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I think the reason for differing opinions on NCLB could be due to unfairness of the states' differing standards. A quick Google search for low state school standards will see that states like Mississippi, Missouri, Washington, and California have vastly different standards, and the Feds accept whatever the states decide. Of course a teacher in a state with lower state standards will not suffer under NCLB in the same way teachers and students both suffer in states like California with very high standards.
Californians should not have to rise to higher standards than other states to get our own tax money back. In that sense, NCLB is just unfair.
And I certainly do not have the same dismissive attitude toward public schools that some other posters have. Our public schools have done tremendous jobs trying to educate all students. We don't decide that some people are too poor and unworthy of education. I've had students from Mexico and India who were deemed unworthy of education in their own countries; but Americans met the challenge. I don't understand Americans who compare educational statistics with other countries without looking at our own country and realizing we must be doing something right considering our standard of living and success as a working democracy.
We do have our failures, and we need to continue to strive to do our best to engage and educate all students to their best ability. But my student, whose IQ tested at 75 in elementary school and again in junior high school, is just not going reach proficient no matter how hard all his teachers dance. He is entitled, though, to be educated according to his ability and to learn to become a productive citizen, so he can live a fulfilling life. NCLB is preventing us from recognizing the differences in human beings. This is not only elitist; it is inhuman.
One last thing, if you want to know why businesses are hiring workers from other countries, just read their own words. It's cheaper. They use their feigned interest in education standards to deflect us from their pursuit of profit at the expense of their own countrymen.
It is true we must learn to teach math better; we must allow students' natural interest in science to be maintained and encouraged; we must be sure that all students can read great literature, as well as factual material; and we must make sure that all students will be able to find their way in our country so that they are able to take advantage of their political heritage.
I think we can do this without the unfair sanctions and unnecessary expense of NCLB.
The 2007 Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup poll that you have taken pride in highlighting statistical data should be noted as having a history of critics claiming bias in PDK’s reporting. Additionally stated on the last page of this report, “It should be noted that in addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.” Also, of the currently estimated 300 million Americans—this poll sampled only 48 thousand, which is .00016 of a percent. I think it is highly likely that there is sampling error among other false representations.
You are quite right Richard Spurgeon; “…America has paid a high price for two generations of undereducated children.” And, “...If we go back to a time without standards, testing and accountability, we will guarantee that our children and grandchildren will face a future with more low paying jobs and dismal prospects.” A “high price” is a gross understatement when you tally all the financial support to the public school system over the past 25 years since the first report “A Nation at Risk” was published, and the cost society has had to endure in criminal activity that is the direct result of a failed public education system. However weak the NCLB act is—it has caused teachers and their unions to address the issues that they have shamefully ignored for years. If ever there was an award for the largest fleecing of America—the public school system would get the title—with unabated legislative and political support. While you may not go as far as I do in my analysis, public education has drained our country of human and financial resources. I wish our federal and state governments would give us another option…along with keeping the pressure on with the NCLB act—give us incentive through vouchers to become more engaged in our children’s education. Noting Charma Craven’s response regarding innovation and creativity being needed to keep our competitive edge is very true; however lets not deceive ourselves in thinking that those elements ever existed in public education prior to NCLB, no more than there is a willingness among the districts to implement it today. We are a nation held hostage to public education. The NCLB act was born out of an unholy union of greedy self-serving teachers and a pervasive neglect of parents.
Anonymous, What state are you in?
I don't believe any responsible educator wants to return to the era when there were NO standards. I appreciate having the guidance that standards provide; and I appreciate that they drive textbook and curriculum publishers to produce programs that provide enhanced materials so we can try to reach all students with the same concepts and skills. However, in California our "better'n everyone else" standards are full of developmentally inappropriate skills. When was the last time any of us even saw a box and whisker graph? Can y'all identify an intransitive verb? Did you even know the effect of a statistical outlier until college? My sixth graders have to navigate territory that I didn't travel until high school. It's professionally wrong to hold students accountable for concepts that are too abstract and whose relevance is too far off to relate to. NCLB doesn't establish standards -- it requires them. But even before NCLB the university wonks who wrote California's standards didn't talk with teachers about the developmental appropriateness of the standards they were writing. Child development experts are not involved in the process. As a result, we have a set of standards that are riddled with traps -- skills and ideas that only the most advanced and advantaged students can meet. As to learning to read, write, and computer -- I'm right there with ya. Those should be the cornerstone skills. But NCLB fails in several significant ways. It fails students by comparing them to each other. We should be measuring whether and to what degree each student is progressing. The proposed changes include merit pay components, and until every child is delivered and raised just like every other, paying teachers according to test scores is unethical, unrealistic, and likely to breed an even greater temptation to cheat. Kids aren't widgets. NCLB undermines our ability to bargain collectively, thereby continuing to erode workers' rights. And on an affective level, NCLB has driven music, athletics, the arts, and other electives (like foreign language and vocational courses) right out of our local programs. There's no joy in teaching and learning. It's become a grind to teachers, who can muscle their way through because we need to work to support ourselves. But what about the children who have lost the joy of learning?
