January 08, 2004
While supporters of the act claim "the real grumbling across the education land is the grumbling of people who don't want to change what they have been doing the last 20 years, even though it has been failing", or just that they "can't understand why any minority wouldn't support it", NCLB reform seems to be shaping up as a definite presidential issue. (More critique) Certainly none of the teachers I know seem to be happy about the new importance given to standardized tests. What kind of education system do standardized tests promote? Perhaps not the "lifetime love of learning" emphasized by Page. Do top-down educational policies even stand a chance of fixing as many problems as they create? (especially with all the money we're pouring into a certain other country)
This is such a marshy area! I live in an area of California where there is an immense population of hispanics who came here from Mexico. For the most part, these kids don't speak English before they enter school, so they have a huge learning curve to master before they can learn how to take tests in English. And, since the majority of the parents are farm workers, and living in a town where the average unemployment rate is almost 30%, the tax base here doesn't cover much of the cost of providing education. I don't think that NCLB addresses this kind of problem adequately. (At least the free food programs feed them breakfast at no cost.) This problem has got to be compounded in inner-city schools in some New York City boroughs, for example. And, who teaches the parents to help their kids? When I was a child, my parents read to me, corrected my English mistakes, provided books, etc., but they, and I, had the advantage of natively speaking standard English. Some years ago, the state had an English as a Second Language program, but it's gone now. (I thought it was a mistake at the time, but have had to rethink that.) I really think that the schools can't succeed if they don't have support from parents, but, if the parents don't speak English...? And, with the Bush initiative to legitimize illegal immigrants and start some sort of new bracero program, won't this just get worse? I don't have a problem with legitimization, if it's done right, but I don't think the administration has properly considered the effect on NCLB. In the meantime, schools here and elsewhere will be penalized because they're not able to reach the parents. And, as for "what they have been doing for the last 20 years", I think we should give much of that up. 50 years age, we learned phonics and spent an hour or so a day reciting addition or multiplication tables. It may not have been a lot of fun, but it's stayed with me ever since. Every generation of kids that I've known since then have had huge problems learning basic skills, even if they didn't have the disadvantage of not speaking English, so I spend a lot of time having them recite stuff. Makes a big difference.
And now it's four years old. Besides path's note about the integral role of parents in education, I'd also agree that focusing on basic skills is prefereable to the 'teaching to the test' so many of the standardized tests indirectly demand.
No Child Left Behind has created a bunch of big behinds? Critics contend that the very legislation meant to bolster national academic standards -- the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 -- may be a culprit in the diminishing P.E. curriculum, unintentionally sapping schools of time and resources for exercise as educators focus more and more on test scores and rigorous academic coursework.