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NCLB, seven years and still bullying strong

Submitted by on Thursday, 8 January 2009 2 Comments

Happy Birthday, No Child Left Behind.

You were born seven years ago today as the federal government’s first major foray into education reform. Through testing and bludgeoning, you were supposed to be the solution to the American education system’s many problems.

Some solution you turned out to be.

Don’t count on a present for me, because I can’t figure out an appropriate gift for a bully who likes to make little kids cry. But that’s the way it is with many folks struggling to obscure their own inadequacies. They take it out on someone else.

You make my 5-year-old cry virtually every night as he gripes through an ungodly pile of unnecessary homework. The capper’s when he has to write the week’s two new words plus two words he’s already learned — four times each. In the unenlightened era when I went to school, repetitious writing was punishment, not learning.

Oh, and let me let you in on a little secret. He knows way more words than are on the state of California’s list. He learned them because they’re “high frequency” words in books he likes to read and because he needed them to write his stories and letters. We’d love to do more of that type of thing, but rote writing and recitation come first.

This is a sharp little kid. We had a lengthy discussion tonight about Army rangers — yes, really — and how and why they parachute. It made me glad I’d once lived in the land of the 82nd Airborne and could answer most of his questions. The chat ended with him saying, “I still don’t get why they want to jump out of a good airplane.” Which made me giggle, because a Navy pilot I’d dated used to say the same thing.

But he’s also a kid cursed with his mom’s impatience with wasted time and low tolerance for bullcrap. He knows writing the same words night after night after night is a heaping helping of both.

I’ve thought about homeschooling or unschooling or anything that would end this torture before it douses the spark. Unfortunately, he’s also a social little bug and would rapidly lose his mind — not to mention drive me out of mine — with only his brother and me for company.

So we keep playing the game every night because that’s the way the game is played and to blow it off would leave him labeled. I’m not going to do that to him at age 5.

He also has an elephantine memory, so he’ll do well on your silly little tests when the time comes. Unless he decides to phone it in because you’ve already made him so mind-numbingly bored by then that he’s quit caring.

The testing craziness just stuns me. I cannot believe the way the public has bought that this glorious waste of time – as much as 15 percent of the school year in some states – is “accountability,” and I’m amazed that normally sane, educated people freak out about the results.

One friend was concerned because his kid’s literary scores weren’t top tier, and the child is a voracious reader and writer. I shrugged. The writing test is scored based on set standards, none of which include whether the piece is compelling.

Besides, I reminded him, I’ve been asked about my standardized test scores only once in the past two decades, and that was by someone who was insulting me. “You didn’t do well on reading comprehension on the SAT, did you?”

And all this angst for a program inevitably, mathematically doomed to fail.

“The increases that are demanded by No Child Left Behind are way larger than anything we’ve ever seen in the past or that you see in other countries,” Robert L. Linn, a professor emeritus of education at University of Colorado at Boulder, told Education Week. He’s argued that all U.S. schools will fail to make their achievement goals between now and the 2014 target for all children to be proficient in English and Math.

It’s actually failing already, to the tune of $1billion a year for a reading program that didn’t improve comprehension one iota.

I realize you’re not going anywhere. President-Elect Barack Obama supports continuing the folly, though with modifications, and Education Secretary-Designate Arne Duncan is a fan of charter schools and testing.

I just wish I could understand why so many people love you. I can’t possibly when you make my little boy cry so often.

Copyright 2009 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.

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  • Vanilla Cokehead said:

    Don’t get me started on NCLB.

    It’s the unfair testing requirements of NCLB that might result in the school my daughter goes to getting closed in the next year or so. The school specializes in working with kids with ADHD, Aspergers, and Autism – and the NCLB mandates make the State of OH evaluate the school as if it was a school with all “regular” students.

    NCLB has seriously screwed up public education – kids should go to school to learn, not be drilled in passing standardized tests. I have nothing against holding schools accountable for their performance – but at least give some flexibility for schools serving special populations – fund the mandates – and put less emphasis on testing and ease off on teachers AND students.

    I hope Obama fixes NCLB after he takes office…

  • Rosanna said:

    Amen! NCLB is a curse and a scourge on teaching and a shameful example of incompetence in high office! If Obama is committed to changing teh world – throwing NCLB out wit the other trash should be a first order of business.
    Great article. Hugs to your little one!