Thursday, February 26, 2009

No Child Left behind found wanting by UCLA professor

Some really good points brought up by Orfield. I can't stress it enough for all of us in Texas to become well informed on the state accountability reforms being pushed this session. In Texas NCLB produces added pressures especially upon low-resourced and diverse schools. So we need to think about what/how we change the current state accountability system and become well informed on what's being advocated for this session.

Check out two previous posts on this blog:
Bad Education Bills Have Been Filed in the Texas Legislature That Will Reduce Math and Science Graduation Requirements

For the first time, Hispanic children are the majority in Texas’ first-grade classrooms


On Feb. 18, UCLA professor Gary Orfield visited UNH to discuss the No Child Left Behind federal education policy.

With an audience of students, educators and community members, Orfield covered topics such as the origin of the policy, signed by the Bush administration in 2001, its loopholes and the aspects of the policy which have not improved the overall standard of education in America's public schools the way it was meant to.

"No Child Left Behind teaches to the test, and that's the measurement of student learning," said Alison Rheingold, a doctoral student studying education. "I'm excited to hear about a more reasonable concept of reaching student equality."

The major point Orfield stressed was that the most crucial elements that affect a child's ability to learn and succeed in school begin before they ever set foot inside a classroom. Orfield pointed out that for students who are forced to move often, this causes them to have their education interrupted and that can cause serious issues.

Children who come from poverty are often moving homes and do not have a chance to settle in one location. This affects the success of students in school which is then reflected in their poor test scores.

"No Child Left Behind is an extreme ideology that is difficult to meet," said Orfield. "The policy assumes that schools have vast power and that inequality has little or nothing to do with external conditions and that equality can be achieved through testing, sanctions and market competitions."

Orfield stressed that schools cannot be expected to have their students do well without other types of support, yet this is the pressure put on them by No Child Left Behind.

In needy districts where excellent teachers are sought out the most, many are leaving as a result of the extreme pressure put on them to have their students meet the policy's irrational standards. These standards require high math and reading scores. With the emphasis on only these two subjects, other subjects such as science and social studies are being pushed aside for the sake of the school gaining high-test scores.

Any subjects outside the box, such as studying United States democracy, would not be considered because it is not on the test.

For the increasing number of students whose first language is not English, meeting the reading requirement is particularly difficult. The fear is that if the standards of a curriculum are raised too quickly, the students may fail. The schools then take the hit, and many schools are losing courses and funding.

"These kids are being forced to ignore their background and are expected to become proficient in English after a short period of time," said Orfield. "Testing is being used to fix problems rather than diagnose them."

What can be done to fix the problem and what will the Obama administration do?

Some solutions presented by Orfield included high school transition effort, dropout title funding and dropout counselors.

In the end, it all boils down to funding. The dropout rate has increased drastically since the 1980s and Orfield feels that bringing the country's rate down by 1,000,000 high school dropouts within President Obama's four years is a realistic goal. At this time President Obama has not made his position on No Child Left Behind known.

The core requirement of No Child Left Behind is to "provide students with a good education in order to make it in life. The policy seeks to ensure that all students be treated equally," according to Orfield's presentation.

The glitch with the policy is that while all students should be treated equally regardless of their backgrounds, not all students learn at the same pace or through the same methods. The No Child Left Behind policy does not take into account the specific struggles of what goes on within a classroom on a daily basis.

"I think the policy needs to be modified," said Mallory Sawyer, a senior Spanish and speech and language pathology major. "It's a utopian idea and theory but in reality it's ridiculous. It's a good idea, but it just doesn't work."

President Obama has promised additional funding for college scholarships through a $13 billion federal education stimulus. This would allow more students who struggle financially to continue their education at the post-secondary level.

Orfield stressed that with the high poverty levels in a growing non-white population, there needs to be more funding to keep these students motivated to stay in school and an incentive to keep excellent teachers in these schools.

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