One thing is clear about our current political system – it rarely works. Washington is a prime example. But there are examples in Raleigh as well.
Broken politics are bad enough when adults pay the price for politicians’ foibles, but when bureaucrats use third graders as political pawns, political shenanigans take on a whole new meaning.
Here’s an example: In the 2011-12 Budget the General Assembly implemented the Read to Achieve program. What the bill did was simple: It said children in the third grade needed to be able to read at a third grade level before they could be promoted to the fourth grade. That was straightforward enough – it simply laid down a marker. It didn’t require that 8-year-olds take complex batteries of statewide tests. In fact, it didn’t require any statewide testing program at all. A child’s teacher could make the decision.
And that’s where it stood until the bureaucrats at the Department of Public Instruction (and local school boards) got into the act and turned a simple goal into a complex system of tests upon tests upon micro-tests – that all landed squarely on the heads of 8-year-olds.
The Department of Public Instruction started informing local school boards that reading proficiency could be measured in five ways:
1. Pass the Beginning of Grade Test.
2. Pass the End of Grade Test.
3. Pass the state developed alternative test.
4. Pass a State Board of Education approved test, developed at the local level.
5. Pass (at a 70% rate) the 36 passages in the student portfolio.
Now, bear in mind, the General Assembly didn’t mandate all these tests. But, nonetheless, some local school districts proceeded to require third graders to take a barrage of multiple tests.
So, why is this an example of ‘broken politics?’ Because it’s an example of how our state education bureaucrats react to any attempt at accountability. It reminds me of the recent budget dust up in Washington. If the President had simply laid off a few IRS auditors, no one would have minded. But, instead, he chose to shut down those parts of the government that would cause the most pain and outrage – like locking veterans out of war memorials.
Bureaucrats don’t like accountability, so under the ruse of complying with Read to Achieve they created a plan for testing that was sure to outrage parents. To crush any attempt at accountability the bureaucrats turned a simple requirement – that third graders be able to read – into an education train wreck.