Friday, November 30, 2007

No Dentist Left Behind

Note: Visit my education blog, The Green Cup.

Cavities: that's what it comes down to, right? Shouldn't dentists be rated (Excellent, Average, & Unsatisfactory) based on cavities in their client? Okay, it's humor...

No Dentist Left Behind is making the email rounds. Again. The story has been around for a number of years - since before No Child Left Behind became law. It was originally meant to ridicule a South Carolina state law designed to "bring accountability" to public schools. The parody, originally titled Absolutely the Best Dentists, was sent to every legislator and newspaper in that state when it was composed by a retired school superintendent.

Think about it. Shouldn't someone be telling us whether dentists are doing a good job or not? Shouldn't we have the right to compare dentists based on the only thing that really matters in dentistry: cavities? And if we're going to a dentist that's only "above average" (and not improving that rating every year), we should have the right to move our business to a practice where the dentist has at least an "outstanding" or "excellent" rating. Dentists who don't manage to prevent cavities should lose their licenses, don't you think...?

Some of the parody's comparisons have teeth (no pun intended). The idea that one day we'll rate all schools based on a single, statewide measure of mastery -- regardless of the different educational levels of individual communities, regardless of the value those individual communities places on education, regardless of the resources available to parents during the preschool years -- seems at least as ludicrous as rating dentists based on the average number of cavities their clients have regardless of whether a dentist's clients have access to fluoride in their water or understand how diet impacts their dental health.

On the other hand, dentists exist largely in private practice while schools are public agencies. And the sense of government intrusion that so offends the dentist in the parody is probably misapplied to in a school system setting because, well, schools (mostly) are government.

Is the parody a fair look at No Child Left Behind? I'll leave that to you, the reader...

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