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Benchmarks & Passing Grades

Monday, Sept. 10, 2007 1:08 AM

Perhaps the fate of Napa High School can cast some light on the fundamental dishonesty pervading our government.

Napa High School has earned top marks from state legislators and recognition as a California Distinguished School. Its grade: A.

But under the federal No Child Left Behind Act, Napa High School is the worst of the worst, a dismal failure, condemned to the bottom of the barrel with an F-grade.

Because in 2006, it missed a single goal out of the 21 benchmarks used to judge schools. (43 out of 195 non-English speaking students spoke English at grade level; the benchmark requires 53. That's 22% vs. 27% percent.)

It missed again this year. Should they draw a failing grade for five years in a row, the principal could be fired, and the school could be placed under outside administration.

Oddly enough, the grade-level English target comes at the expense of reading actual literature (Shakespeare, Harper Lee, John Steinbeck) and substituting the Holt Anthology textbook, which has less to do with reading, and more to do with worksheets, plot summaries, and prompting.

"I'm more concerned about them being able to put themselves in someone else's shoes - which is the essence of 'To Kill a Mockingbird.' I'm more concerned with them being able to feel compassion and to question authority in a constructive way, which is the essence of 'Night.' I'm more concerned with them looking at the nature of friendship, which is at the heart of 'Of Mice and Men,'" said Hilary Zunin, who has taught Literature to students of all grades and skill levels for 18 years.

So I'd like to know how, exactly, it is that completing a handful of the 18 Congress-mandated benchmarks in Iraq qualifies as a rip-roaring success. How, exactly, is it that we have administration officials scurrying about to provide 'realFacts' and 'goodFacts' and recommend completion over a downcheck?

Homeland Security won't discuss the technical merits of the new Osama bin-Blowin' Smoke Up Your Ass For Six Years Now tape, but freely drops hints about their concern that the tape 'could be a trigger.'

Yeah, that makes sense. Your go-code is gonna be something that is only getting widespread play because of our short-attention span media. Otherwise, you have to find a way to visit a website affiliated with al-Qaeda and not have all the federales in the district come crashing into your motel room.

Yet it's apparently verboten to discuss things that really don't give away anything, but would greatly diminish the power of Osama bin Eyeballin' Your Daughter as global boogeyman. Let's talk about the authenticity of the tape, even just to say, "We've analyzed it, and there are significant points of difference with past recordings."

But that would blow a hole in the magic 9/11 pinata, hauled out for all the candidates to whack off to at and remind us what brain-damaged, forgetful cowards we are, while scooping up the bounty of festively-wrapped fear and loathing that gets passed out like candy.

A Boot to the Head for Senator Joe Biden, who went on Sunday morning talk shows to call the Petraeus Report, "dead, flat wrong," but who won't support a cut-off for funding, buying into the conservative talking point that this cuts off our troops at a bullets-and-band-aids level.

And disgraced Senator Larry Craig, while he has - for the moment - again stated that he intends to resign at the end of the month, is nonetheless pressing ahead with efforts to get his conviction overturned.

Here's a hint, Senator. You're going to need substantial evidence to support your claim of entrapment, or provide evidence to counter the officer's statement.

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