Puzzled by Our Education System & NCLB

What a prompt to fire up my brain! There are way too many things that puzzle me these days – the mindset of parents of low-income families, why the educational system in America is so flawed, what is this obsession with the death of Anna Nicole Smith or who her baby’s father is or Britney Spears’ turn at rehab for the 99th time, why there are places in our country where racism is still an issue. I could go on and on but I think I want to focus on the area that I know best – our educational system.

Back on January 8, 2002, President George W. Bush signed into law the No Child Left Behind Act. It’s focus – stronger accountability for results, more freedom for states and communities, the encouragement of proven educational methods, and more choices for parents. From the surface, it all sounds good. Who doesn’t want stronger accountability, freedom of choice, to see advances in educational methods? But, underneath each focused area lies flaws that continue to go unnoticed. For the purpose of my post today, I want to concentrate on accountability because that’s where I, as an educator, see the most flaws.
Under the act’s accountability provisions, states must describe how they will close the achievement gap and make sure all students, including those who are disadvantaged, achieve academic proficiency. They must produce annual state and school district report cards that inform parents and communities about state and school progress. Schools that do not make progress must provide supplemental services, such as free tutoring or after-school assistance; take corrective actions; and, if still not making adequate yearly progress after five years, make dramatic changes to the way the school is run.*
Do you see the problem with this? All the accountability is placed on the schools. The schools must use whatever resources they have available to them, or locate some that they don’t, and make changes to ensure that each student maintains academic proficiency. The SCHOOLS!
That’s what upsets me the most. Our schools are under-funded and over-crowded, state laws are constantly being modified or added to meet NCLB, standards for teachers have been raised but at the expense of the teacher, not all students learn at the same level as indicated in this law, etc. The pressure on the teachers and the schools themselves has gotten worse and worse as this law was put into place. But, nowhere, NOWHERE, does the NCLB hold the PARENTS ACCOUNTABLE. That’s where I have the biggest problem with this.
I teach in a low-income, poverty-driven school in North Carolina. Our district does as well as it can given the parameters on which they have to work with as the laws from this state are handed down to each district. I teach two classes of 25 and 29 fifth graders, respectively. The size of the class is too large to be effective. Discipline is often a major issue. Most of my students score low on achievement tests partly due to their own educational levels but also partly due to sheer laziness. As a teacher, I’m constantly inundated with ideas for teaching reading and math so that my students will pass the End of Grade tests (otherwise known as the EOG). To further complicate my ability to teach these students the best that I can, the state is constantly changing its Standard Course of Study (SCS) which often indicates more time is needed to teach “this or that”. Yet, there isn’t more time added to the day in which to do it. Now, add to that the lack of parental involvement, and my day is frustrating because all the pressure is put on ME. That is not fair!
I am puzzled by this law. Mostly, I am puzzled that not a single person has picked up on the lack of parent accountability, at least none that I have seen reported in the news.
I tell you what though, the NCLB coupled with the state mandated requirements, my large class size this year, the constant disciplinary problems that I face daily, has caused me to re-evaluate my career choice. Teaching used to be enjoyable for me. It is no longer the case.
I agree with Tara Bradford (http://parisparfait.typepad.com/paris_parfait/2007/02/puzzled.html), a fellow Blogger friend of mine, in most everything she said in her post on today’s Sunday Scribbling (http://sundayscribblings.blogspot.com) prompt. But, I especially agree with her thoughts on the American education system. Unless things change in that realm, our country will be behind the eight-ball in yet another comparison of us vs. them. I’m afraid the NCLB, though it has its positive moments, has so many flaws that it will deter our country from ranking right back up there as THE BEST in the world in educational standards. That’s what puzzles me the most.
There! I feel better now. I’ve been dying to let that out for years.
Have a super Sunday, Everybody! Guess what I have to do today? Yep! More grading on behalf of the students I teach daily, those very same ones affected by our poor educational system. Oh joy!
Until next time….Smiles,
TQF
The opinions expressed in this post are solely those of the author and are not intended to reflect on any related to the Sunday Scribblings bloggers for this week.
*Taken word for word from the officiall NCLB site – http://www.ed.gov/nclb/accountability/index.html?src=ov)
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Comments
6 Responses to “Puzzled by Our Education System & NCLB”
  1. sarala says:

    I too have blogged my objections to NCLB. I don’t entirely agree that it is the parents’ fault though. Clearly parents matter but as a society we all owe it to the kids to break the cycle. If the parents were not brought up to value education, they will not participate in that of their kids, and so on for generations. I don’t blame the teachers for the problem either. Underfunded school districts as you say cannot make up for the flaws in our system. Unfortunately, NCLB made good resolutions (some of which were stupid resolutions but well-meaning), but didn’t provide funding to carry them out. So simplistic–more tests to punish the kids and the teachers.
    See this is a pet peeve of mine too.
    We are all truly puzzled. If only I knew how to fix the problem, but I feel as hopeless as the next guy.

  2. sarala says:

    I too have blogged my objections to NCLB. I don’t entirely agree that it is the parents’ fault though. Clearly parents matter but as a society we all owe it to the kids to break the cycle. If the parents were not brought up to value education, they will not participate in that of their kids, and so on for generations. I don’t blame the teachers for the problem either. Underfunded school districts as you say cannot make up for the flaws in our system. Unfortunately, NCLB made good resolutions (some of which were stupid resolutions but well-meaning), but didn’t provide funding to carry them out. So simplistic–more tests to punish the kids and the teachers.
    See this is a pet peeve of mine too.
    We are all truly puzzled. If only I knew how to fix the problem, but I feel as hopeless as the next guy.

  3. forgetfulone says:

    Well said. I agree! When do we hold the parents accountable? We can’t. Our hands are tied. The powers-that-be expect the public school systems to right the wrongs of society. It’s not fair, and I get angry thinking about it. I so enjoyed my year off teaching last year. Wish I could take that huge step like you! Best wishes in your new adventures!

  4. forgetfulone says:

    Well said. I agree! When do we hold the parents accountable? We can’t. Our hands are tied. The powers-that-be expect the public school systems to right the wrongs of society. It’s not fair, and I get angry thinking about it. I so enjoyed my year off teaching last year. Wish I could take that huge step like you! Best wishes in your new adventures!

  5. paris parfait says:

    Thank you so much for the nod and links. It’s great to hear a teacher’s perspective about the difficulties of meeting these challenges imposed by the government – without any assistance. It’s no wonder that despite the best efforts of teachers, with school funding cuts and overcrowded classrooms, American students continue to fall behind in educational ranking among industrialized nations. It is heartbreaking that in the richest country in the world, education doesn’t seem to be the priority it once was – and only those with financial means or connections can manage higher education – or those who spend years paying off student loans. Something is wrong in America if the average person has to struggle to get a good education and good healthcare.

  6. paris parfait says:

    Thank you so much for the nod and links. It’s great to hear a teacher’s perspective about the difficulties of meeting these challenges imposed by the government – without any assistance. It’s no wonder that despite the best efforts of teachers, with school funding cuts and overcrowded classrooms, American students continue to fall behind in educational ranking among industrialized nations. It is heartbreaking that in the richest country in the world, education doesn’t seem to be the priority it once was – and only those with financial means or connections can manage higher education – or those who spend years paying off student loans. Something is wrong in America if the average person has to struggle to get a good education and good healthcare.

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