Creativity has always given the United States the edge in invention and innovation. Creativity is needed in Engineering to create new products. Sitting at a desk all day regurgitating back memorized material so that one can pass the tests for NCLB moves us backwards to the 1930's Horace Mann training for the factories.
In the 1980's there was a great furor over the Japanese system and everyone need to imitate Japan's schools and learn their language. Did they create the electronic products that we have? No they copied the U.S. electronic products or bought out the patents (as is the American Capitalist dream-to sell out to the highest bidder to make your fortune).
Then we had the Internet take off, which was an American product. Now those from India are not creating, they are copying.
So we need innovation and creativity in order to survive as in the World is Flat. Otherwise, the U.S. will just become the worker for the other nations.
It is patently absurd to believe that by 2012 -- five years -- all the students the high school where I teach will be proficient or better. We don't live in Lake Wobegone, "Where all the children are above average..." Yes, NCLB has raised test scores, but the ultimate goal needs to be trashed for a more realistic one -- one where teachers and students to their best to raise achievement.
The goals of NCLB are inherent in the name of the law-NO Child Left Behind. In the thirty years preceding NCLB we saw a literature-based, culture-centric and ideological approach to education that failed most of the students who passed through our schools. Racial minorities, ethnic groups and the poor were underserved by this quasi-democratic, elitist ideology, and America has paid a high price for two generations of undereducated children. What could possibly be wrong with teaching a student to read and write and do math in a way that develops their skills and strategies for learning? Instead, there are those who want to return to that past. Hillary Clinton, for example, says that NCLB is leaving behind 'creativity'. Is that why so many foreign graduates are taking jobs away from American educated workers? I don't think so. I've had enough of the 'unique' and 'creative' and I just want to produce students who can read and write and think. If we go back to a time without standards, testing and accountability, we will guarantee that our children and grandchildren will face a future with more low paying jobs and dismal prospects.
The real purpose behind NCLB was to transfer public education over to corporate bandits. Already book publishers and business have a great deal of influence in public education. Let's hope that this Congress puts the charade of "scientifically based instruction" to rest by not reauthorizing this bill. Rather than helping the students it purports to help, NCLB has and will continue to result in huge stores of resources being designated to game-playing and number jockeying. Let teachers really help kids without interference from those who have agendas to fulfill and coffers to fill.
In some districts, preparing students to take the state-wide tests take up to 25% of class time. Parents have it in their hands to end this by telling their children to skip the test and skip getting ready for the test. But that is not the entire answer either.
It's time to rethink school altogether. When will we look at what we are actually doing to children now? Can we agree that the current approach creates winners and losers when we should be creating learners? Why do we continue to insist that every student learn the same narrow curriculum when research clearly shows that every student has a unique set of abilities? What is the merit of grades, tests, homework, and endless drill and practice? What would happen if all grades, tests, homework, class attendance etc were optional? What would students actually do if they were not coerced, brainwashed, intimidated or otherwise made to do that which they are not the least bit interested in doing?
What should we pursue if we want to educate the whole child? We need to ask the child every day, what is interesting to you and what do you want to do? Children start school full of enthusiasm for the new environment, new things to do and people to meet. We don’t have to do very much to let this enthusiasm grow with the child’s development. However, if we insist they learn what adults have determined they must learn and learn right now, then by fourth grade, they will have learned that school is just boring repetition and drudgery.
If we want our young people to be better readers, then let them read interesting books every day. There is no shortage of interesting book for children of all ages. Let them read all day long, all week long, all month long if they are finding interesting things to read. An early love of reading can only be a good thing.
If we want better writing, then let them write every day and see for themselves that they are making progress. Let them share their writing with their teammates if they are willing. Let them learn all they can from reading interesting work and write all day long if that is their interest. An early confidence in their writing ability can only be a good thing.
If we want our young to be better prepared for college or work, then let them make real choices and real decisions about their future from the time they start school. On graduating from high school, each student has had over 12,000 hours of being told what to do, how to do it and when to do it. The more schools seek to improve test scores, the more all of our children suffer the consequences. If our reforms seek only to do more to our children, research shows that it simply will not work. The children know what the problem is if only we have the courage to ask and actually listen.