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Sometimes They Get It Right

I do my share of ragging on our school board. I imagine every teacher, every employee of the system, can find something to complain about at one time or another.

But when they do something right – and then get backed up by our county board as well – I’m glad to give them the credit.

A couple of weeks ago, the board voted to tell the feds to take a hike by refusing to require the thousands of non-English speaking kids attending our schools to take standardized tests that their teachers knew they would fail.

And, of course, the schools attended by those students would then also be penalized and declared failures in need of improvement under the ever inflexible rules of No Child Left Behind.

It makes no educational sense to assume that all students learn at the same pace, but that’s exactly what NCLB requires.

However, it’s just plain stupid to assume that students who are learning to speak a new language along with everything else should pass the same tests as those who have speaking English all their lives.

Now our Board of Supervisors has voted to back up the school board, even if it was sparked in part by an asinine op-ed piece by the Secretary of Education.

She hauls out the same old crap about “soft bigotry” and tosses in the “I’m a parent too” business. But none of what she has to say hides the fact that NCLB is an over-simplified, one-size-fits-all approach to education.

Now, if the two boards could just figure out that a 2% raise does not cover the “cost of living”, especially in the DC area, I might have good things to say about them more often.

nclb, margaret spellings

3 Comments

  1. Nicole

    Hi there,
    Great post! It’s nice to see someone else from the DC area with both local and global focus. I’m a graduate student in education at the University of Maryland and I have my own blog, where I focus mostly but not only on foreign language and area studies education and policy issues. I’d love to put a link to your blog on mine – would you be willing to do the same? Check out symbolandsubstance.blogspot.com and let me know.
    Nicole

  2. Brett Hodus

    No Child Left Behind has some merit, but as a whole, has created an environment where real learnig is not as significant as a student having success on a standardized test. For ESL students, No Child Left Behind is absurd. How are these students supposed to take these tests when they can barely speak the language? It’s not fair to hold them to these standards. Assesment has a place in schools; however, teaching for the test is not the way to inspire young people — especially ESL students. For non-ESL students, teaching for the test will simply inflate test scores, and make everyone feel good for a while…but are the students really learning? The tragedy is that in real life there are no standardized tests…in the work force, people will assume that you have the skills necessary to succeed. No Child Left Behind does not ensure that our students leave school with these skills, it simply ensures that teachers get students to memorize and regurgitate information which they will later forget. For ESL students, this “dance” is impossible to participate in. As unfortunate as this initiative is for the education of the average American student, it is twice as bad for ESL students. True learning for any student lasts…drill’em for the tests does not. To educate students, teachers need to focus on motivating them to learn based on their interests, not simply on scoring high on an irrelevant test. Curriculum based on motivation, not test preparation, is the only way to teach. For ESL students, that motivation should be something universal…like sports, music, art, etc… get them started by having them read about what they like, save the tests for a time when they are better prepared to take them!

  3. Ms Cornelius

    I am so impressed by your school board. Now, if only it was catching…..

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