Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Spelling out the problems: the children left behind

One more time, the many many reasons why NCLB makes me so steamed.
Mandated Punishments under NCLB

NCLB is a highly punitive law. It provides for severe punishments for failing schools, school districts and even states.

School punishments.
If a school is failing for more than two years the school district is required to permit parents to request transfer of their children to a non-failing school in the district at district expense. Parents of kids in failing schools may also request the school district to provide private tutoring at district expense. If the school continues to fail AYP, drastic measures are required including reopening as a public charter school; replacing all or most of the staff (which may include the principal); making a contract for operation of the public school by a “public or private entity”; or take over by the state.

School District Punishments
States are also required to punish failing school districts under NCLB. The law requires:

(1) deferring programmatic funds or reducing administrative funds;

(2) instituting and fully implementing a new curriculum, including providing appropriate professional development based on scientifically based research;

(3) replacing district personnel;

(4) removing particular schools from local jurisdiction, establishing alternative arrangements for such schools' public governance and supervision; and

(5) appointing a receiver or trustee to administer LEA affairs in place of the
superintendent and school board.

Under NCLB what controls a child’s school experience passes from the teacher and the local school board to bureaucrats in Washington. If the law is allowed to remain in place as it is currently being implemented until it reaches its full effect in 2014 many of today's first graders will be left behind or left out. Here's what the law will do to the school careers of this year's first graders.

• A third of the schools the beginners enter this year across the country have already been labeled as failing, many for two years which means they are under penalties.

• First graders will be quickly tested and sorted according to their likelihood of failing in reading, writing and math. Many will have already been tested and classified in kindergarten.

• Much of the time in the first grade will be spent on specific practice for the tests. There will be little or no art, music, social studies and play.

• Many first graders are likely to rebel at going to school and cry or fall asleep in school.

• Children will encounter teachers desperately trying to meet the needs of their students while under severe constraints to teach to the tests and follow a narrow methodology.

• Starting 2005-6, all states will be required to test all children in third to eighth grade.

• Two-thirds or more of the middle schools will have been labeled failing one or more years by the time this year's first graders get there.

• Many dedicated and experienced middle school teachers will have moved to primary grades or left teaching because they are judged unqualified under NCLB to teach subjects in which they lack a degree.

• The curriculum in their middle school years will focus even more on preparation for tests and content getting the children ready for high school.

• A third or more of this year=s first graders will have failed one or more grades before they finish middle school.

• This is likely to include disproportionate numbers of poor children, immigrants and those of color.

• By the time this years first graders finish middle school it is likely that they will have attended a school under severe punishment that includes narrowing the curriculum, replacing the entire faculty and administrators, or turning the school over to a private company.


• High Schools will have curtailed or eliminated music, art, physical education, and vocational programs.

• No pass no play rules will keep many students out of sports, bands, performing arts, and club and special interest activities.

• Many experienced high school teachers will have left teaching because they are labeled unqualified by NCLB or because they oppose the
restrictions on their teaching in the law.

• Those replacing them will have degrees or have passed a test in the subjects they teach but have little professional education.

• In high school there will be many severe discipline problems and an increase in suspensions and expulsions.

• Rural high schools will be forced to drop subjects because of a lack of qualified teachers under NCLB.

• Some rural schools may close altogether requiring students to be transported long distances to and from school.


• By 2014 many of today’s first graders, particularly in cities and suburbs will be attending schools run by for-profit corporations.

• Private schools of highly variable quality will mushroom in middle and upper income communities.

• Application of NCLB to these schools and to charter schools will vary from state to state.
• Funds for the remaining public schools will be greatly diminished as voucher systems are enacted which divert funds to private schools.
My kid is in first grade, which brings the message home even more.

NCLB is framed within a Classic Strict Father sensibility. Those who criticize NCLB can easily be seen as 'weakening accountability' or 'not demanding enough of our schools', just as those against 'tax relief' are painted negatively.

The other major problem: we need solutions, not just short term but long term and meta. We desperately need policy development from real progressive policy think tanks.