Tuesday, April 25, 2006

No Child Left Behind

I find American politics fascinating in the same way that I obsess over the precancerous sore I have on my left ear. The dermatologist has told me the sore is not a good thing and could develop into something much worse, but nevertheless, it’s fun to pick at that little spot, peel mysterious flakes of mutated skin off, and examine them in my hand. It’s not disgusting, except for you to read about it, and it’s not terrifying either.

As an elementary school teacher, that’s the way I feel about the federal government’s No Child Left Behind (NCLB) initiatives; they are like that little sore on my ear. They aren’t a good thing and could develop into something much worse, but nevertheless, I get a real thrill out of picking at them and examining the wayward thinking that caused them to sprout.

In my lifetime, I have never seen or felt the fingers of bureaucracy probe so far up the private cavities of a society as NCLB. Teachers, bureaucrats in the local school district, and the State Department of Education are all jumping through federal government hoops. However, the benefits to the children of this country are nonexistent.

From a schoolteacher’s view, the impact of NCLB is:
- Tests, developed by out-of-state businesses, reap financial
- The bureaucracy of testing sets in. For example, a student who scores 60.1% on the standardized test is being “left behind.” The student who scores a 61.0% is deemed “proficient.”
- Teachers are deluged with paperwork. Paperwork that exists grows in size and more paperwork is developed.
- The emphasis on the effectiveness of the educational system shifts from the learner to the educational system. Modern political and social thinking now emphasizes teacher training, class size, administrative leadership, quality of learning materials and facilities, etc. as the key factors in student success. These are undeniable influences and factors on student learning, but the key to student success should remain with the student. It is the student who receives the grades, the academic successes, and the diploma.

Of course, I could be wrong and so could my dermatologist. The sore may just disappear someday. I am hoping that is what happens to my sore…......…and to No Child Left Behind.


Laura said...

Yikes. You said what every parent is knowing deep in their heart, and is not "qualified" (via teaching certificate nor governmental position) to voice out loud.

I watch curriculums get more controlled (and less interesting) and more children actually "left behind". Meaning, their differences and nuances squashed under a uniform, demanding system.

I told my mom recently that she should save up for Jake to take a year off in Europe after high school for a graduation present. No, I am not shirking my parental responsibility and not daily reminding him about college. It is just that I am prepared to nurse a burnt out young man back into WANTING to attend advanced education, after what will be twelve war torn years.

However, I end this as I always do on this topic. What can we do?????

Anonymous said...

I think teachers like you need to get loud, really loud.

tracy said...

I am "new" to the NCLB system b/c we have been overseas for 6 years. Laura kept me up to date with what the schools have been doing in the US but of course I did not believe it, it sounded ridiculous. Now, with the first year of school coming to a close for my 1st and 4th grader I have to say I have never in my life seen so many tests, papers, scores and grades. I could not agree more with you Walter about where is the responsibility on the student. Every night I have to sign homework journals, reading journals and any test papers. Then on Mondays I have to sign that I have seen all of my daughters grades for the week (9 in total!) It is so sad when the parents feel the responsibility more than the children....