Tuesday, August 08, 2006

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.

12 Comments:

Blogger EnnuiHerself said...

Overall, I agree with you. I also agree with the spirit of No Child Left Behind which, in my opinion, was to make all school systems equal (but not necessarily the students).

The one issue I take with your post is that you lump all of the low achievers into to one category whereas I feel that it should be divided into reasons why the students aren't achieving. Is it because, as you put it, not every can be a surgeon? Or is it because the students are in a school district that is not providing a good education. To use myself as an example, I went to an elite HS and now I'm getting a Ph.D. If I had gone to a HS where the rest of my family went (poor & country), I honestly don't believe I would be in the same place I am now. It wouldn’t be because of my intelligence, it would be due to unequal schooling.

But, I agree that NCLB hurts high achieving students and it hurts low achievers who simply can not keep up. It frustrates teachers, as well. I do think you make a good point about using other indices to measure achievement. I think the drop out rate and matriculation rates would be helpful in addition to standardized testing.

~EH

(Sorry for the long comment. :))

8/08/2006 12:13 PM  
Blogger B. said...

While I believe that we need some sort of standardized test to use a general guage to see where students are, I think that standardized tests are relied on too much. We need to raise children that can successfully function in society, not remember facts to regurgitate (sp?) on paper. This program will never succeed. As a teacher, I help students to the best of my ability and put in a lot of extra time to help my students succeed, but there are students who are poor test takers, have learning disabilities, or come from homes where an education isn't valued. Those three factors alone mean that No Child Left Behind will not work.
Good post.

8/08/2006 12:16 PM  
Blogger oMeSSiaHo said...

Why would the government start a program that is destined to fail?

Have I seriously taught you nothing?! And for all of the 1984ish things the govenment is doing right now NCLB is not one of them. Its just a really bad idea to stop a growing problem.

8/08/2006 12:39 PM  
Blogger Jenny G said...

Ennui, thanks for your comment! I still think you probably would have succeeded if you had gone to the same HS your parents went to since you have intelligence and drive. You may not have had the best teachers or the greatest supplies, but I'm sure plenty of people from inner-city or extremely rural schools have had success. It takes intelligence and drive.

B: Standardized tests should be like they were when we were in school. We had them but we didn't stress about them. They need to leave well enough and consider putting more money and resources into failing school districts.

Mess: Yeah, I guess that was a dumb, obvious statement. And I think it's 1984-ish because everything is being standardized, every student across the country is learning the same thing, independent thinking is being squelched, and the government is becoming overly-involved in education.

8/08/2006 3:07 PM  
Blogger oMeSSiaHo said...

Wowaz! You can never call me paranoid or crazy! Free thinking isnt being killed, thats not the point. I fail to see how standardized testing kills free thinking. It just sets a standard of education like every other damn country that is smarter then us, it sets a bar which is a good idea. For all of the things to hate about our government today I think you are barking up the wrong tree

8/08/2006 3:34 PM  
Blogger Jenny G said...

Teaching to the test stifles free thinking. There is no time to cover anything other than what is on the tests.

8/08/2006 4:11 PM  
Blogger EnnuiHerself said...

Jenny,

This is a great post - lots of conversation!

Thanks for the compliment, but I can't say that drive and intelligence are all that matters.

My parents couldn't help me themselves (because they simply didn't know how to prepare me for college). Thankfully, they got me to an area (a wealthy one I might point out) where someone could help me get to college.

For example, my freshman of HS, they trooped us off to the career center and showed up all of the books on colleges and the file cabinets full on information on financial aid. We were also preped for the SAT at every opportunity. That gave me a huge advantage over most students in this country right off the bat.

The kids I tutor from inner city Cleveland have never even seen a fraction of the things I was exposed to in HS. In fact, because the schools are so crowded, a lot of the kids (who do want to go to college) can't even see their guidance counselor for help. One boy had his counselor discourage him college and suggest the military instead (and, IMHO, he was bright enough for college.)

I think the recipe for success involves intelligence, drive, opportunity, and a little bit of luck.

8/08/2006 4:30 PM  
Blogger pog mo thoin said...

Jenny - I don't really have anything constructive to add but I appreciate the post. Between it and the comments that it generated, I learned more about why this is a controversial topic. Great post!

8/08/2006 5:01 PM  
Blogger oMeSSiaHo said...

"I think the recipe for success involves intelligence, drive, opportunity, and a little bit of luck."

Ultimatly thats what it comes down to. Sadly not everyone is exposed to that.

8/08/2006 11:30 PM  
Blogger Hotwire said...

here's my, probably very wrong, take. in my opinion NCLB was instituted because of the very issue with the York schools (and the same problems we have in Hartford and had in Philly when i lived there). the inner cities can't get their sh*t together so the solution was to bring down the schools that were kicking ass in one giant 'separate but equal' program.

8/09/2006 6:41 AM  
Blogger Sammy and Joe said...

Jenny, I could not agree more, my wife is a school teacher and her test scores are the only thing the county cares about.

8/09/2006 11:34 AM  
Blogger Jenny G said...

Ennui: That's too bad that some kids get bad advice from the guidance counselors or don't even get to see them.

"I think the recipe for success involves intelligence, drive, opportunity, and a little bit of luck." I agree.

Pog: Thanks!

Hotwire: I don't know...they want every school at 100%. I don't even see how they can get all the elite schools at 100%, let alone the inner-city ones.

S&J: That sucks. Being a teacher now is nothing like it was 10 years ago.

8/10/2006 8:49 AM  

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