Who Really Suffers When No Child is Ever Left Behind? The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly with our NCLB Policies
Who is REALLY failing?
No Child Left Behind (NCLB) sounds like an amazingly simplistic concept- EVERYONE is educated with highly-qualified teachers who love their jobs, are paid well for their countless hours attending meetings, workshops, and graduate level classes; calling parents; working towards national board certification; integrating real-world applications; writing lessons plans using differentiation and hitting all achievement levels in the classroom from basic to honors while addressing all learning styles; writing individualized education plans; grading papers; progress monitoring; dealing with inappropriate behavior….and oh yeah, actually teaching! But, in all actuality, if EVERYONE graduates high school and goes onto college, pretty soon you’re going to need a PH.D. to work at a gas station.
Don’t get me wrong, I have some amazing stories about NCLB students working hard and graduating (But, honestly the majority don’t graduate in the required four years, so they are not helping the AYP status for the school they come to anyways!) One student in particular was twenty-one years old, had two children, worked part-time to support his/her family, rode a bus to and from school from another district (three hours a day-including both directions-because he/she didn’t own a vehicle). This particular student was able to attend a “better” school, meaning it received an “excellent” rating on its' report card. NCLB was a great option for this student because they were given a fresh start; they got away from all of their “drama”, and actually worked towards earning a regular high school diploma because they were determined to set a good example for their generation. That’s the good news about it……but how many others have to suffer in order to get one student to pass…..or graduate?
Unfortunately, schools are so concerned with their graduation rate that it’s almost an assembly line, where each student gets a number…..and that’s all they are…..a number for four years, and then the process repeats- year after year. Everyone is thrown into a college-prep class-because EVERYONE who is capable of “earning” a regular high school diploma is “capable” of going to college!
I emphasize “earning” because that’s up for interpretation. Some of the students who graduate high school with a regular high school diploma (with and without disabilities) are not able to tell time on an analog clock; address an envelope properly ; write a five-paragraph essay without plagiarizing; they can’t locate a proper noun in a sentence even when it’s capitalized; they have never read a book from start to finish; they might even read at a third or fourth grade level; they have no career aspirations; they have learned no coping skills; no one ever taught them how to get along and work with others; they have no work ethic; they are late and/or argumentative when you try to get them to pick their heads up or pick up a pencil; they cut class, and have no real consequences for their actions, but yet…….. they “earn” the credits, and pass the exit exam, and we’re all supposed to be happy for them and cheer at graduation?
The reason for NCLB President Bush expressed, "Too many of our neediest children are being left behind" ("Ed.gov"). I totally believe that EVERY child in America, who is here legally, should be educated. Should EVERY child work to their fullest potential? YES! Is EVERY child in America prepared to enter the workplace, the military, or college after high school graduation? NO! Should EVERY student be placed in a college-preparatory class? NO! Should EVERY child earn a regular high school diploma? NO!
I worked with a particular teacher who traveled the world, gave real-world examples, wanted her students to think independently, but she had a high failure rate. Was she a dedicated, highly-qualified teacher? YES! Did the students who failed her class complete their work, or learn enough to pass on to the next grade or graduate? NO! This teacher was more than accommodating, but honestly, some students were just not able to handle the “College Prep” class, so was she approached by parents, other teachers, and administrators for being “too demanding”….in a college preparatory class…..you better believe it!
I know it’s been a while, but I missed three weeks in college-with a doctor’s note, because I was not allowed to leave my house because I had double pneumonia. My first day back, I took two mid-terms, and another teacher flat out told me “You fail”. Did I stop going to class? NO! Did I still take the final? YES! Why? Because I knew I would have to take the course again! Did I argue? NO! Did I ask for my money back? NO! Did I sue? NO! Did I have my mother call the school? NO! Did I start a petition? NO! Why? Because that’s what I signed up for…..college. Did any of my college professors let us turn in assignments late? NO! If we missed a test, quiz, or final, could we make it up? NO! Then why would a college-preparatory class be any different?
One of the many ugly misconceptions of NCLB is that it “Improves teaching and learning by providing better information to teachers and principals” ("Ed.gov"). All that means is that the teachers who frequently fail slovenly, lazy, lackadaisical, or ill-equipped students are flagged and their job could be on the line; also, students take a test yearly to measure their progress…..but with all of the other tests, what student actually wants to take another test….that doesn’t count for anything. Also, if a high school doesn’t have a high graduation rate, meaning that ALL students graduate in four years, then the school will lose rankings in their yearly report card.
NCLB “ensures that teacher quality is a high priority” ("Ed.gov"). I’m a parent, and I want my child to have a highly-qualified teacher, but do you know what it takes to become a highly qualified teacher??????? I have ALWAYS loved school; I am a good test taker; I am motivated, but just because I like teaching, earned a degree in education and I can pass tests, why does that mean I’m a highly qualified teacher? Honestly, the difference between being highly qualified and being without a job in the career you love is a test……..more like numerous tests…..the PRAXIS! I have many friends who changed their majors in college after they learned about all of the qualifications needed to teach. I actually had one friend who graduated college with two majors in education, but could not pass one PRAXIS test; therefore, she couldn’t even get a job as a substitute. That is sad! The world is losing out on some amazing individuals who would make a positive influence on the world, but they are running from the field of education. All because they can make A LOT more money and have less stress in a different field. I am in no way saying to lower the standards, but if we have alternative assessments for students, why can’t we have that for teachers as well?
Under NCLB, “each state must measure every public school student’s progress in reading and math in each of grades 3-8 and at least once during grades 10-12” ("Ed.gov").That sounds great…..but then why are students in the high school level NOT reading on grade level…..They are still significantly behind…..seniors are graduating with 4th grade reading levels….every single year….To me, that does not sound like “No Child Left Behind”, that sounds like “We All Fail- Miserably”. High school teachers will throw up their arms and blame middle school; middle schools will blame elementary; elementary will blame the pre-school (or lack thereof); no one blames the parents. One of the interesting things about NCLB is that “Parents will know their children’s strengths and weaknesses and how well schools are performing; they will have other options and resources for helping their children if their schools are chronically in need of improvement” ("Ed.gov").This just means that their child will be bussed for free to a “better” district. I didn’t hear anything in there about what the students can work on at home; how the parents can help their children at home; how they can reinforce concepts at home. No wonder so many students feel “entitled”. If THEY can’t perform, we will all just pay to send them somewhere else. Answer this……..If you can’t perform at your job (you’re falling asleep; provoking arguments; not doing work; arriving late; leaving early; not showing up at all; expecting others to do your work for you)…… does your employer relocate/ promote you…..or do you get fired?
There are many good, bad, and straight up ugly parts of NCLB. Every educator wants the best for their students; to always be prepared; to work to their fullest potential; to become the first high school/ college graduate in their family; to think independently; to graduate high school with the skills necessary to be successful in the workplace, military, and/or post-secondary training facility; to make a difference in the world; to believe in themselves; to never give up until they accomplish their dreams, but unfortunately when “No Child EVER Gets Left Behind”, we ALL suffer.
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