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If It's Sauce for the Goose...

Soapbox is an occasional Education World feature that gives educators a chance to express their views.

Veteran teacher and Education World contributor Max Fischer suggests that if the federal government, under the No Child Left Behind Act, is going to hold schools to strict accountability standards, then all entities receiving federal funds also should be held to such standards.

This column originally appeared as a letter to the editor in the Wooster, Ohio, Daily Record.

By Max Fischer

The October 26, 2003, edition of the Wooster, Ohio, Daily Record included a front page article titled, "Funding Quality Performance," in which a local physician stated his support for the federal No Child Left Behind Act. Specifically, the article quoted the doctor as saying he ". . . is not against closing schools if they do not meet the state and federal timetables for bringing all children to No Child Left Behind proficiency levels."

I'm sure many citizens share the doctor's desire to legislate maximum performance from their tax dollars through data-driven accountability measures. After all, everyone knows that in education test results are concrete figures that absolutely tell everything one wants to know about the effectiveness of any teacher, building, or district.

Let us then consider how we might use the No Child Left Behind Act as a model for comparable legislation, based on a similar data-driven philosophy, to ensure accountability from other recipients of government funding:

  • Given a ten-year deadline, police officers will eliminate 100 percent of crime in their communities. Officers and administrators will face termination if significant progress isn't made over three-year intervals during the decade.
  • Given a ten-year deadline, established organizations whose purpose is to counter drug abuse will eliminate drug abuse within their jurisdiction with 100 percent efficiency. Agents of such organizations (counselors, U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency personnel, law enforcement officials) will be terminated if significant reduction in drug abuse in their locale isn't made during three-year intervals during the decade.
  • Given a ten-year deadline, all medical practitioners and hospitals who accept Medicare payments will achieve a 100 percent recovery rate for their patients or be denied all future Medicare patients. (Practitioners in publicly funded hospitals who are deemed ineffective by the 100 percent criterion will be terminated.)
  • Given a ten-year deadline, all universities receiving federal funds (or accepting students with outstanding federal education loans) will achieve a 100 percent graduation rate. If the graduation rate does not make significant improvement over three-year intervals, identified professors from ineffective departments will be terminated.

In each of the preceding examples, progress rates will be published on a regular basis in local newspapers to keep the public abreast about who is doing the best job with the public's money.

I am sure we can all agree that data-driven proficiency/efficiency plans are the way to go to get maximum mileage from our tax dollars. They provide very simple answers for very complex issues.

An educator for nearly three decades, Max Fischer currently teaches seventh graders the marvels of ancient history. A National Board certified teacher in the area of early adolescence social studies/history, Fischer has authored nine resource books for teachers in the fields of social studies, health, and mathematics. He also is a regular contributor to Education World's Voice of Experience series.