Not a Tool to Punish?

In advocating for the reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind legislation at a ceremony honoring the nation’s 50 teachers of the year last week, President Bush made a statement that I’m not sure I totally agree with. He said:

"Measurement is not a tool to punish.  Measurement is a tool to correct and reward."

I’m not sure that the rest of the critics who have made a living throwing darts at public schools over the past four years have gotten the message! End of grade test results are regularly used to label schools—to the detriment of students—as failures in the eyes of the public, whether it be the "A, B, C, or D" ratings given to Florida’s "Zone" schools, North Carolina’s "Priority Schools" tag or the dreaded "In Need of Improvement" label from the Federal Government. 

Hard-working principals and teachers in these buildings are subjected to ridicule and humiliation. Morale plummets and recruitment of new educators becomes difficult at best and impossible at worst.  All but the most self-sacrificing leave after a few years, looking for jobs in buildings where shame is not a part of the yearly routine.

Something tells me that routine public criticism rarely feels like a "reward" to the communities struggling with the myriad of challenges that contribute to poor results on the standardized tests of our nation.