Sunday, October 08, 2006

NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND

Last week Bush signed a bill extending No Child Left Behind legislation. Even he admits that the law is not as successful as he would like it to be. For one thing, parents are not getting their children's grades in a timely fashion. Often by the time they get these grades, it is too late to change schools. Also, with good schools operating at 250% capacity, there is just no room to take these underachieving students. Even if they do make it into one of these schools, they cannot be properly serviced because of the overcrowding. With class sizes of 34 (many more than that since over sized classes are still prevelant) there is no way for even the best teacher to reach out to help these kids. Bush mentions tutoring, but only 19% of the students that are entitled to the tutoring are actually receiving it. Even if it were to be readily available, after a full day of school, how many kids will actually be able to absorb anymore?

One of the solutions Bush mentions is more testing. Aren't our kids tested enough? We spend so much time testing and preparing for testing that little teaching is being done. Even in a high school, regents preparation in a weak class takes the place of mastering a subject. I am ashamed to admit that I have taught kids how to pass an exam without actually knowing any mathematics. Besides, if its only improved test results that anyone wants, I am sure someone will find a way to either redesign the exam to make it easier to pass or to just change the scoring so a lower grade is needed to pass.

If we really don't want to leave any children behind we have to change the way we are teaching them. Elementary school teachers have to be allowed to go back to teaching the basics of arithmetic and reading. Some things just have to be learned by memory and rote practice. There is no way around this. High school students have to be taught courses more relevant to their interests. Forcing everyone to take college preparation courses and then head on to college is not the answer. The world needs hair dresses, car mechanics, and floor sweepers. We need to teach our students that everyone plays a valuable part of society and there is no shame in any kind of work. What's wrong with teaching kids to pass a civil service exam so they can work for the post office or the sanitation department. We will always need people to work in these fields. If someone has trouble reading, they cannot be expected to become a psychologist, nor can the kid who needs remedial math become an engineer.

I believe that no child should be left behind, but the way we are going about it now is all wrong and we are leaving more children behind now than ever before.

1 comment:

NYC Educator said...

I share your sentiments. I've spent a lot of time preparing ESL students to pass the English Regents exam. I've simplified it so much that I'm absolutely convinced the skills I teach them are not transferable--the only skill they leave my class with is that of passing one single test.

They'd be far better off if I could help them improve their English. Even though they pass the test, using the smoke and mirrors with which I provide them, their English remains sub-par.

When they hit college, they will certainly fail any substantive Englsih test and be required to take ESL, where they'll learn, for a stiff fee, what I'd have taught them in high school.