Saturday, September 29, 2012

No Child Left Behind

President Bush signing the bipartisan No Child...
President Bush signing the bipartisan No Child Left Behind Act at Hamilton H.S. in Hamilton, Ohio. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
by Joseph Parish

In theory the "No Child Left behind Act" initially appears as a win-win situation.

After President Bush signed the bill into law in the early part of 2002 everyone saw an opportunity to close the gap between American education and that of our European friends.

Even our representatives under the watchful eye of Senator Kennedy ushered the bill into law with little regards to the legality of the proposal or its potential ill effects.

When first reviewing the legislation one tends to think that this bill would be good for not only the individual child's education but for the overall public educational program as well.

Being human, we would all like to think that our tax dollar is drawing the most return that it can when it involves our children. We sit and gleam proudly when we think what high standards are in store for our children however the program has failed to achieve its intended goals.

The bill should have instilled the basic skills assessments as contained in its guidelines but to be in compliance with the laws of the land should have been administered by the state and not the federal government.

Whenever an individual state accepts financial backing from the federal government there are always catches involved. No federally sponsored agencies freely provide funds to states without desiring something in return. In this specific case it was control of the state subsidized educational systems.

In order to continue to receive the federal education assistance funds the state would now be required to open up their schools to the whims of the federal agencies. No longer would the state manage the school testing process but rather it would now be mandated by the US government.

The initial problem encountered here is that although the federal government was dictating the testing criteria it did not properly address the specific standards which should be adhered to.

In order to sweeten up the deal with the states the federal government increased the funding from its previous level of $42.2 billion for 2001 to that of $54.4 billion by 2007. Few states would be willing to forgo these funds in order to preserve its state sovereignty. With this said and done, I must graciously disagree with this increase in federal control especially within our educational system.

My first rationale for finding this legislation objectionable is the federally initiated standardized test. According to the new federal standard, students would be required to submit a state-wide standard test on an annually basis. This in itself is not a major topic of disagreement however the results of the test being critically evaluated by the federal government is the culprit.

Since the scores obtained are used primarily to determine the effectiveness of the schools teaching methods and the fact that the consequences of the poor student scores would ultimately result in greater federal control makes this an undesirable situation at best.

The practice as stated tends to provide an inherent cultural bias since it has been previously shown that different cultures often value different skills. It places the students at a great disadvantage since each year the students would be required to do even better than the previous year's students.

At the same time let's consider the violation of the "Individuals with Disabilities Education Act", which outwardly states that schools must provide effective accommodation for those disabled students.

If a student is visually impaired the student under IDEA would be allowed to have the questions read to them but unfortunately this LNCB act would invalidate the scores obtained since under Federal law all conditions must be equal. As a long-term substitute teacher for emotionally disturbed children I am aware that some children have difficulty taking tests and as such are often given verbal or performance based assessments.

Once again these are out of the question for the federal program as it is written. With the federal program in effect special education requirements of some children do not automatically exempt them from the federal assessment and in most cases these students will be required to take the same test as the non-disabled students.

Since the Federal government labels school which fail to achieve the suggested results as "in need of improvement", I feel it creates an unnecessary psychological and emotional stress upon the children themselves. To make matters even worse the students would than be given the option of transferring to a better school elsewhere.

During the third year if the standards are still not met the school must provide free supplemental education to those struggling students. When it reaches the fourth year the school is once again labeled, this time as requiring additional "corrective action".

This now has reverted to the point where the teachers and staff could be replaced, new curriculum introduction, or even increasing the class attendance time. Now we enter the fifth year where one option is to close the entire school, convert the school to a charter school, or hire outside professionals to manage the school program.

Closing a bad school and over populating classes at another school does not seem the proper way to resolve this issue. What we have now done is to bring down an additional school with added students, burdensome tutorial sessions and in some cases behavioral difficulties.

My second reason for disagreeing with this bill is that it opens up many of the students private records for public scrutiny. In accordance with the law schools must permit military recruiters open access to not only the students' contact information but other private student data as well.

It would not take much for an active imagination to foresee an undue influence upon the students with processes such as this. Undue military influence should not be administered to adolescent minds.

Another provision stated is that the parent of the child would receive report cards on the schools in question and the authorities are required to inform the child's parents if their child is being taught by a teacher who fails to meet the qualifying requirements. In view of this some states have even proposed linking the teacher's salaries to the scores achieved on the annual tests by the students.

Now, I ask you to think for a moment that if the teacher's livelihood were in jeopardy could not it be feasible that corruption and fraud could easily enter the picture? We are likely to witness more and more teachers resorting to "teaching the test".

It is highly unlikely that the federal government will retreat to a pre-1960 position in regards to the states verse the federal government's rights. It certainly appears for the moment that the federal government has the upper hand.

In conclusion, I suggest that systems such as this tend to lower the overall education of the schools as a whole. Tests are compromised and standards are actually at a lower level than they were previously. Often those programs or special subjects which are not necessary to achieve the federally mandated goals are completely ignored or eliminated.

The current law requires the schools to focus their attention on increasing the academic achievements of low-income students, those with disabilities, and the students of "major ethnic subgroups". This has resulted in a decrease in the quality of education.

Previously these high-profile children were provided with remedial instructions but now the rule is to reduce the training structure to the lowest common denominator. Several years ago we received a letter from the local school advising us that the educational level was one of the worse in our state.

This is the primary reason that I am homeschooling my grandson. Unfortunately all children are not created equal otherwise we would have a nation of either all Einstein or of Forrest Gump children.

Copyright @2012 Joseph Parish

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