No Child Left Behind
Our paper recently ran a graph showing the average number of students who scored proficient of above on the standardized tests in all of the 16 York County school districts. The scores ranged from the high 70s, low 80s (among them was my high school--represent!) to the 40s and 50s (the city school district which is a complete mess and should be closed down). According to the blurb, under the No Child Left Behind act, the government wants all of these numbers to be 100% in a few short years.
I've always disliked No Child Left Behind because I think it hurts two groups of students: the highest achievers and the lowest achievers. The highest achievers suffer because teachers are teaching to the test which doesn't allow time for students to ask questions and explore subject matter that may not be on the curriculum and because they have to wait for the lower-level students to catch up. It hurts the lowest achievers because they just can't handle the material, which leads to frustration, which leads to giving up. Not everyone was meant to excel academically. We can't have a world full of surgeons; we need janitors to clean up after surgery.
Why would the government start a program that is destined to fail? Do The Powers That Be really believe that every student will be scoring proficient or higher on these tests? And to whom are we trying to prove ourselves? Aren't there better and more important statistics to review? Drop-out rates, percentage of students who go on to post-secondary education, and grade retention rates are all more important than how a student scores on a standardized test.
This all reminds me of the Simpsons episode (don't you love how there's a Simpsons episode for every situation?) where Skinner has an "Independent Thought Alarm" button under his desk. Teachers aren't free to encourage questions and supplement their lessons anymore. This has to be an extremely frustrating time to be a teacher. The job is no longer to teach but to shape students into carbon copies of one other. 1984 is getting closer.