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Members of Congress Can Be Fooled on Education Every Time

by Susan Ohanian

Can any language be more suspect than the phrase No Child Left Behind?


Every Child Succeeds Act:

Your Congressional representatives at work

So now the US Congress is about to give us a revised plan that puts the state governors in charge. You know, the members of the National Governors Association who received millions and millions to rubber-stamp and applaud the Common Core.

Reminder: Instead of declaring schools as place where every child succeeds with the same college and career-ready standards, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) of 1965 actually recognized that poor children needed the opportunity to expand their horizons. We teachers had choices. We made decisions. As a teacher in a program funded by ESEA, I participated in taking kids from Troy, New York to see the Barnum & Bailey Circus in New York City. I'll never forget a kid asking me, "Do they have different money in New York City?"

I was a Federally-funded reading teacher and I used ESEA money to buy lumber so that kids could build a real bridge under the guidance of architecture students from nearby RPI.

I used ESEA money to buy fish line and eye screws so kids could make clorox bottle guitars.
And so on.
And so on.
Kids talked about our science experiments (based on the early Elementary Science Study material) so much that the PTA asked me to bring some to a meeting so parents could try them.

It was an exciting time to be in school, exciting for kids, exciting for teachers. We didn't declare Every child succeeds. We declared Every child gets a very stimulating opportunity to think about new things.

OK, I know nobody wants to hear about the "good old days" which weren't so good for lots of people, but when I see the crap that's presented to kids today, I fume.

President Obama tells us that revision of ESEA will ensure that every child is protected. Indeed. "Protection" would mean a living wage for every family in the US. Protection must start with adequate housing, nutrition, child care, and nurture for every child. It must start with expanded access to books, which means libraries in every school and every classroom.

The Senate revision proclaims:

The bill recognizes that states, working with school districts, teachers, and others, have the responsibility for creating accountability systems to ensure all students are learning and prepared for success.

And 'success' by both the House and the Senate is defined as "challenging State academic standards aligned with entrance requirements for credit-bearing coursework in the system of public higher education in the State and relevant State career and technical education standards."

What about my eighth graders who read on a third grade level? Where is the mandate or even the room for meaningful education for them?

I just took three boxes of new books to children in a nearby homeless shelter and am signed up to help cook a holiday dinner for these families. Clearly this small effort is no solution to their probable education crisis. But I refuse to blame teachers who are required to supply college and career-ready curriculum if these children without even a stable roof over their heads exoerience certain difficulties with their schoolwork.

The one percent rule seems to remain intact:

Supports One-Percent Assessment for Students with the Most Significant Cognitive Disabilities -- The bill supports a state-level cap of one-percent on students with the most significant cognitive disabilities tested on the alternate academic achievement standards. This provides school districts with flexibility, as long as the number of those proficient scores does not exceed one percent of all students in the state.

Some flexibility. The Feds decree how many students with cognitive difficulties we can have, while ignoring all sorts of other difficulties.

The Senate seems to think they have the answer. So far, their version of the new bill offers states the opportunity to test for "grit."
Expletive deleted.
Expletive deleted.
Expletive deleted.

— Susan Ohanian




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