No Child Left Behind – Unless you’re a minority

by Sal on April 17, 2006

in Politics

The AP has a story on how many schools are not reporting testing results for minority children as required by the No Child Left Behind act. The schools are using some loopholes in the law to not report test results properly, in order to maintain their federal funding in the wake of poor test results.

There is a racial tragedy in this country, and it is championed by the American Left by way of the education establishment. While the education establishment cries out for more money for minorities, it hides the results so that the money won’t stop. The consistent low test scores among minority students isn’t a testament to their ability or intelligence, but rather a testament to the failure of the education establishment in providing them a good education. Study after study has shown that minority students placed in good educational environments outside the public school system fair just as well as white students. The education establishment has failed minority students.

I’m of the opinion that the Public school system is beyond repair at this point. The unions are too entrenched, and real change is thwarted at every turn. This is NOT meant to insult the many superb teachers in the Public school system who work tirelessly to try to help the students under them (my Mother-in-law, an incredible first grade teacher for many years, my good friend Jewels, who is a very passionate and caring school librarian, as well as a frequent commenter on this blog, and Ryan, one of the principle contributors to the Axis of Right are prime examples), but rather an indictment of a system that cares more about maintaining the status quo and just spending more money on failing programs. The system needs to be rebuilt from scratch, rather than reformed from within. The union and the establishment are too resistant to the real reform that is needed, and as time goes by we continue to fall behind the rest of the world, and too many children are the victims. I’m not sure what the solution is, I just know that the status quo is not it.

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Jewels April 18, 2006 at 9:01 am

You knew I had to respond to this one. After all, I hopefully have more of a legacy than sharing a birthday with the adoption of the bikini…Mike, you are 100 percent right that all test scores should be reported. I agreee wholeheartedly. However, you stated in your post that you believe the public school system with its distractions, union, etc. is failing minority children. I understand that you are in no way attacking individual teachers. However, I cannot in good faith agree with that statement. In my experience (I know it is not as extensive as some.), many of the minorities I have worked with do not have the support system at home for continuing their education. As public educators, there is only so much that we can do to help our students. For example, there is one black student who has a difficult home life in one of my third grade classes. She also has some learning needs and thus her teacher fought to get her on an Ed plan. To encourage her, I have tried to give her some jobs in the library so that she is a ‘library pal.’ The school does so much for her and children like her but if people at home are not able to help, there is only so much we can do. Another student in my school is a fifth grader with a Mom who works tirelessly doing two jobs. Spanish is the family’s primary language, and the family moved to this country last year. (I don’t think Dad is very involved if I remember correctly.) This child has an exemplary teacher (who I do have to add is a union champion). She stays at the school until 5:30 every night and is there with students giving extra help. Unfortunately, as much as she has worked with this student to try to get him ‘on board’ for his education, it is not clicking that he needs to work hard. (He also is receiving services at school.) When he gets home, he does not want to do the work. He is very kindhearted but does not want to study. The teacher got in touch with his mom and implored her to make her child do at least an hour of homework a night to the point where the mom was in tears. (This teacher is good but tough!) Now, the child does his work, but his heart is not in it. He does not stay after school very often although many of his peers do. (The teacher is also available before school.) My point with these few anecdotes is that if the parents are not on board or can’t be on board due to language barriers or having to work multiple jobs as a single parent, we have an extremely hard job as public educators. You are saying that private school students who are minorities are doing better, but I gurantee these students have a lot more parental support. As a teacher/librarian, it breaks my heart that I cannot ‘fix it’ for these kids. Please do not blame the programs when that is not the problem. The problem is that the value of education and a work ethic in some students is missing. Schools in a less affluent area (Most of the students are upper middle class in socioeconomic stature although the ones I mentioned do not fall in that category.) face even more challenges. I am the product of a public school education (until college and graduate school). I received an excellent education not only because of the work of some powerhouse teachers but also because of the high value of education that was instilled in me from my parents. I sincerely wish that for EVERY child.

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Sal April 18, 2006 at 9:41 am

Jewels,

Happy birthday, by the way. I don’t disagree with you that parental involvment is a major reason why minorities have a hard time in school. Lack of parents, lack of a work-ethic are major causes of why kids do poorly in school. I would disagree with you on the point about the system, however.

