Saturday, May 7, 2011

No Child Left Behind - a disservice to our children

by Geri Copitch, veteran teacher:

As someone who has taught in both an underperforming school and a high achieving school I’ve always had a problem with No Child Left Behind (NCLB). The concept that all students - without exception - can and must be proficient (at grade level) readers by third grade, was not run past any real life teachers who’ve ever taught in schools serving real kids. It is an ideal that we all strive for, but it’s not reality. So, I was surprised to hear a former assistant secretary of education in the George W. Bush administration, Diane Ravitch, come out against standardized testing and privatized charter schools.
Professor Ravitch acknowledged what I’ve experienced, that there are many factors that affect a child’s success in school, with teachers themselves being just one factor. Home and community life have a huge influence, as do the resources available to the students once they’re in school. As a newly minted teacher, I was surprised to learn that there were students in my second grade class who didn’t own any books - honestly, not one! How can we hope to mold competent readers when they have no reading material at home? When parents don’t model (demonstrate) reading? A co-worker who taught kindergarten at the same school told me she had one little girl who had never held a pencil or a crayon...Never! How can these children possibly get to the same proficiency level as a child whose parents take them to the library, occasionally buy them books, read them bedtime stories from the time they are barely able to sit up, and hand them paper and pencils to scribble with?
Ravitch was a strong advocate of NCLB. It was a program she felt would help schools and teachers hone in on areas that needed improvement, and make that their goal. Instead, it become a charge to reform schools using a hatchet to fire whole teaching staffs, while missing improvement goals completely. It became a one size fits all, fill-in-the-bubble approach. “No Child Left Behind has turned into a timetable for the destruction of American public education”, she told the radio host.
When schools are closed down for being underperforming, new schools open to replace them. Unfortunately, some of these schools, mostly those that are run by educational corporations, are allowed to winnow out underachieving students, making the school’s performance numbers improve. “If they’re not educating the same kids, then they’re not doing better.” In the end they are doing a grave injustice to those students who need the most help. These children are slipping through the cracks and are indeed, being left behind.
Vouchers and the push for homeschooling have the same chilling effect on public schools. They aren’t pushing public schools to improve, they are leaving them with nothing.
For schools to improve, we need parent and community investment in them. Not just money (though that helps) but time and interest. As Susan B. Anthony once said: If all the rich and all of the church people should send their children to the public schools they would feel bound to concentrate their money on improving these schools until they met the highest ideals.
When you look around the world, you see that those countries who provide free education to all their children are the countries that value democratic ideals. We used to be a nation that valued our free public education system. It was part of defining who we were. Now we have become a nation that worships at the altar of free enterprise. We value the business model which places very little value in the creative process, the very process that made us the envy the world over. We have become a nation of the bottom line, and our children, instead of becoming creative souls, will become commodities. Our children and the nation will suffer because of it.

Puzzle Buzz Club