Well, people, I made it through my first week of credentialing. Only… 80 more weeks to go by my count. Give or take.
I think I’ll put up one of those countdown thingamajigs on my blog home page. So I can look at it every day and be encouraged.
(Or discouraged. It’s all in how you look at it, you know.)
Thought I would share my final essay with you all here, on what I learned about the No Child Left Behind Act. Then those of you who are educators (the three of you? Paul? Sarah? Chris’ mom?) can give me your thoughts. Do you agree? Think I’m completely wrong? I’m open to constructive criticism.
If you are not an educator, and don’t care about this one teeny tiny bit, please feel free to skip ahead to the end for more blog-like stuff.
Reflections on No Child Left Behind
There is no dispute that students who attend schools in communities characterized by lower income living have been found to perform poorly compared to those in richer neighborhoods: the research is there to back this finding. The debate lies in the best way to handle this problem. The current solution propagated by the federal government is the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), a piece of legislature founded in 2002. The concept behind the NCLB is to create an education system in which all students in all grades—regardless of family income level or ethnicity—will be proficient in the subjects of reading and math by the 2013-2014 school year. The NCLB utilizes a system of standardized testing to ensure every student is progressing to meet the set standard each year, as well as sets the description for a “highly qualified teacher” and keeps schools accountable as to progression of each subgroup in the school.
While the idea behind the No Child Left Behind Act is founded upon a genuine need—keeping children at an economic disadvantage from slipping through the educational cracks—it is my opinion the laws that comprise the act leave much to be desired in the areas of implementation and funding. Specifically, I find concern in the following topics: the consequences for schools unable to bring their students to the new standard, and the responsibilities of student achievement placed on the teacher, school, and district.
Under the NCLB, schools have two years to meet the student standards set forth under the law. These standards are called the Annual Yearly Progress (AYP), a measurement of improvement meant to chart the progress of students each year up to 2014, the year all students should be proficient in reading and math. If, after two consecutive years, a school has not shown the desired progress, it is placed into the group of “Schools in Need of Improvement,” or SINOI. Once deemed a SINOI school, the institute in question begins its journey down one of two paths: it can bring itself back up to meet the legislative standard or it can continue to fall deeper from the mark. Sadly, due to the way AYP standards are set up, many critics of the law believe most schools will be marked as a SINOI school at some point or another (Johnson, Musial, Hall, and Gollnick, 2011).
The consequences of remaining a SINOI school can be severe: depending on the number of years a school maintains this status, the school may face the replacement of staff members, the implementation of new curriculum, or a complete restructure of the school (Johnson, et al., 2011). At the rate in which schools are failing to meet AYP, it is just a number of years before all schools will be forced to implement these serious changes—a requirement that is just not fiscally feasible in this current economy.
The NCLB has also left its mark in determining what qualifies an appropriately licensed teacher for Title 1 schools. There are three main criteria for a “Highly Qualified Teacher”: he or she must be certified by the state, have a bachelor’s degree, and be able to pass a state-approved test to prove competency in the subject he or she will teach. No longer will those with emergency or temporary credentials be allowed to take on a full-time teaching role; every class must have a teacher who meets the highest qualifications. This mandate, of any other in the NCLB legislation, is the one that should be addressed, and the only one, it seems, with any likelihood of being able to be carried out properly.
However, even the most highly qualified teacher cannot bring out the best work in all students, and this is where the NCLB completely misses the mark. If student outcomes are now the sole responsibility of the school administration, what responsibility is left to the student? It is no secret that schools are filled with plenty of students who simply do not care about standardized test scores. Yet the NCLB places all emphasis on the school’s faculty, the school’s curriculum, and the school’s administration practices. For this act to work, student buy-in of their own education is a must.
No Child Left Behind is not without its positive aspects. In Ask the Teacher, author Mark Ryan lists some promised benefits of the act: “stronger accountability by testing, freedom for states and communities to make decisions on standards ad proficiencies, encouraging proven research-based educational methods, and more choices for parents” (136-137). While these proposed benefits sound good, the cost to implement such lofty goals are currently too high for the U.S. government, and no matter how great a reform package it may be, without the necessary funding it simply cannot work properly (Ryan, 2008).
