At the same time U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings has been spinning and fabricating about the success of No Child Left Behind, her Department has been engaged in some disturbing intrusions into the lives of people who do contract work for them.
Spellings has been touting NCLB as a rip-roaring success in boosting academic achievement. “According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress [NAEP],” she says, “9-year-olds made greater reading gains in five years than in the previous 28 years combined.” What she failed to mention is that virtually all of those gains occurred before the 2002-03 school year, when NCLB took effect. Spellings also claimed recently that Bush’s new budget would result in a 41% increase in school funding. This is simply not true. In fact, as Scott Lilly points out, NCLB should be called “No Gimmick Left Behind.”
Now it turns out that “Spinmaster” Spellings has been demanding such intrusive background checks on researchers who contract with the department that they border on invasion of privacy. According to an article in the New York Times,
As a condition of his work for the federal government, Andrew A. Zucker was willing to be fingerprinted and provide an employment history. But then he was asked to let federal investigators examine his financial and medical records, and interview his doctors.
Dr. Zucker was not tracking terrorists or even emptying the trash at the Pentagon. He was studying how to best teach science to middle school students. He was stunned at the breadth of the request for information.
“To me, personally, it’s shocking,” said Dr. Zucker, who worked for a contractor doing research for the Education Department. He withdrew from the job. . . .
This is the same Department of Education that wants a national database to track students from the time they are subjected to their first kindergarten tests. It is all a bit scary, but certainly in keeping with the attitude of the Bush Administration across the board.