05 February 2010

Schools (Don't) Matter To NCLB

I was handed a list of student names from a junior high school southeast of San Juan. It took Me a minute to notice that of 381 students in the school, there were 152 in 7th grade, 124 in 8th and 105 in 9th. The discrepancy between 7th and 9th grade totals was 47, meaning that 31% of the total number of students currently in 7th grade were not reflected in the 9th.

Thirty. One. Percent.

I asked the director if this was because of some recent change in organization or population trend. He looked at the sheets, this 14-year veteran of the school struggle and said: "It's been like this since I got here. What's worse is that I used to have over 450 students here in 7th grade. We haven't had 400 here since 2003."

Yes, the population growth level has dropped in Puerto Rico since the 1980s, but in this director's school district, the overall number of students has gone up in grades 1-3 since 2001. Emigration--brain drain--is not the culprit for this district has 83% of its population below the poverty line. Some of them might move out in search of a better life, but when you're that poor, your options are limited and taking the kids is not often feasible. Proof of this is that 94% of the students in this school live with only one parent or a guardian (grandparent, uncle/aunt, older sibling, etc.) The fact is fewer students are going from 6th grade to seventh, in other words, the dropout rate is reaching lower grades in greater numbers.

So what's the cause of this dropout rate? Sex, as in this school some 12-14 girls--in junior high school--get pregnant every year, meaning they drop out and some if not most of the fathers move away. Also drugs, with most of the male students and plenty of females clearly identifying with one drug gang or another, for protection or to put up a front. That many of them see it as easy money is but a natural step. But for lower grades, sex and drugs are not that big a factor, yet the dropout drain rises.

And yet, as bad as this is, beyond the relentless indifference the local department of (mis)education has for the dropout problem is what this director called "The undermining of Our kids' futures: most of them have grown up under the federal system (No Child Left Behind) and they have been educated too badly to make real progress."

In the recent PPAA tests, the standardized bundle of useless crap that NCLB worships like a cockroach slurps up toejam, only 11 of this school's 381 students achieved "Proficient" level in any subject. That means that roughly 99% of the students are deemed failures. Yes, the parents and guardians aren't proactive enough, yes the students come from broken homes, yes there are drug problems around the school, but these are not unique problems to this school: what is also not-unique is that NCLB consistently generates failure rates the way I aced exams--in the high 90s.

The problem is not the students: it's the system. No Child Left Behind is the Chernobyl-meets-Three Mile Island of educational systems, promising some type of bright output, but melting down into nothing more than a toxic cloud. It should be dumped like the fetid bucket of vomit it is and replaced, not spiffed up, tweaked, reworked or redesigned. Our children deserve better and it is up to Us to help give it to them.

Here, from School Matters, is a blog post detailing "20 Reasons to Eliminate NCLB":


"An education policy built on impossible performance demands that assure the failure of the majority of American public schools should be eliminated, not reformed. 

An education policy that has the same impossible demands for most English-language learners and special education students should be eliminated, not reformed.

An education policy that traumatizes children, destroys the desire to learn, and corrupts the purposes for learning should be eliminated, not reformed. 

An education policy that uses fear, intimidation, and retribution as motivation should be eliminated, not reformed.

An education policy that uses a single assessment once a year to make life-altering decisions should be eliminated, not reformed.

An education policy that ignores poverty as a chief determinant in academic performance should be eliminated, not reformed.

An education policy that creates two different school curriculums, one for the children of the poor and one for well-funded successes, should be eliminated, not reformed.

An education policy that uses skewed and manipulated research from the National Reading Panel to devise a national reading strategy should be eliminated, not reformed.

An education policy that uses the strain of test score competition to undercut public cohesion and civic commitment to democratic goals should be eliminated, not reformed.

An education policy that shrinks the American school curriculum to two or three subjects that are tested should be eliminated, not reformed.

An education policy that discourages diversity and encourages homogeneity in schools should be eliminated, not reformed.

An education policy that supports the use of tax dollars to fund private schools rather than public school improvement should be eliminated, not reformed.

An education policy that advocates the use of public money to pay private contractors to run public schools should be eliminated, not reformed.

An education policy that is built on unfunded and under-funded mandates should be eliminated, not reformed.

An education policy that reduces or eliminates local and state decision making by citizens should be eliminated, not reformed.

An education policy that mandates that military recruiters have access to student information should be eliminated, not reformed.

An education policy that inflames a teacher shortage in order to replace professional teachers with individuals who have passed a teaching test should be eliminated, not reformed.

An education policy that is used to reward tax dollars to insiders and cronies for their political support should be eliminated, not reformed.

An education policy that uses paid propaganda to advance its agenda should be eliminated, not reformed.

An education policy that puts test scores in the place of the intellectual, social, and emotional growth of America’s children should eliminated, not reformed." (Emphasis Mine.)

Check out the blog post as it has links to support contentions present in every one of its 20 reasons. But 20 could have been summarized into one with equal impact: It doesn't work because it was never intended to. In that, No Child Left Behind got an A-freaking-plus.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

3 comments:

Antigonum Cajan said...

Lets ban the children.
The world is overpopulated.
Why do people have to have
children?
Why not safe carnal exchanges
when the urge arrives,
with condoms? Why all this
cumbersome, analysis?
Have no children, cero
population growth.

Asal said...

In California we used to call it the "Every Child Left Behind" program...

Gil C. Schmidt said...

Antigonum, your solution is radical and unlikely to be implemented beyond industrial/market forces, i.e., industrialized nations naturally tend to gravitate to zero or negative growth. But that doesn't address the fact that the kids in school are already here and are being treated to an educational system that has the success rate of the typical politician's promise.

Asal, California had it right before the rest of the nation caught on: a system that pretends to advance everyone in the same way really advances no one.

Thanks for commenting.