Thursday, March 19, 2009

K-12 Topic: No Child Left Behind (NCLB)

10-second review: Some people support NCLB. Some people oppose it. Why?

Title: “Why Now, More Than Ever, we need to Talk about Opportunity to Learn.” L Scherff and CL Piazza. Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy (December 2008/January 2009), 343-352. A publication of the International Reading Association (IRA).

Summary/Quote: “Supporters [of NCLB] tout the salutary effects of providing rewards to successful schools—bonuses for teachers and administrators and public accolades. Detractors say that the consequences of legislative actions often result in punishments doled out to “underperforming” schools—prescriptive teaching methods [teaching from a script], state takeovers and public humiliation.”

Comment: Most of the “underperforming” schools are in the cities in which old buildings are crumbling (bathrooms unusable), resources (libraries, textbooks) are meager, social conditions (drugs, neighborhood violence) seemingly irreversible, and magnet schools which draw off all of the promising motivated and talented students. What’s left? Average students with learning problems, language problems, attendance problems, lacking motivation, and family problems most of whom are difficult to teach.

It is my belief that complex problems need complex solutions. Buildings need to be refurbished. That takes money. Resources need to be provided. That takes money. Social problems need to be controlled—I don’t know what the solution is for social problems, but I do know that the vast majority of families in the inner cities want the best for their children. Learning problems and language problems need to be addressed. And the faculty, the entire faculty, needs to believe that their children can learn.

I’m on the teachers’ side in this one. I think the first step in solving the problems of inner city “non-performing” schools is to define clearly the problems that prevent teachers from teaching effectively. A second step is a student survey, which you will read about in my next blog. RayS.

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