Monday, May 26, 2008

No Child Interested in Moving Forward

In the context of urban classrooms, I find the results of the PDK/Gallup poll on public education very disheartening.  The poll notes that a growing number of Americans are becoming disenchanted with NCLB, a number that is especially high among people who classify themselves as knowing a good deal about the law. 

If I were to go back and teach in the high school I attended, I would probably be ambivalent about NCLB.  My high school featured a predominantly homogenous population of people who had lived in America all of their lives and whose parents had also been established in this country for good while.  To this group of people, I think NCLB is just another set of paperwork to fill out; it's not a cause for concern.  I even might go as far as to say that people like the ones I went to high school with should be able to be proficient in Language Arts and Math--provided they do not have a learning disability--and attempts to make them so should not have to dominate the curriculum.

But, in the context of an urban classroom, NCLB strikes me as an obnoxious and illogical law.  How can we expect urban schools to meet AYP if they have large populations of immigrant students who are just learning English?  Perhaps more importantly, what corners are cut or what skeletons are kept in the closet to insure that urban schools with large immigrant populations do meet AYP?  In an urban classroom (especially), teachers need to be dynamic, to have a wide range of teaching tools at their disposal in order to meet the needs of a wide range of sometimes very different students, and one of these tools might be a varied curriculum that attempts to engage students at some visceral level, like their heritage.  But, teaching a novel where the majority of the text is in dialects, while it might increase the attention and desire to learn in students, might not increase their basic knowledge of formal English, and, in the age of NCLB, this cannot be tolerated.

What a shame.


Abbey said...

I agree with your comments on the reasons NCLB is illogical and unfair in the urban schools, but I also think it is unfair in all schools. No student should spend all of their educational time being 'prepared' for a standardized test. That is not the way to motivate anyone or to help them find their passion and follow it. Instead, it will deaden students' interest in school. So, while I agree with your comments, I think it is far worse than you suggest!

Christine said...

I also agree with your comments on NCLB. How ridiculous! Students need to be well rounded and I feel standardized tests are not the answer. Give the kids more to learn from in different contexts and use the content more like reality.

Frank said...

I can not agree more with you Christine. I do believe that real success is not what the test scores say it was the students feels about him or herself, how they act towards future learning experiences and what they can do with what they learning in the real world.

I will hopefully be teaching my classes in such a way so that mostly everything they learn in class can be related to something they are doing, have done or will be doing in their lives at one point in time.

It is our challenge as educators to be on constant lookout for those connections.