07/24/2008 05:13 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

First Lady Follies

First Lady Follies

Laura Bush says that, come what may, No Child Left Behind will be a part of her husband's legacy. Absolutely. Some of us think it will be right up there with Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, homeless Iraqis and Afghanis, Blackwater, and the shredded Constitution. She should talk to David Root.

Root is the principal of Rocky River Middle School in Cleveland. His school received an "Excellent" rating from the state and also made AYP.

And did Root root it up? No. He wrote a 2-page, single-spaced apology and sent it to a columnist at the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

He's sorry he spent thousands of dollars on test materials, practice tests, postage and costs for test administration.

Sorry that his teachers spent less time teaching American history because he test questions are mostly about other countries.

Sorry for pulling kids away from art, music, and gym classes they love so they could bone up on test-taking strategies.

Sorry he has to give a test where he and teachers can't clarify any questions, make any comments to help in understanding, or share the results so students could actually learn from their mistakes.

Sorry that the integrity of his teachers is publicly tied to one test.

Sorry he didn't suspend a student for assaulting another student because that student would have missed test days.

Sorry he didn't strictly enforce attendance because absences count against the school on the State Report Card.

Sorry for making decisions on assemblies, field trips, and musical performances based on how the lost time might affect test scores.

Sorry that he kept students in school if they became sick during the test because if they can't finish the test they automatically fail (test publishers have for years passed out instructions on what to do if a kid throws up on an answer sheet).

For publicly identifying some students as "at risk" and putting them in groups so they could practice their test skills.

Sorry he made his focus as a principal helping his teachers do better on tests, not on helping them teach kids better.
Readers will note that Root did some pretty dumb things. Sharon Nichols and Dave Berliner would probably say it's another example of what they wrote about in their book about high-stakes testing titled, Collateral Damage.