Friday, November 24, 2006
No Child Left Behind
I've tried to stay away from NCLB in this blog for a few reasons: it makes me angry, it makes me have to explain a lot to people who think the name is great (after all, who wants to actually leave a child behind?) or who think I just don't like accountability, and because teacher's unions are so militantly against it (and I don't think teacher's unions are always actually looking out for teachers or students).
However, here's my brief overview. The best thing the Bush Administration did with NCLB is to name it. Seriously, "No Child Left Behind" - the name is brilliant. The main idea is that it provides accountability for schools, provides more of a focus on literacy, and provides parents with a choice when their local schools are designated as low performing or failing. Schools have to make adequate yearly progress as determined by the state, both as a general population and in specific categories of students such as African Americans, Latinos, low-income students, and special education students. Teachers are supposed to be "highly qualified" (meaning a lot more testing of teachers), and parents have more flexibility in choosing schools for their children.
Reality, in my experience, is different. Failing schools are not helped as much as they are punished, with "sanctions" (yes, that's really the word they use) imposed against them. I don't see the point of giving children - who have come from another country in the last few months and don't speak English, let alone read it - tests in English! It's well-known that one way to get a better "score" and get the school out of failing mode is to reduce the number of immigrant children in your school. Yuck. I don't know the details of the finances, but I believe there are all sorts of unfunded mandates. It's hard to tell what problems come from NCLB and what comes from my district.
Anyway, here's a petition that I don't think will do any good, but might make people think just a little bit. And here's a dentist analogy that, while being overly simplistic, does still show the inherent problems in NCLB. Check it out.
For the record, I don't think any politicians have done ANYTHING productive in my lifetime, so I'm not ready to go out and campaign for the Democrats either. But I have a particularly hard time with George W. who appears to have the same level of understanding for inner-city black kids on food stamps as he would for little green men on Mars. Actually, he'd probably just bomb the green men on Mars, so that might be easier for him...