First is the public school system. I think most teachers do teach their hearts out and really try to work with these kids. I also think that you can get a good education in Public schools. However, I also think that the Union (and I’m not even talking about the local unions, but more the state and national teacher’s unions) are handicapping the process in a subtle way. The curriculum has been watered down subtlely over time in order to try to improve results. Study after study has shown students in this country as having inferior educations than those in other countries. We are falling further behind Europe and Asia in educational results year after year. The curriculum needs to be beefed up so we can compete with these other countries economically in the 21st century. Yet every attempt by the department of education, the Bush administration, and others who have wanted to try new approaches, and the Union (NEA specifically) has been opposed. The union has come out against Charter schools, merit pay for teachers (we are the only nation in the world where teachers aren’t awarded for excellence, and where bad teachers cannot be fired).

I think that most good teachers care and want their students to learn, but they are not given the tools that they need to instill a great education. I too want these kids to succeed, so that they can all have a better life, and I want America to become again what it once was, the intellectual and educational capital of the world.

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Lisa April 18, 2006 at 8:15 pm

I agree with a lot of what you both said–I do think parental involvement is crucial, and I also agree that teachers (for the most part) are very hard working people with their intentions in the right place and that they should get merit pay. I do not, however, think that the dilution of education is something you can attribute entirely to teachers unions.

Our entire culture promotes an environment of mediocrity these days–recall, for example, those days on the soccer field back in grade school where everyone gets a trophy no matter what. When excellence isn’t recognized, how can it be promoted? If you can get a trophy simply because your parents paid the registration fee, why would you bother working harder at practice? Similarly–if you promote a kid who can’t read from 2nd to 3rd grade just because you don’t want them to be a 17 year old 8th grader, then what incentive do kids have to excel?

There is certainly a very deep problem with the education system, and I agree with you on that–but I think that it is more a reflection of our consequence-less culture than it is of teachers unions. In this regard, Jewels, I agree with you that parental involvement is crucial. If I didn’t do my work, my parents would react to that, and that alone was impetus to study. I also agree that teachers have to be involved. But society in general has to return to a climate where our actions have consequences for which we will be held accountable. If you get pregnant, then you have a baby. If you eat too much McDonalds, then you just might have a heart attack one day. If your soccer team stinks, you don’t get a trophy. If you fail a reading test, then you don’t advance from grade 2 to grade 3. I agree that there are problems inherent with the system, but as long as we’re willing to accept mediocrity and failure, then we will continue to let down the generation to follow us. I guess what I’m saying is I’m a fan of tough love.

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Sal April 18, 2006 at 10:50 pm

Lisa,

You raise a very good point. The rise of mediocrity has been a major force in the problems of the Education system in this country. Success is not rewarded, and failure is glossed over so as not to hurt a child’s self-esteem. Unfortunately, the real world is far more cruel. I think it does far greater harm to a child to pass them on to the next grade when they don’t meet the standards than it does to hold them back.

However, I do maintain that the teacher’s unions are a part of the problem (although I agree with your point that they aren’t the sole or even dominant contributor to the problem). More specifically, and to clarify my earlier points, I think most of the blame can be laid at the feet of the NEA. It is the NEA that has heavily pushed this agenda of mediocity and self-esteem (This is outlined in the book “The War Against Excellence: The Rising Tide of Mediocrity in America’s Middle Schools”. Note that I have not yet read this book, but it has come to me recommended). If you go to the NEA’s web site, you’ll find countless articles on promoting this culture of self-esteem and mediocrity. It is the NEA that pushes bi-lingual education instead of English Immersion as a way of not pushing non-English speaking students to speak English. (I worked with a Woman about my age who was a Hispanic Immigrant and spoke VERY good English. She always maintained that she insisted on NOT taking bi-lingual ed, but her siblings had. It is she today who is the most integrated with American Society and speaks the best English, while all her siblings are struggling). I think you have identified one of the main sociological reasons why our education system is failing. My contention is that it is the NEA in particular which is a major reason this sociological problem even exists today.

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Jewels April 19, 2006 at 11:11 am

Mike and Lisa,
I have enjoyed reading both of your posts. Lisa, you are correct: We need to raise the bar high for our children so that they will reach as far as they can to achieve excellence.

