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NCLB Outrages

MEAP No Help to Students Just Trying to Survive

Ohanian Comment: Don't you wish that President Bush and every damned member of Congress who voted for NCLB could see this school? And then tell us "No Excuses!" Kudos to the reporter for not naming the school.

Come with me.

I'm going to take you inside a Phase 5 school, also known as a "failing" school because it has not made adequate yearly progress under the requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act.

I'm withholding the name of the school because, frankly, its morale can't take another hit. The name doesn't matter, though, because the story is the same at most of the so-called "failing" schools.

This school has a 47 percent mobility rate. Though it's kept quiet, 10-15 percent of the families are homeless. They stay with this friend, or that relative, until they are asked to leave.

The parents mostly fall into three categories: grandparents raising their grandchildren, parents who had their children when they were 14 or 15 years old, and foster parents.

Many of the students start kindergarten not knowing their colors, numbers or alphabet. Some don't even know their own names, having been called nicknames like "Boo" their whole lives. Many cannot pick their own name out of a list, let alone write it. Many have never seen a book. They have no understanding even of the left-to-right concept in reading.

Behavior is the number one problem here. Watching a fourth-grade class being taught multiplication, you'd think that the entire class has attention deficit disorder. They wiggle and tap, rip paper, eyes roaming, looking for someone to poke or prod. They cannot focus and they cannot keep still. They also cannot multiply.

Defiance is the word of the day, every day. Their lives are about street survival. School is inconsequential. Teachers tread carefully - how much can you prod a student before he rebels: "I'm not doing that and you can't make me."

Anger reigns. Fists are the only way they know to settle disputes, and they use them freely. The ones who won't fight must be closely guarded by teachers or their pencils and lunch money will be stolen.

Parents were invited to the school to learn strategies to help their children prepare for the Michigan Educational Assessment Program tests. After a great deal of begging, six to 10 parents finally showed up. First, they had to be taught how to multiply.

For the next two weeks, not only the students will be tested. The staff will be tested, too, because students will go out of their way to get into trouble, to be suspended, to avoid having to take the MEAP.

During the math lesson, no fourth-grader can figure out 63 times 2. Yet this week when students face the MEAP they will be asked questions like this: "Max is at the carnival. He wants to play the Ball Toss. When he tosses the ball, it will land in one of the numbered rings: 25, 50, or 100. In his first game, Max will toss 6 balls at the rings. What is the lowest score he could get if the ball always lands in a numbered ring?"

So, will this be the year they pass the MEAP?

What do you think?


— Kelly Flynn
Flint Journal


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