Saturday, July 1, 2006

Maine, Federal Education Funding, the SAT and No Child Left Behind

There's an educational funding war brewing between the state of Maine and the U.S. Department of Education. The feds say they'll withhold at least a hundred grand or so (actually, they'll bypass the state and give it directly to school districts) because the state adopted the SAT to measure the educational progress of juniors in high school. They'll potentially divert half a million dollars. From the Portland Press Herald:

"This is basic stuff," said Michael Sentance, the regional representative for the U.S. education secretary.

....Maine's use of the SAT and its failure to show how the test measures students' achievement is a particular concern, Sentance said.

Maine started administering the SAT, a standardized college entrance examination, to high school juniors this year instead of the Maine Educational Assessment test. The MEA is now given to students in third through eighth grades.

I'm already on record in a post from nine months ago that the SAT is a sham of a test, and should never have been adopted in Maine. The important thing to reinforce here is that Maine Commissioner of Education Susan Gendron seems to be living in a dream world about this entire process. From the Bangor Daily News:

Gendron has been roundly criticized for replacing the Maine Educational Assessment test with the SAT, or so-called college boards, for 11th-grade students this year. The department has argued that the SATs would inspire more high school students to attend college after graduation. However, the federal government had warned the state in advance that the decision to change to the SAT would be problematic for the state.

"Some will say "I told you so, commissioner," but I absolutely believe this is the right decision for Maine children," Gendron said. "I am still confident we are making the right decision for our young people."

The right decision, in my left-libertarian fantasy, would be to close down all the government schools and allow a free and voluntary educational tableau to develop.

Returning to reality, and assuming the likely continuation of our socialized educational system, a good step for its improvement would be to remove Gendron from her post. She believes that it is a good thing for high school students who can barely count change or read the newspaper to have collegiate aspirations. That's just insane. It's even more insane to think that a test will inspire more students to seek out a college education when even intelligent students who have been attentive to their coursework earn poor scores.

When you throw in the well-documented gender, racial and ethnic biases of the scoring of the SAT, which exaggerate differences among demographic groups in regards to their actual collegiate achievements, or -- even worse -- contradict them, it seems only a very demented soul could support the use of this test. That's not the sort of soul that should be running a state educational department.

The state's education department no longer exists to educate children, if it ever did. It's now just like any other government bureaucracy, focused on its own growth and welfare.



I am grateful that this post is being featured at the following open trackback posts: The Crazy Rants of Samantha Burns, Point Five, Assorted Babble, The Dumb Ox, Right Wing Nation, Blue Star Chronicles, The Right Nation, The Uncooperative Blogger, Stuck on Stupid, The Bullwinkle Blog, 123beta, TMH's Bacon Bits, third world county, Big Dog's Weblog, Jo's Cafe

Update 7/6/06: This wasn't meant to be my Open Trackback post for the week, but since I've taken the last few days off from blogging, and Planck's Constant trackbacked to me anyway, I guess it was. I promise there'll be a genuine OTA post next week.

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