Congress Shocked To Find Out Schools Can’t Add

After the AP reported that as many as two million students, primarily minority children, had their test scores hidden by schools and states in order to avoid the accountability provided by the No Child Left Behind, Congress expressed shock that educators apparently can’t add properly — or thought Congress couldn’t. Key House and Senate members have stated that they will review actions by states to exempt themselves from the reporting provisions of NCLB and possibly mandate reporting levels in the future:

Congressional leaders and a former Bush Cabinet member said Tuesday that schools should stop excluding large numbers of minority students’ test scores when they report progress under the No Child Left Behind law.
The Associated Press reported Monday that schools have gotten federal permission to deliberately not count the test scores of nearly 2 million students when they report academic progress by race as required by the law. The scores excluded were overwhelmingly from minorities, the AP found.
Some leaders said Congress may need to intervene. The Education Department and others owe the public an explanation, said the Republican House Education Committee chairman’s office.

If Congress intends on making education an area of federal responsibility — which I still think is a mistake — then it should have made reporting exemptions clear in the original legislation. Once again we see the effect of poorly written regulation and its impact on the goals intended by Congress and the White House. The Department of Education should never have granted so many different exemptions, regardless of the effort to help promote compliance. Given that this was the centerpiece of the Bush administration’s domestic program despite conservative opposition to both the spending and the federal encroachment on local control, the White House should have taken more care that the people it claimed to serve were not getting … er … left behind.
We could have fixed this entire problem with school vouchers and saved the taxpayers a whole lot of money. Competition breeds accountability; government programs breed cheats and dodges. This latest restaging of government incompetence is brought to you by the bureaucratic impulse that appears to have infected both political parties of late.