Teacher's Ramblings

A potpourri of education, politics, family matters, and current events.

Friday, November 19, 2004

Maybe I'm Going Overboard

NCLB is supposedly aimed at helping the country deal with the problems found in some public schools. There are so many problems with this legislation, it’s hard to know where to begin. I will assume that we all agree that it is in the interest in the country that our young people receive a substantial high school education, which is assumed to be built upon by the foundation of lower level schools.

Special education kids need help, reasonable people can argue WHERE is the best forum for them to receive services, but there is little argument that help should be given. Gifted children should also receive special attention, though they do so at far less frequent occurrences and do not seem to be quite as attractive a target group for help. There are many reasons given for the lack of concern for the most gifted, though little that they are underserved.

In any case, NCLB does not take into account the expected scores of any of these ‘special children.’ There is no doubt that a child performing at a 1st grade level in 7th grade is going to skew the school results downward; while a child that is ‘gifted’ and performing/testing at 12th grade level, does not really change the norm, by a significant amount. There are many more identified special needs children than gifted. The later are never going to compensate for the former.

I just checked out the Illinois site, focusing on my own children’s school districts. I have 3 children, 2 of whom completed grammar school in parochial school. The youngest attended public school from 3 grade. He was in gifted classes for third and fourth grades in one district.

We moved to another district when he was in 5th, ‘testing’ was over, so he was put into regular classroom, they would not consider previous placement for giftedness without testing, though they would have for special education. His placement continued until 8th grade, when behavior problems brought ‘giftedness’ to the principal’s attention.

In high school he was in honors and advanced placement classes, when appropriate. My oldest child, my daughter, attended one public high school for two years, another when we moved. My middle son attended the same public school for four years. All my kids are now at university level, I no longer have a ‘stake’ other than as a property owner.

Both districts are in DuPage County, Illinois. Overall, DuPage is wealthy, the districts are well funded:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DuPage_County,_Illinois . The first district was Elmhurst 205: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elmhurst,_Illinois info on 205 is here, http://iirc.niu.edu/Scripts/district.asp?districtID=190222050&test=all .
The other district was Glenbard 89 and HS District 87. District 89 is found here,
http://iirc.niu.edu/Scripts/district.asp?districtID=190220890&test=all District 87 is found here, http://iirc.niu.edu/Scripts/district.asp?districtID=190220870&test=all check out the salaries at both. My kids went to Glenbard South, the one not on the ‘watch’ list.

So what is going on here? All these schools are well above the national norms and the state norms. Why are some of them on the ‘watch’ list? Because they haven’t ‘improved’ enough from where they were at a certain benchmark. Schools performing at an 85% or better level in 2001 are in serious trouble. This is not a small problem, property values and federal funds are at stake.

Should it be a given that 100% of children of wealthier parents are college bound? Believe it or not, some are Down’s children or have other problems. NCLB is not taking this into account. There is no accounting for children that are focusing on the ‘trades’ rather than the college prep curriculum. Mind you, in general these are schools with an over 85% college freshman send off.

While schools in Chicago, a school district I have more than a passing interest in, have more serious problems, what is going to happen to these more high achieving districts? In a few years, they could be forced to fund ‘alternative placements.’ I KNOW I would have liked my youngest to attend this school:
http://averycoonley.il.schoolwebpages.com/education/school/school.php?sectionid=4533 Tuition it over $5k per year. Where are students to go in ‘upper income areas’ if their schools do not meet the requirements? Hey, prep schools out of reach of most are suddenly affordable, if the difference is given.

The ‘idea’ of NCLB is good, as are many laws, though the execution is far from the mark.

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