I have written on No Child Left Behind in the past. States now have the option to move out from under its provisions. Alabama, unfortunately, has yet to do so. No Child Left Behind has some good points but lately I’ve come to realize that it has an awful lot of bad points. Why? It’s because I’ve heard stories like the following from parents:
- One size fits all punishment, such as silent lunch or limited or no recess. I wrote on this in my article entitled Corporate Punishment. Instead of confronting the troublemakers or their parents directly, teachers are opting to punish the entire class.
- Spending dedicated time each week on standardized test problems. This is obvious teaching to the test. In fact, what the child learns is the mechanics of answering the question such as writing only in the box given.
- Elementary school kids getting two or more hours of homework. How in the world can this be? For a child that otherwise has good grades, why does homework of this magnitude need to be sent home? I think it’s because a certain amount of time is being spent on these standardized test questions. Teachers need to catch up somehow, so they send this work home.
- Providing parents with the types of questions and tips on practicing responses. As if it’s not enough to teach a kid the test while in school, parents are also being coached on the nuances of the test questions.
Today the light bulb really went on for me. I’m sure others have made this connection but I have to say it. Think about what it would physically mean to ensure No Child Life Behind. The question is “how far behind?” Can a child trail the leader by one foot, one yard, one hundred yards and still not be considered behind? Pretend that all of the children are tethered by a rope no longer than this acceptable distance, kind of like the picture above. Once the rope is fully extended, the leader needs to stop so that the others can catch up. Imagine how frustrating this is for the leaders of the pack. Why would a child strive to get ahead if they’re going to have to stop and wait for the others to catch up?
So, in short, No Child Left Behind simply means No Child Gets Ahead.
School administrators would argue that it’s not this simple. They tell us that they begin to segment the kids by ability so that a classroom progresses together more smoothly. But it doesn’t always work like this. The problem is that No Child Left Behind requires all children, 100% of them, to make the grade before the school can be make the grade. It’s not only impractical, it’s virtually impossible. The states that remain under No Child Left Behind need to wake up and get their own plan in place. If not for the schools and the teachers, they need to do it for the students.
Since we’re going to the polls next week, please keep the education issue in mind. Many folks are focusing on jobs, the economy, health care, and foreign policy. But I believe that education is the foundation on which the rest of these are built. Both parents and childless adults should be keenly aware of where their candidate stands on education issues. If, as a nation, we can focus on improving this issue, everyone benefits as a whole. It won’t happen overnight, but it will happen. And No Child Left Behind isn’t the answer to educational reform.
Discussion Question – Now that the school year has started back, are you experiencing similar issues in your child’s classrooms? Do you know where your candidate(s) of choice stand on the educational issues?