Get in Line for "No Cow Left Behind"
From the Burlington Free Press on 7/25/03.
As a principal facing the task of figuring out all the complexities of The
No Child Left Behind legislation and its impact on education, I have decided
that there is a strong belief that testing students is the answer to
bringing about improvements in student performance.
Since testing seems to be a cornerstone to improving performance, I don't
understand why this principle isn't applied to other businesses that are not
performing up to expectations. I was thinking about the problem of falling
milk prices and wondering why testing cows wouldn't be effective in bringing
up prices since testing students is going to bring up test scores.
The federal government should mandate testing all cows every year starting
at age 2. Now, I know that it will take time out of the farmers' necessary
work to do this testing every year and that it may be necessary to spend
inordinate amounts of money on the testing equipment, but that should not
detract us from what must be done.
I'm sure there are plenty of statistics to show what good milk producing
performance looks like and the characteristics of cows who achieve this
level of performance. It should, therefore, be easy to figure out the
characteristics necessary to meet this standard.
We will begin our testing by finding out which cows now meet the standard,
which almost meet the standard, which meet the standard with honors and
which show little evidence of achievement.
Points will be assigned in each category and it will be necessary to achieve
a certain average score. If this score is not achieved, the Department of
Agriculture will send in experts to give advice for improvement. If
improvements do not occur over a couple of years, the state will take over
your farm or even force you to sell.
Now, I'm sure farms have a mix of cows in the barn but it is important to
remember that every cow can meet the standard. There should be no exceptions
and no excuses. I don't want to hear about the cows that just came to the
barn from the farm down the road that didn't provide the proper nutrition or
a proper living environment.
All cows need to meet the standard. Another key factor will be the placement
of a highly qualified farmer in each barn. I know many of you have been
farming for many years but it will be necessary for all farmers to become
certified. This will mean some more paperwork and testing on your knowledge
of cows, but in the end this will lead to the benefit of all.
It will also be necessary to allow barn choice for the cows. If cows are not
meeting the standard in certain farms, they will be allowed to go to the
barn of their choice. Transportation might become an issue but it is
critical that cows be allowed to leave their low-performing barns. This will
force low-performing farms to meet the standard or else they will simply go
out of business.
Some small farms will probably go out of business as a result of this new
legislation. Simply put, the cost per cow is too high. As taxpayers, we
cannot be expected to foot the bill to subsidize farms with dairy compacts.
Even though no one really knows what the ideal cost is to keep cows content,
the Legislature will set a cost per cow. Expenditures too far above this
cost will be penalized. Since everyone knows that there are economies of
scale, small farms will probably be forced to close and those cows will
merge into larger farms.
Some farmers may be upset that I proclaim to know what is best for these
cows but certainly consider myself capable of making these recommendations.
I grew up next to a farm and I drink milk. I hope you will consider this
advice in the spirit it is given and I hope you will agree that the "no cow
left behind" legislation may not be best for a small state like Vermont
Kenneth Remsen is principal of Underhill School in Jericho (VT).