Education Letter to the Editor

Basketball Analogy Doesn’t Fit ‘No Child’ Law

May 15, 2007 1 min read

To the Editor:

In your April 25, 2007, issue, Washington attorney John W. Borkowski is quoted as comparing the requirements of the federal No Child Left Behind Act to a basketball tournament in which every team must come in first (“Clinton Criticizes Testing Required by NCLB”). This is so, he says, because all children “will be expected to have the same basketball skills at the same time and in the same conditions” and “play basketball at a proficient level.”

Taking Mr. Borkowski’s analogy at face value, one huge flaw in it is that every state has an achievement category beyond proficiency, usually denominated “advanced.” So the team that has the most advanced players is likely to win.

Second, in athletic endeavors, the coach of a team is expected to produce the most skilled players, and coaches who are unsuccessful often find themselves looking for new jobs. Members of the National School Boards Association (at whose annual convention Mr. Borkowski was speaking), who supervise districts and principals, in many cases do not set the same standards as those established for coaches. If they did, we might be seeing more academic progress.

The analogy is silly to begin with, of course. The mission of athletic contests may necessarily entail producing winners and losers. But the goal of public education is not to have losers, but to ensure that all students are prepared for further education, productive employment, and informed citizenship.

William L. Taylor


Citizens’ Commission on Civil Rights

Washington, D.C.

A version of this article appeared in the May 16, 2007 edition of Education Week as Basketball Analogy Doesn’t Fit ‘No Child’ Law