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"A Nation at Risk"

From Peter Sacks's review essay, "A Nation at Risk," in the Nov. 18 issue of The Nation:

"Schools that fail to meet annual growth targets for test scores are embroidered with a Scarlet A, branding them a failing school.

Parents of children 'trapped in failing schools,' as the Bush team has described it, are invited to transfer their children to supposedly better schools-in other words, the ones with better test scores.

The entire scheme is erected upon a pie-in-the-sky proposition: that turning public education into a pseudo-marketplace in which schools compete on the basis of test scores for their "customers," i.e.
parents and their children, will not only improve educational quality across the board but also wipe out the thorny achievement gaps between races and classes.

The only catch to this seemingly elegant, market-driven solution to education reform is that there's virtually no evidence that it works.

Indeed, after nearly two decades of such "reforms" at the state level following the 1983 diatribe against America's schools known as "A Nation at Risk," the evidence is overwhelming that the Bush approachis, at best, counterproductive to the aims of education, and at worst a cynical ploy to privatize the nation's public schools.

Whether the explanation is unabashed greed or merely certain habits of mind in a capitalistic society governed by the professional classes, American policymakers, while tone deaf to the unfolding educational fiasco they are wreaking, have been mesmerized by regulatory models and corporate-inspired quick fixes that presume
school improvement is limited only by the degree to which you can bribe people or punish people on the basis of their performance on
standardized tests."