Why I hate NCLB, part one

Apparently, for years the test scores have been going up in our school district. “The RCSD has had the highest increase in API scores in San Mateo County since 2000.” But that’s the API stuff, which is the state standards. The federal standards are the “AYP” score.

Here’s what I’ve been able to figure out about AYP scores: Students in each school are grouped in the following categories:

– African American (non-Hispanic)
– American Indian or Alaska Native
– Asian
– Filipino
– Hispanic or Latino
– Pacific Islander
– White (Not of Hispanic origin)
– Socioeconomically disadvantaged
– English Learners
– Students with disabilities

So for each school, subgroups are created according to these categories if there are more than 50 students who are at least 15% of the school’s population or if there are 100 students in the category. For Moomin’s school I would guess the categories are Hispanic, White, English learners, and Students with Disabilities. Maybe Socioecononomically Disadvantaged too. 95% of the students in the school and in each subgroup must take the tests. Last year, 24% of them must pass the tests.

When I look at the District report, I can see that the district as a whole passed the tests! But the special ed and the English learners category … failed to pass the English test.

Why is this news? That’s why they’re called “English learners”… because they’re little kids who *don’t know English yet*, for god’s sake! $%&#$!!!!!!!11!!!

Did I mention in this post how much I hate NCLB? And how pointless it is? And how it guarantees that every school district in the nation will flunk? And education for the poor and for immigrants will become a complete travesty if it isn’t already? And even fewer people will want to become teachers in such a system?

The consequences of the flunking won’t be anything sensible, like, “Let’s give this district and its schools some money specifically for bilingual education and English language tutoring, effective immediately.” Oh no… instead… undermine all the schools, destroy whatever programs they have in place, and take what money the schools already have and move it around. (And lord knows what-all else happens that I can’t imagine.)

I did not realize that some of the schools in our district are already in the dire Year 5 of “PI status” which means… It’s hard to tell what it means. It means that last year the principal and staff got fired?! And “contract with outside agency to run school”…? Or it became a charter. Or something. Something drastic happened, anyway. Why is this not front page news in our local paper, every single day?

I also realized for the first time that some of our schools are T1 and some are not (the richest ones). Here’s a page that explains a little bit about Title 1 funding. Why isn’t this all clearly explained by the schools to the parents? Amazing. I will write it up myself, dammit.

Possibly my volunteering efforts should be focused on the schools that failed the test, and I should be going to those classrooms and playing “Apples to Apples Junior” with the kids. It’s a good game for early readers, maybe 2nd to 5th grade. And I should take a bunch of other English-speaking parents with me. I think what we need is someone to coordinate and allocate community volunteers & not just parents.

But in reality, I volunteered at my kid’s own school, and while this was welcomed, I am still being told it is “too confusing” to figure out a room available for me to hold even a small game club. Anyone with a lick of sense would jump on it and have a person with my capabilities and vision coordinating a volunteer program for the whole district. It would have happened last year when I first started telling people my ideas for this kind of thing.

Do you see the other layer of evil at work here? I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. The schools don’t have funding to do a damn thing. Moms like me get sucked up into a losing system of trying to keep the schools afloat, with our own volunteer labor, uncoordinated and with no continuity from year to year. The more I choose to do for the school system, the more I will be disempowering myself in my own life and career. That’s what “parental involvement in the schools” means.

Update: The lovely Mrs. Davis has sent me a link to No Dentist Left Behind – it’s a very good essay that gets the point across. Thanks!!

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7 Responses to Why I hate NCLB, part one

  1. Mrs. Davis says:

    I'm so glad your discussing NCLB. I've been tempted too, but it makes me so angry I can hardly string together a sentence. With my son in first grade this year, I'm just beginning to realize the ridiculous pressures that teachers (and students!) are under to conform to NCLB. Title 1 is helping in our community, and is available at all the schools in our district, but there's so much more that is wrong.Have you seen this:http://www.trelease-on-reading.com/no-dentist.html

  2. DrumsNWhistles says:

    I wrote about NCLB not too long ago, too. It's a noble concept executed and written in a way that everything becomes punitive to the student, the school, and most of the faculty.Sticks' (my son) high school was Title I when he started there. He's now a senior and this is their second year out of Title I. Their amazing principal who managed to balance the rigors of NCLB/Title I while encouraging an extremely diverse group of kids to love learning and their school, dropped dead of a heart attack on a week after official notice that their Title I status had been lifted.The disempowerment doesn't stop with you — the teachers are disempowered, too. They're limited in what they can teach and how they can teach it. Many of the most talented teachers I've known are frustrated beyond belief with the limits placed on them.

  3. Beth B. says:

    Thanks for discussing this, it makes me made too. I also agree with Mrs. Davis on the pressure for all. So sad.

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