Friday, January 11, 2008

No Child Learns Butkus

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," viewing the teaching profession as a dispassionate outsider!

Emm, except we at "The Gods Are Bored" aren't dispassionate about anything. Have you noticed?

The famous Supreme Court decision Brown v. Board of Education put an end to "separate but equal" schools in America. But I don't think Mr. Brown or anyone else foresaw the debacle known as "No Child Left Behind."

Needless to say, NCLB is one of the smaller debacles of our sitting president, who -- trust me implicitly on this one -- could not pass the New Jersey High School Performance Assessment test.

When the bright young minds who conceived NCLB wrote up their reports and collected their consulting fees, they forgot something. Or rather, several things. To whit:

1. Public schools should not perform the same function for each and every student.

2. Some students have special talents that are not reflected in the standardized assessment tests. Some kids who attend high school every day are not mentally able to learn the material they need for the tests, so they don't get a diploma.

I'm seeing all of this played out through the point of view of a Vo-Tech student. And I'm thinking that NCLB isn't getting its fair share of ridicule, considering all the other ridiculous things our fearless leader has laid on us.

Let's take a hypothetical case in point. Let's call him Larry.

Larry comes from a tough neighborhood in a really tough city. He's had a sub-standard education until he arrives at the Vo-Tech, and he continues to struggle academically there. He manages to pass his high school courses. But where Larry excels is in auto shop. He's fascinated by cars and learns quickly how to diagnose and fix them.

Along comes the NCLB tidal wave. Larry flunks the NJ High School Performance Assessment. Even though he's had perfect attendance and passed his courses, and even though he's aces with the cars, he can't get a diploma.

Okay, maybe an auto repair business will overlook Larry's lack of diploma. But what about the nursing home where Lisa wants to work? Lisa's in the same boat. She sucks at math, couldn't pass the damn HSPA, but she's really great in her allied health shop and works well with patients. What's the minimum requirement to work in a nursing home? You got it. High school diploma.

If I had a kid who had good attendance and passing grades through 11 years of school, and that kid couldn't pass the standardized test, I would jolly well sue someone.

These days, showing up at school and doing the best you can doesn't cut it. You gotta be able to read Beowulf and factor quadratic equations.

I don't know why they don't cut to the chase and call it "No Rich White Child Left Behind." Because the poor kids are hearing about these standardized tests and they're saying, "I'm not going to pass it, I might as well drop out now."

Hey, Dubya! Sit down. Here's a little test for you. If you don't pass it, you've got to live the rest of your life on the bottom rung. But don't worry. I'm sure you understand Beowulf. It's about war, and you're really good at that. Right? Right? Right?


yellowdog granny said...

hell, bush couldn't pass the West Middle School aptitude test...but then maybe neither could I ..what the fuck is quadratic equations?...

Emily G. W. Lilly said...

I've been saying for years now that this was just about the worst thing to happen to the young people of this country Ialthough continual warfare with high death tolls is certainly up there too...).

W certainly couldn't pass the tests.

The thing is, rich white kids are being left behind, too, since forcing young students into cerebral academics before their brains are receptive for it causes brain damage. Kids who are forced to read before they are ready actually use the wrong part of their brains to read _for_the_rest_of_their_lives_, and because it isn't the right bit, they NEVER achieve true fluency with the written word. This is only the tip of the iceberg.

So, while it is fun to call it "No Rich White Kid Left Behind" (because all the other kids are getting shafted), it really should be more like The "Let's Use Institutionalized Child Abuse To Permanently Cripple An Entire Generation" Act.

You couldn't pay me to send my kids to a public school in this day and age.

Hecate said...

I love you.

Cat Chapin-Bishop said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Cat Chapin-Bishop said...

Every year, I teach several students who are busy bouncing from foster home to foster home while attending our school. I won't tell you what I know about why, because mine is a small school, and those students deserve some privacy, but, trust me, you'd be a little distracted from your homework, too.

The law makes no distinction between this student's "advantages" and those of the kids with stable homes and families, and parents who began reading to them prenatally.

The law pretends there is no such thing as poverty, or family violence, or addiction, or, for that matter, devastating physical illness. (Like to sit for those exams while under chemotherapy? Think it isn't required? Think again.)

It's all about teachers, like me, who, as a "special interest group" aren't going to try as hard as we possibly can to help kids succeed, unless you test the kids, tie their test scores to my pay (Wanna watch how fast experienced and gifted teachers leave classrooms with special needs and poor kids? Tie test scores to teacher pay.) and threaten to fire any and all members of my faculty unless, by 2014, all students test as "Proficient" on our exams.

That's right, Ladies and Gentlemen. By Presidential fiat, by 2014, we'll all be living in Lake Woebegone, and "all of our children will be above average."

Or else.

Don't even get me started! (Oh, wait. You did. Oops! Sorry. Don't mind me. Nobody here but us Special Interest Groups. Certainly nobody who gives a damn about kids, or has even half a clue how to teach them, or what they might need.)