Joe Batory: Letter To The Editor of The Washington Post

I have noted with interest the shallow syndicated column (Seattle Times, June 23. 2005) of David S. Broder, who has obviously become an apologist for the Bush Administration’s No Child Left Behind Act.  Broder has used a recent survey from the Educational Testing Service (ETS) to share “lessons” about the status of reform in public schools across America with his readers.

Parents appear to support reform in education while teachers do not, Broder tells America. And this is a real barrier to progress, he contends.

But let’s turn to page one of a basic journalism course here. According to Broder, 75% of high school teachers across the USA as measured by the ETS survey were decidedly negative about the No Child Left Behind Act.  Broder uses this data to simplistically contend that this must be an issue of the “evil” teacher unions against the omniscient George Bush who surely knows what’s best for our nation’s schools. But is it really that elementary, Broder??

Just for a minute let’s imagine that in a survey of all doctors or lawyers in the USA 75% were against a wide sweeping controversial law developed by a group of politicians who acted unilaterally and never bothered to consult doctors and lawyers. Wouldn’t any journalist worth his credibility consult with the national organizations of doctors or lawyers to find out what was the essence of their opposition?  Isn’t it common sense that before making “simple simon” edicts to the American public about “who or what is right” about education in the USA, that sound journalism calls for an examination of all of the facts from all sides and viewpoints.

Especially for an op-ed writer and before he condemns all teachers as obstructionists, David Broder needs to do his homework, the basic tool of effective journalism. For openers, Broder should examine a research study from Arizona State University that indicates that the news media “presents too simplistic and incomplete a view of the problems and issues of American education.” Secondly, he should consult with leaders of the National Education Association and the American Association of School Administrators and the National and Elementary School Principals’ Associations as a “starting point” for a balanced analysis of No Child Left Behind before he conveniently regurgitates the White House’s position papers in his columns. 

The Bush Administration’s political obsession with standardized test score results is an example of a one dimensional focus that ignores many other parts of the equation for school improvement.  Meaningful change in education is a long term and multi-faceted project.  It takes lots of people inside and outside the schools working together with vision, consistency, determination, commitment, financial support and relentlessness.  This goes way beyond the simplistic test and create duress recipe that has been forced on schools via the federal government’s No Child Left Behind Act

Significant educational change requires more than just intensive testing of students. It must be driven by a consistent organizational philosophy, i.e., a set of unwavering beliefs among school and community leaders that maximizes learning opportunities for pupils, enriches curricula, promotes quality teaching and school leadership, and works to engage all students.

Truly, it is time for government to move beyond its “elixir of testing” and instead begin to adequately finance what truly counts and will make a significant difference for the better for our schools and the children they serve------universal preschool education, remedial and enrichment courses, school based before and after hours programs, released time for proven staff development for teachers and administrators, technology initiatives, school building modernization where necessary, fair share basic and special education funding, and smaller class sizes.

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