Teacher's Ramblings

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

Monday, November 01, 2004

NCLB-Lawsuits Forthcoming

I have mixed thoughts on the following article, though I have serious issues with some of the particulars of NCLB, most of which would not be appropriate for this particular topic. I know that all schools, all children, all teachers, are not created equal. I know of the correlation between parents being educated, having a good income, and stable home life, and their children's test scores, as well as overall child health and well being. I'm more than aware of the inherent bias in tying school financing to property taxes, (I have a sociology, political science, and history degrees).

The academic standards that are being measured are minimums to ensure that at 18, a person is able to function at a level to pursue a job in our society. State standards are not a panacea for parents to instill in their child a respect for doing the work necessary to achieve to the child's ability. To perform at 'grade level' in reading and math are not the requirements necessary to gain entry into most universities. They are the tools necessary to reach the level that make college a possibility, and they are what is becoming necessary to gain entry level employment.

At the same time, when reading of schools in poor areas, where the majority of students are 'ESL' students, one cannot but think that their teachers are facing a gargantuan task, and so they are. The question I cannot help coming back to; what of so many of the immigrants in the 19th C. from Italy, Greece, Russia, Germany, etc.? In many of these cases the parents didn't speak English at home. As is still true today, most settled into enclaves, where their neighbors, newspapers, and business owners spoke their native language. Yet, their children did learn to read, speak, and succeed in English. In US cities, during the late 19th C-1930's, I would doubt that one would find smaller class sizes than today, nor more resources available to help the students.

It seems to me that many factors have changed; some in the schools themselves, some in society as a whole, and some in the nature of immigrant patterns of dispersal. Beginning with Reconstruction, but at a faster rate after the 1930's, following the matriculation of the influx of Southern and Northern Europeans, schools were increasingly charged with roles other than educational.

Today schools are suppose to teach 'values/character education'; provide two meals a day to qualified students; address problems such as 'childhood obesity' or drug/alcohol/tobacco addictions; detect and deal with child abuse/neglect; identify and prevent bullying; detect possible learning disabilities, arrange testing, develop IEP's, follow through and document both the successes and failures of each of these children; keep up with certification. To think that the schools, even when adequate resources are available, can deal with all of these roles and TEACH, one wonders how any child meets the standards, much less an ESL student.

Returning to previous generations of immigrants, the parents knew that their children would have to read and write in English to succeed in this country, even if the parents didn't. They expected their children to learn the language, often with the assistance from volunteers at local churches, where help could be given in both the native language and English. I very much doubt, actually I know from relatives, that the children did not want to attend these extra classes, but their parents insisted. Today, the schools are charged with this, usually requiring 'pull out time' from classes the child really needs to be attending. We have ESL classes in many communities for adults, perhaps there should be some thought to an expansion of this? It may be time that some serious consideration should be given to whether or not schools are the best means of addressing all the issues that pertain to children?

I would assume that there must be some young sociology graduate students doing family cohesion studies on the migrant workers in the Southwest-where the language problems are certainly coupled with a lack of regular school attendance. My guess, those families would be as intact as the US norm, if not more likely to have both parents with the child. Assuming that the parents may not be able to assist their children with academics, we should be looking at how we help these students keep up with their studies, when regular classroom attendance is impossible? It would seem a small leap to combine some methods from successful homeschooling and the use of laptops, (anyone hear of any studies/grants)? I find it difficult to believe that the parents do not want their children to have opportunities that become available with education and would be supportive, if assistance was given to help them.

Excerpt from the title link:

The federal No Child Left Behind Act threatens costly penalties for schools deemed failing to meet academic standards. In response, many educators have a threat of their own: A flood of lawsuits aimed at avoiding the sanctions.

Since President Bush signed the sweeping education reforms in 2002, the law has drawn criticism from educators debating its strict performance and test requirements. The act requires all students to be proficient in reading, writing and math by 2014.

Starting this academic year, parents of children in failing schools can demand transfers to better campuses. Over the next four years, schools must offer tutoring services, administrators and teachers can be fired, states can take over districts, and federal funds can be withheld.


According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, students at more than 27,500 schools nationwide — almost 31 percent of all U.S. public schools — are failing at math and reading.

Last December, Reading School District in Pennsylvania sued over its low performance rating, arguing its Spanish-speaking students couldn't read the tests. About two-thirds of the district's 16,000 students are Hispanic; 15 percent have limited English proficiency.

But, judges ruled that testing in a student's native language is not mandatory, only required "to the extent that it is practicable to do so." The district plans to appeal.

"It's a wonderful title, No Child Left Behind. Who could ever disagree with that?" said Richard Guida, a lawyer for the Reading district. "But kids are all different and, unfortunately, this calls for a cookie-cutter approach to education that doesn't take difference into account. Some kids will be left behind."

At Oasis Elementary, more than 90 percent of the school's students are Hispanic and come from families of migrant workers surviving on less than $10,000 a year, the principal says. They are taught in English — still a foreign language for many.

Christian Rocha, 8, looks down as he recalled last year's tests. "Estaba trabajoso," he says quietly, or "I worked really hard." But he didn't pass.

Though there are plans to create a Spanish-language test, development won't begin until at least 2006, said Linda Lownes, a consultant for the state Education Department. In California, students must take standardized tests in English.

Kathleen Leos, of the federal Education Department, noted that states have the option of excluding test scores of students who have been enrolled in a U.S. school less than one academic year. States also can decide whether to offer a student reading and math tests for up to three years in languages other than English.


UPDATE: AP updated their story to parents, rather than schools, I think I quoted enough of the original article for the reader to obtain the difference: http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&cid=519&e=4&u=/ap/20041101/ap_on_re_us/left_behind

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