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NCLB Outrages

Education Review Issue: Washington Post

Comments from Annie: Thinking with the last few weeks of freedom that summertime embodies, I hope it is time for a commitment to a complete corroborative effort to address the real issues of tangible value and concern in our public schools within the current dedication to NCLB policy. What is still missing is a coherent source of information and analysis that is distributed to the public in a manner that no longer caters to nor follows the obvious slant of major investors in NCLB policy.

What is needed is a balance.

Competition is still acceptable in our economy and if in competition with news and educational entrepreneurial investors, information is released to the public to highlight the more pertinent topics and illustrations of damages being perpetuated within compliance with NCLB, the still uninformed public could be able to decide and define the urgency behind this hidden debate more adequately. Certainly they could become better and more completely informed.

It won’t change anything if those of us who bother to understand the urgency of revising or dissolving NCLB policy continue to write in venues where the mainstream public is sadly uninvited or un-included.

Those of us who know that our public school system is in peril could realize the strength in our numbers. People from cites and states everywhere in our country could create a formidable, consolidated force. We could accomplish much by strengthening the connections to become one strong, cohesive entity. We could produce the kind of “Educational Review” the citizens, our legislators, the parents, teachers, and students deserve to read and use to become informed; we could counter the steady dose of shallow reporting and avoidance sold to a naïve readership.

Imagine the possibilities!

Review by Annie

The Washington Post delivered its “Education Review” issue in the Sunday Magazine this week and true to its classic dedication to the avoidance of any thought provocative or critical of NCLB, it delivered with a collection of articles hardly worth their cost in ink and glossy paper.

Of the five articles included in the special issue, only one delivered anything of value. The remaining 4 articles gave us a lackluster glimpse at what, in its corruption, has become the issues of “greatest concern” for our public school system.

First I will mention the losers in an issue meant to enlighten its readership. The articles win a tie in their race to avoidance of anything of value, pertinence, or substance with regards to our schools. None distinguish themselves with anything more than a few words mixed up to deliver a batch of sticky tapioca when we certainly could have enjoyed a nice tart piece of good pie to savor had the Washington Post considered the wealth of issues flying around in the wake of NCLB policies.

Haunting the school systems, their administrators, teachers, and students these last few weeks before classes resume, are the results trickling in from state after state receiving the news of failure after failure on the AYP standards; we read nothing about that. We read nothing about the struggle of administrators receiving notices that their educational plans have been denied under the master controller, NCLB either. We read nothing about the failures of test companies and the ordeal the students have endured in the wake of erroneous and botched scoring. And we read nothing about the horrible ordeal of teachers trying to teach and keep their sanity under the prison-like standards of operations in compliance with NCLB. Neither do we hear from the students who are pushed into heartbreaking situations of heavy loads and crushing testing schedules with the ever mounting push to drive them forward into more “vigorous” study that remains of questionable value.

Two of the articles were written as a local, regional, insider’s view of maddening pressure parents face when they assimilate the shallow zeal of NCLB policy- metastasis in local school systems. One gave celebration to the YUPPY fantasy of finding the acceptable pre-school placement for a newly walking, barely talking, child before the designer slots were filled. The other gave space to another parent evaluating the designer high schools in her area, brewing over the best and most probable choice for her son to reserve his place in affluent, entitlement in his distant future. College still 4 years off, but absorbed desperately in choices to guarantee his “success,” the mother weighs through her list of IB, AP, Magnet and other “rigorous” curriculums without a single mention of their questioned and debatable value.

The third article ignores the irony of touting a college program dedicated to video games when video games have contributed so massively to the poor attention spans, the exposure to and acceptance of violence, and the wasted time and addictive propensity of video games for children who might otherwise be physically active, productive, creative or engaged in reading a book.

The fourth, courtesy of Jay Mathews, who is often praised by the Washington Post and its subsidiaries as an education reporter of great acclaim, is what everyone in my family, including two adults who studied education, a bright and accomplished high school graduate and her talented sister, a sophomore who joins her in reading instead of watching TV, call a mindless, non-article that “says nothing.”

But the fifth article, the one with any merit, describes the quandary of a talented, smart college student from an affluent background who carefully weighs her future choices after experiencing a life-changing course of study and work in the area of poverty. The essay describes a newly developing program where students pursue a choice of internships to learn as well as experience, by immersion, the horrors of the world of poverty and stagnant desperation. As the scholars near the close of their studies, they face the cultural scales to weigh the factors involved in choosing a career which could also limit their potential material and economic wealth, verses going on to professional schools where they might pursue more acceptable plans or legacies, carefully considering the lives they might face if they chose to help, create, or defend the rights and opportunities of our society’s most vulnerable populations.

The issues, all appropriate in a cultural context to our public system of education, unfortunately are presented without the depth or consideration they merit, and waste the time and energy of a reader who looks for something of substantial measure to read about within the current topics in education.

Why would the Washington Post ignore the controversy and debate over NCLB and its expansion? Simply worded, the Post has too much to gain economically from ignoring the issues that matter most.

Over the last several weeks, articles have been flowing from various newspapers and journals about the unmonitored low quality of SES edu-businesses. Letters are written daily describing the wounded morale of teachers who struggle with the weight of their life-changing decisions whether to continue to teach in systems which devalue their professions or concede and begin the route to a different career. College professors write about schools of education where freshly graduated teachers are not adequately trained to face the pressures of NCLB or where they send new graduates into a world that does not want them to apply what they have learned about teaching. NCLB schools need script-readers, test-givers, veteran AYP-boosters, and not energetic, creative visionaries, not people who want to recognize a child as part or a victim of their larger social, economic, or cultural system.

Schools are boosting up the “vigor.” And as always, there is controversy about what that really means when what NCLB passes off as vigor is more of the scripted, shallow, test-based curriculums, now with designer rhetoric attached, of AP and IB. These are programs described by many as having nothing of the over-hyped benefit that they are claimed to embody. The teachers, with very limited “training” to employ the scripted curriculums of AP and IB are recruited as quickly and coercively as are the students into these shallow classes and programs. But missing in the news is any mention that the product often does not deliver on the promised goods.

The Washington Post ignores the most pressing and crucial issues in education today, and most people reading this sort of criticism of that style of avoidance, understand very well why they do.

• Class Questions: At elite Washington and Lee University, Poverty 101 is changing lives.

• Gaming the System: Montgomery College students take aim at the big business of developing video games.

• High Anxiety: The gulf between eighth and ninth grade can be harrowing.

• Late Learner: The pre-K frenzy is enough to drive the mellowest parent nuts.

• Learning From the Masters: A few practical lessons that ed schools simply simply aren't teaching.

Access the Education Review.

— Annie
Washington Post


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