The No Child Left Behind Act is the Wrong Approach to the Right Proble
Jun 19, 2009 Teaching 2242 Views
How desirable it would be to achieve the goal of "No Child Left Behind" in our society. But the congressional act designed to achieve that goal is flawed. Its focus is limited to academic achievement as measured by high stakes testing.
Based on the notion that the difference in student performance is based largely on teacher competence, the sole strategy of NCLB is to put the lash to teachers and whip them to pull their students along at a faster pace.
Although, the objective of focusing on improving test scores and holding teachers wholly accountable for the results has the advantage of simplicity, it is myopic at best and absolute folly at worst.
Firstly, it fails to recognize the role of public schools in preparing our young to assume their rightful place as contributing members of society, not only economically, but also socially. As such, they need not only academic qualifications, but also the moral integrity essential to the existence of democratic societies.
Secondly, it completely ignores anti-social behaviors of students that demonstrate a total lack of understanding or appreciation for principles of citizenship and seriously undermine the effectiveness of our public education system. Consider the following statistics.
Out of a hundred schools, during the school year, - 78 will experience 1 or more violent incidents of crime - 18 will include incidents such as rape and battery on school grounds - 46 of these schools will report 20 or more violent incidents - 24 schools will report daily or weekly incidents of bullying - 18 schools will report daily or weekly acts of disrespect for teachers
Add to this, the following excerpt from the book "Freakonomics." Quote: "In a paper called 'The Economics of Acting White', the young black Harvard economist Roland G. Fryer Jr. argues that some black students 'have tremendous disincentives to invest in particular behaviors (i.e. education, ballet, etc.) due to the fact that they may be deemed a person who is trying to act like a white person (a.k.a. "selling out"). Such a label in some neighborhoods, can carry penalties that range from being deemed a social outcast, to being beaten or killed.' Fryer cites the recollections of a young Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, known then as Lew Alcindor, who had just entered the fourth grade in a new school and discovered that he was a better reader than even the seventh graders: 'when the kids found this out, I became a target. . . .It was my first time away from home, my first experience in an all-black situation, and I found myself being punished for everything I had been taught was right. I got all a's and was hated for it; I spoke correctly and was called a punk. I had to learn a new language simply to be able to deal with threats. I had good manners and was a good little boy and paid for it with my hide.'
Obviously, when students value neither education nor citizenship, they are not likely to rise to the challenge of high stakes testing no matter who teaches them.
The writer of Proverbs expressed a profound insight when he wrote, "Where there is no vision, the people perish." Learning is a difficult thing. It takes considerable effort and unless young people can see a benefit in learning something, unless they have a vision of how it will help them in their lives, it is unlikely they will invest the effort needed to learn it.
It is hard to imagine a more self-defeating environment than one that punishes a person for doing his or her best. And unless communities and schools in which this attitude prevails among any of its population find ways to dispel it, no amount of whip cracking or high stakes testing will make any difference.
It is time to rethink what it is we are really trying to accomplish in our schools and how to go about doing it. It is time to realize children who do poorly in school do poorly because other aspects of their lives are going poorly, not because they have poor teachers. Poor schools are a reflection of the communities in which they are a part.
While there may be a host of intervention programs that may be undertaken to improve the families and communities in which disadvantaged children live, as well as the schools they attend, there is one thing that can be undertaken anywhere and at little cost in either time or money. It is to integrate character based learning in the curriculum.
Character based learning is simply helping young people acquire, not only the knowledge and skills necessary to effectively participate in a rapidly changing and increasingly complex world, but the virtue to use that knowledge in a way that will benefit themselves and others, and the thinking skills essential to the acquisition of both knowledge and virtue.
Character based learning can be applied to any discipline of learning and occurs when all three dimensions of character based learning are part of the same lesson.