Friday, July 25, 2008

On a national level, some folks are getting at what is wrong with No Child Left Behind - it leaves a hell of a lot behind.

The many teachers I spoke with for this article unanimously agreed that NCLB's emphasis on testing makes their job harder, more stressful and more frustrating. The major problem? Creating one standard for all children is impossible. The teachers spoke of the limited individual attention they could give students due to the narrow objectives of the all-important federal test scores.

The Department of Education insists that educators aren't forced to teach to the test: "Curriculum based on state standards should be taught in the classroom. If teachers cover subject matter required by the standards and teach it well, then students will master the material on which they will be tested — and probably much more. NCLB essentially forces teachers to get the grades up at all costs, because the school's very existence is on the line. In that case, students will need no special test preparation in order to do well."

Of course, it's not as simple as that. Some kids have special needs. Some kids have a bad year. But NCLB essentially forces teachers to get the grades up at all costs, because the school's very existence is on the line. Schools and districts that don't make annual progress goals could go into sanction, whereby the schools can be closed, transferred to the state, sold to private corporations, or transformed into charter schools.

The bureaucracy involved can drive a teacher crazy.

On a local mainstream media level, Jarvis DeBerry questions the vouchers program some more.:

Gerard Robinson of the Black Alliance for Educational Options had a letter published Monday touting the glorious benefits of choice and describing Louisiana's wrongheaded voucher bill as some kind of liberating document that finally frees students to get a quality education.

A quality education I'm for. And though I am a graduate of and an advocate for public schools, I'm not necessarily opposed to parental choice, even if it means some students leave the public schools. What I am opposed to categorically is a state-funded transfer of students from safe, fuel-efficient cars to those with air fresheners hanging from the rearview.

I'm opposed to this poorly conceived legislation, which doesn't even attempt to discern the academic quality of qualifying private schools, being misrepresented by Robinson at the BAEO as giving parents a choice. Who can we credit for Robinson's flawed logic? A private school? If so, he needs his tuition refunded.

...Problem is, nonpublic schools have refused to allow themselves to be tested to the same extent and in the same manner that public schools are tested. The new law mandates testing for voucher recipients, and thus, will provide limited insight into the quality of participating private schools. But at this moment, parents are not being given sufficient information to rationally weigh public schools against private ones.

Inasmuch as they're being allowed to choose, their choices are between schools required to report all their flaws and schools that don't have to reveal anything about themselves that's unflattering.

You can argue, as the BAEO does, that parents choosing the second group is proof that schools in that group are better. But those schools are allowed to do the kind of image manufacturing that -- for very good reason -- is forbidden our public schools.

Honest school-choice advocates will admit that what Louisiana has pulled off is a fraud. This bill tilts parents toward private schools by refusing to make them meet the state's accountability standards in order to participate.

That makes as much sense as setting up a choice between a school with good math instruction and a school with a cafeteria that serves sno-balls.

These are the times when I thank God for G-Bitch:

...there’s been no overall reform, just fracturing. The breaking up of the Orleans public schools was fueled by frustration and not a desire to enact specific reforms for specific problems. Yes, there were some really bad schools in this town, and there are some poor schools all across the state, but breaking up the system so the worst schools are over there, middling schools here, and former-magnet-now-charter schools are up here. That’s not reform. It’s the same system we had before with many of the same problems. There was and still is little public talk about what happens in the schools, in classrooms, with teachers, with students, between teachers and students and support staff that is different, that creates improvements in outcomes. And what changes are discussed are hampered by being geared toward raising test scores. Test scores make ADULTS think that something is happening and being done. What about the children? Teachers? Parents?

Damn straight.

Everybody, go get schooled.

1 comment:

saintseester said...

One of the things that I find so frustrating about NCLB is not just the emphasis on testing, but how that testing seems to be the "identifiable" point with NCLB. When I talk about it with other parents, their first comment is about testing.

NCLB is a huge juggernaut, not just about testing. I was on the inside of a university that went through ridiculous rewriting of curricula (across the board) to satisfy all the hoops of NCLB for our state's future teachers. It is a trickle up disaster!