In your post, Mike, you mentioned that the NEA has emphasized self-esteem and mediocrity. You want our country to regain its strength as an educational super-power, and you strongly insinuated that you believe Europe, Asia, and other parts of the world are surpassing us. I am not sure that is an accurate assessment. Test scores may be higher in other parts of the world, but can we truly measure academic/life success through test scores? I know it gets dicey because people want a universal indicator/measure of success. However, I believe it is crucial that we educate the total individual as much as possible–self-esteem and social-emotional skills are part of that puzzle. Both the aforementioned traits are essential to academic AND personal success. We need to remember that students learn in different ways and have different talents/intelligences. In the 1980′s, Harvard psychologist and researcher, Howard Gardner studied patients who had traumatic brain injury and found that different areas of the affliction impacted different parts of talents. For example, a patient may not be able to speak but could whistle a tune or dance. This varied from patient to patient based on their injuries. After further research, Gardner came up with the theory of multiple intelligences–bodily kinesthetic, logical-mathematical, spatial, linguistic, intrapersonal, interpersonal, etc. While this was a groundbreaking theory for some in the educational world, if we examine history, we can see that this idea or concept is not really new…The ancient Greeks wanted their citizens to excel and be educated physically, spiritually, artistically, and academically. I see it all the time where a student who has ADD or ADHD struggles with a paper and pen assessment but then can do an oral presentation with the same information and blow away a crowd. What I am trying to say is that assessment and measure of academic success is way more complicated than a paper and pencil test. People love to measure…quantify and put numbers on values, but there are some times when we can’t. For example, a few weeks ago, there was a study that tried to discount the efficacy of prayer in patients that were ill by having three groups and tracking their progress. When they found that the group that was prayed for the most did not improve significantly, some discounted prayer as a means of healing. I think that is ridiculous and absurd! We never know how God heals whether it is the body or the soul…Of course, I shouldn’t compare education to spiritual healing, but I am trying to say the following: Life is not all whole numbers (quote from a math teacher I had). We can’t quantify everything. To ensure academic success, empahty, and personal growth, we need to nourish the seeds within our students, help them develop their strengths, and work on their weaknesses.

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Sal April 19, 2006 at 3:09 pm

This is fun. I hope you’re enjoying this debate as much as I am… Onto your most recent post.

I would definately agree with you on two points. First, that a well-rounded, wholistic approach to education is the best, and second that different children with different abilities learn differently. I think those are two points to take into consideration when looking at any reform of the current system.

I do differ with you on Europe and Asia surpassing us and the self-esteem issue. First, onto Self Esteem.

Ass far as Self-Esteem, I think that the emphasis on self-esteem has contributed greatly to the rise of mediocraty and the lack of a high bar for students today. The culture is so afraid of ruining a kid’s self-esteem that they will not point out failure when it occurs to “spare” the child’s self-esteem. The problem with this is that failure is a hugely valuable lesson. Through failure, often, we grow stronger and better as a result. I look back and see some of my strongest momemnts as a student coming from a prior failure. Of course, we don’t want to ruin a person’s self-worth, but recognizing failure as well as success is an important part of growth of a person and is a reality of the real world that these kids will someday be a part of. I guess it all boils down to the fact that I don’t object to self-esteem per-se, but I think it is hugely over-emphasized in schools currently and our current culture.

As far as the Europe/Asia test scores, while it is true that test scores are not a sole measure, they are a good statistical indication. When Asian students consistantly outperform our students in Math by a high percentage, we have a problem in teaching our students Math. When the reading level of English of an average 10-year old is lower than a comparable Asian student learning English (yes, an Asian student learning ENGLISH), we have a big problem. I also don’t want to confuse academic success with life success. Some of the most “successful” people in the world are people who were not well-educated. i don’t equate education with life success, or even economic success on a micro-level. But on a Macro-level, when dealing with a society in a dangerous world where people have aspirations which are concerned with domination or conquest, we need to be vigalent. I also think that each and every child deserves the best education possible, which is why I’m so passionate on the subject.

One final comment on ADD and ADHD which is sure to start a firestorm. While I am sure that cases of ADD and ADHD do indeed exist and are so difficult to deal with, I also think it is an often-misdiagnosed condition (which science is beginning to find) and that Ritalin and other drugs is too easily perscribed.

Finally, I appreciate the debate, and am enjoing this one immensely.

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