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Memoirs of a Special Educator: "Mo' Child Left Behind"

Can any corporate-politico--or any educator--answer these questions?

by Kandise Thomas-Humphrey, PhD.

We are quickly approaching the end of the 2005-2006 academic year. Both, we (special educators and our students with special needs) have also endured the fifth year of "No Child Left Behind".

You know, that federal mandate that was our president's bright idea. Unfortunately, "No Child Left Behind" should be renamed, "Mo' Child Left Behind".

Forgive me for the incorrect use of the English language that I demonstrated, but I think that the second title for his federal mandate will be clearly understood by our children, especially since the goal is not to teach them how to read, calculate, think, or even use their imaginations.

The goal is to standardize our children. . . make them into monotone, performing robots that regurgitate the data that we input, in the exact manner that we require..almost like a "mindless" zombie or computer..garbage in, garbage out.

As a special educator, I am particularly disgusted and frustrated with this mandate. While the overall goal of No Child Left Behind is admirable, its implementation for our students is deplorable.

I am in the state of Virginia. We shoved worksheets at our students, in order to complete the state assessments that support No Child Left Behind, until I could see their little eyes bulging and begging for mercy, not truly understanding why they were not "learning" anything anymore.

Our students had no idea what they were completing and we were not in the position to "teach" them to master the skills.

Our job was to keep the worksheet assembly line going so that the portfolio could be completed by the deadline, filled with material that was "supposedly" completed by our students, to demonstrate mastery of skills.

The question that I kept asking myself was, "How in the world can a third, fourth, or fifth grade student; who is three or more years behind academically and socially, be expected to complete on-grade level work at the mastery level in one year?"

It is clear that it is not our children that are behind, but the authors of this insane system that are ancient and outdated.

"You can read the worksheets to them". I was told.

"They can use calculators to add one digit numbers." I was advised.

"They can use a dictionary to spell three letter words". I was reminded.

All along, I kept asking myself, "When do we teach these children?"

It was my understanding that in gaining an education, we gain self-sufficiency, an improved quality of life, and the ability to help others with the skills that we acquire.

Unfortunately, the "education" that we, as special educators promote, sustains a sense of helplessness, codependence, and mediocrity. . . all in the name of "No Child Left Behind". . . sorry, I meant, "Mo' Child Left Behind."

Mr. President, how will you account for being responsible for raising a generation of children that have not only been left behind, but are completely left out because they have not been provided the opportunity to master the basic skills required for life? I am sure you remember. . . reading, writing, and math.

Mr. President, will you be around to read their bus schedule to them so that they can get to work?

Mr. President, will you help them to count coins in order to make sure that they have the correct change from a purchase?

Mr. President, will you help them tell time on a clock so that they will not be late for their minimum wage job that they have because they did not graduate and could not read in order to obtain a GED?

Submitted by Kandise Thomas-Humphrey, PhD. Dr. Thomas-Humphrey is a child and family advocate, special educator, educational consultant, and reformist.

— Kandise Thomas-Humphrey


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