to teach to the test which is not necessarily a bad thing).

But the real problem Steve makes (the same mistake Murray made) is underestimating what low IQ students are capable of actually achieving academically if they receive decent instruction as opposed to the crap that gets peddled in most schools. We only spent half a billion dollars conducting Project Follow Through in the 70s and tested thousands of kids and learned that one academic program was able to raise student performance by a standard deviation across the board (higher performers even more).

Today, that same program, Direct Instruction, is able to get inner city kids from the inner city of Baltimore performing at below the 20th precentile to up to the 80th percentile by the fifth grade. See here. In fact, there is some research that indicates that lower performing students can learn pretty much everything we usually expect a high school student to learn. perhaps not rocket science, but certainly algebra, geometry and chemistry.

Having a low IQ does not mean that you can't do high school level work.

dobeln said...

Kderosa - Interesting stuff (The comment as well as your blog stuff). Any comment from Steve?

The 10 000 dollar question though - if the level of instruction you discuss is indeed achievable within reasonable budgetary restrictions, what is the main obstacle holding it back all these years? The usual culprits, or something else?

KDeRosa said...

No word from Steve yet.

The reason why it hasn't attracted more widespread attention is due to the usual reasons--the ideology of the educrats. It proves that everything they believe is wrong and that doesn't sit well with them.

We should be getting some good Reading First data coming in soon (one of NCLB's few bright spots) that you'll want to keep an eye our for. Since much of the research on reading was developed under DI, most of the reading programs getting Reading First funds haev tried to emulate DI. Most will stink , but some might succeed And, DI has about a 3% penetration in at-risk schools.