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NCLB Outrages

Teachers don't leave children behind half as much as policymakers do

Good Point: The only teachers that seem to make the news are the ones caught having sex with their students. Questions surrounding education policy are left to politicos. Maybe it's time that teachers are heard from.

by Caleb Hale

It's funny that we expect our children to listen to their teachers every day, while we hardly listen to teachers at all. In the interest of full disclosure, I'll note that several of my family and friends are public school educators, including my wife. However, the above statement struck me this week, as I watched two former public officials debate the merits of the No Child Left Behind Act - former U.S. education secretary Roderick Paige and former Sen. Tom Daschle. Each man had an instrumental role in carrying NCLB through Congress before it became law in 2002. While they both have the background knowledge to intelligently discuss the issue, neither is exactly in a position any longer to affect policy firsthand. For all intents and purposes, they are private citizens once again.

I watched as both men fielded questions from audience members the night of the debate, though. They were tough questions, well-intended questions, but ultimately questions about education policy aimed at career policy-makers. Somehow, someday all the questions are supposed to boil down to definitive answers that, in short, will leave no child behind when it comes to an education.

Of course, the policy-makers have ideas, but we would all do well to first follow the most basic of rules when one has a question in the classroom setting - raise our hands (figuratively) and ask the teachers (literally). What do they think of No Child Left Behind?

Well, according to a recent AP-AOL Learning Services poll, only half of the 810 teachers asked believe U.S. schools will meet the goals of the act by the designated 2013-2014 time period. By the way, NCLB doesn't mandate schools mass-produce child prodigies; it merely asks that schools ensure students perform academically respective to their grade level.

It should also be noted the same poll shows parents feel better about schools' chances of meeting the goals than the teachers; then again, parents aren't going to be required to meet state standards each year either.

The poll, granted, is limited in its research; 810 teachers hardly cover the full spectrum of the American education system. Yet, I've never met a teacher whose eyes light up when No Child Left Behind is discussed. It may be a safe assumption to say the people who stand in front of our children everyday and teach have some real concerns about the expectations and penalties the federal government suddenly decided to enact a few years ago. Those concerns might be worth listening to for at least a little while.

When it comes down to the daily grind, educators kick themselves harder for students' poor grades than policy-makers ever will. Accountability for schools was not born in Congress, particularly considering some cynics think spotting accountability in Congress is like spotting a unicorn. Accountability in education works best when it acts as the bond between teachers and parents.

The funny thing about the No Child Left Behind discussion is that teachers always seem to be a very distant voice in the conversation. In all likelihood, they probably don't have as much time to mull the ramifications of one idea to another as the policy-makers. It's rare that teachers get any face time at all in the public venue. The only teachers I've seen on the news lately are the ones caught having sex with their students. Otherwise, questions surrounding education policy are often fielded by policy-makers, like Paige and Daschle did at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

Policy-makers have their place in the discussion, but the thoughts and ideas of the teachers can't be ignored as the country supposedly rockets toward a lofty goal within a decade. When we were in school we always got our best information from the teachers. After all, the matter of how the U.S. truly will leave no child behind is definitely a question that will be on the test.

— Caleb Hale
The Southern Illinoisan
-2006-04-21


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