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NCLB Outrages

No Child Left Behind isn’t a touchdown

These sanctions are a formula for chaos, not school improvement.
All you California people should send this to George Miller, assuring him you will vote for his opponent.

By Bill Morem

I âm going to talk about education. So take notes; there may be a test.

First, the good news: For the most part, our children are receiving high levels of education in the county.

The bad news: Seventeen county schools did not meet the federal No Child Left Behind levels last year, and the schools that did hit their numbers appeared to be plateauing in achievement.

This trend, say my friends in education, is bound to continue until no school can hit the federal standard of 100 percent NCLB achievement by 2014.

My friendsâ main beef is that one-size-fits-all teaching mandates are a farce.

Allow me to use a sports metaphor to explain those man-dates. Letâs say the schools are football teams. Under NCLB, all teams must make the state playoffs, and all must win the championship.

If a team doesnât win the championship, it will be on probation until it is a championâ and its coaches will be held accountable.

Now, high expectations are commendable, both in the classroom and on the playing field. But under NCLB, all children will be expected to have the same football skills at the same time under the same conditions.

For example, no exceptions will be made for interest in football, a desire to perform athletically, genetic abilities or disabilities. All children will be expected to play football at a proficient levelâend of discussion.

Then, talented players will be asked to practice on their own without coaching. This is because the coaches will be using all of their time with the students who arenât interested in football, have limited athletic ability or whose parents donât like football.

This will create a new age of sports in which every school is to have the same level of talent, and all teams will reach the same goals.

What this really means is that if no child gets ahead, then no child can be left behind.

Hereâs a hard reality: There are about 6 million kids speaking about 75 languages in California schools. Is it realistic to expect that all of these students will learn at the same pace?

I didnât think so, either. Yet districts that miss their proficiency marks on tests in the fourth, eighth and 11th grades risk federal sanctions that may include teacher retraining, dismissal of staff and/or turning schools over to state officials.

These sanctions are a formula for chaos, not school improvement.

So, what are schools doing to comply with NCLB?

Theyâre turning our children into little test takers for reading and math, in many cases abandoning social studies, art and music because they arenât tested subjects.

One district in the San Joaquin Valley has set aside 30 minutes a day to stress test-taking skills in kindergarten and first grade. Imagine, 30 minutes a day of teaching time for two years on how to fill in multiple-choice bubbles.

By the time these kids reach second grade, theyâll be the best little test takers on the planet. But will they have received the academic content necessary to bubble-in the correct answers?

Letâs hope that in our county, educational content and context are still top priorities. Until then, pencils down.

— Bill Morem
San Luis Obispo Tribune


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