During his State of the Union speech last month, said he felt some changes needed to be made in the “No Child Left Behind” education program for America’s school children.
After an afternoon chat with Santee Schools Superintendent , I came to one conclusion-
The President can’t move fast enough.
“No Child Left Behind” doesn’t just need revision- it probably needs to go away.
Dr. Shaw is clear that the ultimate goal of NCLB is a good one- it works toward making sure that every child achieves the absolute maximum possible in school.
We can all agree with that part.
The problem comes in when you realize that we’re dealing with people here- not statistics.
“Teaching to the test is not in itself a bad thing” says Dr. Shaw, referring to the annual test kids have to take.
“The problem is that the state and Federal standards are way too high, and getting higher and more difficult every year. Even though Santee’s schools are ALL above the cutoff line of 800 points, one of the local schools has already been forced into a performance increase status... meaning the Feds are saying they’re not good enough. That means, in this case one of the school’s subgroups- the way the Feds make the schools separate out the various ethnic and socio-economic groups in the school- didn’t increase its scores as much as the regulations say they should have. So, the school gets punished.”
And here’s the icing on this half-baked cake: Next year, when the school will be reevaluated, the standards it has to meet will be even higher.
It’s truly a no-win situation- no matter how hard you try, the system is set up so that it’ll NEVER be good enough to satisfy the educational bureaucracies at the state and Federal levels.
Another thing that’ll make your head spin- a school , or a district, may very well meet the state standards for educating your kids- and yet still fall short of the federal standards for the same school, and the same kids.
And finally, to put a cherry atop the iced, half-baked cake: The standards California has to meet bear no relationship at all to the standards for, say, North Carolina, or Texas or Vermont.
This is the restrictive straitjacket in which teachers are trying to teach your children.
Nothing is more important than THE TEST.
Stifled are teachers who like to think outside the box- teachers who might have an alternative means of getting through to students when the accepted ways haven’t made a dent.
This, to put it kindly, is a mess.
The President is absolutely correct when he says this stuff has to change.
But maybe even he doesn’t fully understand how much it has to change- or how quickly it has to change.
I’m not through with this topic yet- more, including possible fixes- next time.