Criticism continues to rage over the No Child Left Behind Act. Proponents of the act look forward to the inclusion of all students in the proficient range, regardless of background. On the other side, those against argue the unrealistic approaches the act enforces. Perhaps the NCLB be better played out over a longer period of time, with less severe consequences for schools unable to bring every student up to standard. Regardless, the act does not seem to be working now, and will more likely need to undergo improvement itself in order to prove effective in changing today’s education practices.
Johnson, J.A, Musial, D., Hall, G.E, Gollnick, D.M. (2011). Foundations of American
Education (15th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, Inc.
Ryan, M. (2008). Ask the Teacher (2nd ed.). Pearson Education, Inc.
Aside from getting my behind kicked by schoolwork, here’s what else I’ve been up to:
March 10, Wednesday: Spent the morning grading math at the Woodman classroom and keeping an eye on the parking lot for the little lost dog that’s been showing up this week. Michelle and I are trying to save it. Spent the afternoon going through books with no library cards, creating a list of books with no library cards, and beginning the tedious task of making library cards for the list of books with no library cards.
PS: I love tedious activities. No joke. Bill (who I work for at Sorrento Mesa office, and who’s in charge of all the inventory) laughed when I said this. He thought I was being sarcastic. And then I had to tell him the story about how when I worked at Target no one would touch the cosmetics aisle, and I loved working the cosmetics aisle.
I like organizing things way too much.
And now I’m at Chris’, not getting my homework done, and waiting for him to come home so we can go grocery shopping and to WalMart to get new windshield wipers for my care. (We’re so romantic that way!)
March 9, Tuesday: School. No Sorrento Mesa. Came home and read, read, read. Fell asleep reading.
March 8, Monday: Taught reciprocals and negative exponents to Nephi. Went through the whole lesson with him complaining the whole time about how long it takes to do one dang problem like that. When I decided he’d had enough, I pointed out the whole relation between the reciprocal and negative exponents, and showed him how, if he just remembered that one simple rule, he wouldn’t have to go work out the problem, he’d just know what it was supposed to be off the top of his head. It took a few more rounds, but finally we came to the point where, when we started a new section, he stared at the problem for a few seconds, before raising his head and saying suspiciously, “Hey, wait a minute….” And then he got the next 4 done in about ten seconds. Success!
We also had TV Monday that night. Don’t think anything exciting happened.
March 6 &7, Saturday & Sunday: We headed up to Chris’ parents’ Saturday morning to celebrate Sarah’s birthday with their family, Kris and Becky, and Kris’ parents, the Cowen’s. Mr. Cowen likes to tease me, but I’m pretty sure I’m growing on him with the whole, “Hey, look! I’m going to be a math teacher, too!” thing.
So Sarah got everything she asked for, which wasn’t much, and then some. Mrs. T tried her hand at making ice cream cake, and it turned out fabulous. Even Chris had like three pieces,and that boy is not a cake person.
Sunday we went to church with Chris’ parents and heard a hysterical guy talk about the intensity of the labor and birth of his first child, and let me tell you, if I didn’t understand the whole cute cuddly baby part that you get afterward, it probably would have scared me off real good. “Don’t look at the needle.” That was his mantra. He kept repeating it. And then holding out his arms to indicate just how big that needle is.
After church we were off to Disneyland, sadly not with Brittany and Ryan, who’d gotten into a minor car accident on the way up. Minor as in they weren’t hurt, but not minor enough that Brittany’s car made it out unscathed. So they were missed.
And we really didn’t do much anyway. I renewed my pass for free (which was great), we watched the EO tribute (lame), walked through the Innoventions house again (we are so getting one of those kitchens), rode Thunder Mountain in the dark and from the back of the train (the best combo), got our free tortillas from the Tortilla Factory (corn again… disappointed), our free bread from the bakery (yummier than normal, perhaps to make up for the corn tortillas), and then to the Blue Sky Cellar to see the latest on the California Adventures renovations (World of Color = almost complete, but they’re still not releasing the official date). When I type it all out like that, it sounds like we did a lot, but it was pretty slow for Disney. Chris and I ditched Sarah (on her birthday!) around 8:30 to make it home at a reasonable hour, and though I tried so hard not to fall asleep on him, I eventually drifted off around Del Mar (so close!).
And… I really can’t remember much of last week other than studying the No Child Left Behind laws, so looks like we’ll be stopping there. I’ve been trying harder to remember to record the daily happenings, but life’s gotten so crazy busy lately it’s been hard. Fortunately I’ve got some great inspiration to remind me why it’s so important to take the time to remember all the little things….