One of the authors of this interesting book used to be a special ed teacher. Here he describes an experience I am afraid I know well. The thesis of the book is that we have confused public education for a religion. From the right, we get faith in business solutions. From the left, the idea that everyone can reach the same high standards:

It may have seemed obvious to the planners that this kind of mandate would lead to uniform excellence. However, those carrying out the plans experienced the demand as futility. One of the authors was once a special education teacher forced to administer standardized multiple-choice achievement tests lasting several hours to young adolescents reading three for four (or more) grade levels below the reading level of the test. All of the students were classified as “educationally mentally retarded.” Though working with this group of students was generally a wonderfully rewardnig experience, forcing them to take a state-mandated standardized test was one of the more frustrating exercises in which the author ever engaged. After staring blankly at indecipherable marks on the page, most students simply put their heads down after about 5 minutes of grimacing and went to sleep. Since some of his students had severe emotional and behavioral disorders, too, the author spent much of the time simply trying to keep these students in their seats. While this is, admittedly, a single anecdote, it does represent the experience of other teachers who found it utterly unrealistic to expect uniform standards among highly varied student populations.

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