Thursday, November 10, 2005

'NCLB Sucks Because GW's An Idiot'

I hate stupid people. I just hate them. I can't be nice about it. There's not dancing around the fact, no trying to sound nice, no saying "well, he had a hard childhood. Afterall, he is 'different.'" No. None of that. I just hate them and I want them all to be pushed into a large whole where they can just bug the hell out of each other and leave me in peace.

George W. Bush is not an idiot. No Child Left Behind (NCLB) does not suck. Therefore, No Child Left Behind does not suck because George W. Bush is not an idiot. There. I said it. Why did I say it? Because of stupid people--stupid people who proclaim (in all seriousness) that NCLB 'sucks' because 'GW is an idiot.' These words were actually said (with some measure of pride) in my education class this week. NCLB sucks because GW's an idiot....oh, and then there's always the part about how 'it's an unfunded mandate.'

To quote Dr. Joseph Merz, Ph. D., "Good God." If it weren't for liberal slogans and catch phrases, would anti-Bush morons have anything to say? I mean honestly. If the Howard Deans of the world hadn't come up with easy-to-remember slogans, would they even speak? I think not.

I guess I'm getting a bit ahead of myself. Let's back it up a bit....

This week in my Shepherd University Foundations of Education class, we have been studying (well discussing) standards, curriculum, assessment and accountability--all things which tie into NCLB. This, naturally, prompted a review of the sweeping legislative act of 2001.

Let me summarize (and evaluate) what I have learned, through our textbook and other readings as well as my own personal research, about NCLB with some:

  1. NCLB is NOT NEW LEGISLATION. President Bush did not introduce some ground breaking legislation which was completely out of the air and unexpected. NCLB is a 're vamping' of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1964, which was introduced by Lyndon B. Johnson in order to ensure that minority students are receiving the same degree of education as everybody else. It has been reintroduced and, not surprisingly, repassed every four years. Each time it is reauthorized, the scope of the legislation is broadened. The book goes on to explain that over the past forty years no measurable progress has been made, thus 'GWs' plan to revamp.
  2. The first goal of NCLB is to have 'Highly Qualified Teachers' (HQT) in every elementary and secondary classroom. I would think that nobody would argue with this, but there are some who, because 'GW is an idiot,' oppose this plan. I would also think that this is something that doesn't need to be written down in federal policy, but apparently it does, as many states are without qualified teachers.
  3. The second major goal is Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP). AYP is measured by (surprise) standardized tests. I believe, with all of my mind, that standardized tests are good things. I also believe that having these tests count for something (whereas in the past students said 'well, this things have no effect on me whatsoever') is a good thing. AYP must be met by 100% of the student body of each school. That is not to say that a student must display 'mastery' of every skill, but rather 'proficiency' in every skill. Opponents suggests that this is an ambitious goal. I counter by saying, though ambitious it may be, it should be our goal. What is the point in bothering to educate students if we're going to do it half way? If we're not going to make sure that a student demonstrates proficiency in the skills we're giving them, then we might as well 'hang up the chalk-holders' and go into something else (I guess something like ditch digging...wait, no, can't do ditch digging because it requires that we proficiently dig the ditch). The biggest argument against the AYP requirements is that even special education students must meet the set requirements. This is troublesome and I have mixed feelings concerning this. On the one hand, I must say that I'm a bit snobbish and believe that if Special Education students are going to receive the same diploma that I am, then they should have to pass the same exams, undergo the same assessments and have the same requirements. On the other hand, it is unrealistic to ask a truly handicapped student (IE somebody who cannot even function on a high enough level to raise a drinking class to his/her lips) to read a passage and pick the 'controlling idea.' This issue, though, brings up a whole new topic, which I may address at a latter time--should Special Education students (or at least the severely handicapped students) even be in the average classroom?Testing these students is something that can (and should) be addressed when the act comes up for reauthorization.
  4. The third goal/objective of NCLB is consequence: what do we do about students/teachers/schools/districts/states that do not meet the outlined requirements? Do we continue to provide them with federal funds? Do we just let them continue to fail? Do we send the State BOE in to take over the school? These questions are tough. Firstly, we must address funding. NCLB is often described (more often than not by people who say 'GW is an idiot') as being an 'unfunded mandate,' but how much of an increase must education receive before it is considered to be thoroughly funded? Ten%? Twenty? How about 100%? According to White House Press Releases (which some would consider a biased source, but I would call a primary source), for Fiscal Year (FY) 2004, the increase in education expenditures represented a 131% increase between 1996 and 2004. In eight years, the increase in the budget for education was 131% Take a minute and let that soak in. That is to say that the US government spent 2 and 1/3 times the amount of money in '04 as was spent in '96...and yet it is somehow called unfunded. Now that we have addressed funding, we must address what do to with these schools. The plan calls for schools that do not meet requirements to be labeled Schools in Need of Improvement (SINOI). This, from the perspective of any rational human being, makes sense: If you fail to meet expectations, you NEED IMPROVEMENT. After a predetermined hierarchy of corrective actions have been taken, a more severe step may be initiated. School choice must be offered (that is, parents must be offered the chance to send their students to alternative schools that have met the AYP requirements and have adequate space to allow more students). School boards my choose to completely remove all staff members at a school and rehire quality teachers from within the district, while also reaching out for new teachers. Or, if so desired, they may employ a 'for profit' company to come in a manage the school. These are just some of the many ways the government has suggested to improve AYP.

So lets review:

  1. NCLB is a reauthorization of a 40 year old bill meant to ensure that all students receive the basic skills.
  2. NCLB seeks Highly Qualified Teachers
  3. NCLB seeks for all schools to make Adequate Yearly Progress thereby ensuring that all students are proficient in the basic skills.
  4. NCLB presents consequences for failure in order for Schools in Need of Improvement to take corrective action and meet the AYP standards.

Wow. This is a bad thing presented by an idiot, is it not? Qualified teachers? Making progress in education? Correcting problems? I just can't take the negativity!

I don't want to give the wrong impression: NCLB is NOT PERFECT. It needs some (a lot?) work, some editing and some revision, but it's something. George W. Bush dared to stick his neck out and offer something new. Damn him! It may not be perfect, but it has brought education to the front burner again, and it has started a dialogue... and I don't see how anybody in their right mind can call that negative.


At 1:38 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

NCLB is inherently, fatally flawed and is indicative of the Bush admininistration's widespread incompetency. If you were a teacher -- which you clearly are not -- you would have actual field experience and would know first-hand how asinine and detrimental this pathetic excuse for legislation truly is.


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