Are Kids Still Left Behind? Yes
The No Child Left Behind Act is, in concept, a wonderful idea for helping children in underperforming schools upgrade their educational prospects by letting them transfer to high-achieving schools. But as with many well-intentioned programs, it takes experience to realize the pitfalls.
Here in New York, the major result of open transfers has been the overcrowding of already overcrowded schools, some to the bursting point. Several Queens high schools have so many students in them that if the Fire Department ran safety checks, they'd have to close.
My school, Forest Hills High School, is supposed to max out at just under 2,500 students, but we have an enrollment now of about 3,700 students. Add to that the more than $2.5 million cut from the school budget in the past two years, and it makes you wonder how quality education can be achieved.
What's the impact on the school itself? For one thing, tempers begin to flare because of the overcrowding. Students get just four minutes to go from one classroom to another, but it's just about impossible with the halls so jammed for students who have to go any great distance to make it in time. Even honors students have told me about teachers being mad at them for getting to class late.
Another problem is overcrowded classrooms and students who get lost in the shuffle because teachers cannot give them enough individual attention.
Then there's security. With more than 20 doors in the building, the potential for an intruder to enter increases when the crowds are such that visual checks at the doors can't be done.
One last example: The more students in a graduating class, the farther away from the No. 1 ranking most will be. That means more students may feel like failures.
It's a poor policy that hurts a school for being successful. It makes no sense to leave some schools half-empty while others are at double their capacity.
What's the answer? Do whatever it takes to fix the schools that are underachieving. That doesn't always require money as much as it requires a good plan, the right teachers and the right way of teaching.
Instead of No Child Left Behind, what we have now is Only the Few Can Survive.
Alan Goldwaser, president, Forest Hills High School Parents Association.
New York Daily News
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