When the No Child Left Behind Act was signed in 2002, Bush signed it with the greatest of intents to make our education system great for everyone. It was supposed to hold the schools accountable, no matter their neighborhood, to the same standards. The idea, though a bit communistic, was desperately needed for the sake of the ignored struggles in inner city education. When I graduated high school I had experienced what was an experimental version of testing, much easier than the testing I had already aced my Sophomore year and sadly it made me concerned for my own brothers’ education who were both still so much younger than me.
In 2007 I expressed to the educators in my family and some teacher friends my interest in shifting my major from Historical Preservation to middle school education; this was met with a sea of variation. The more seasoned teachers who had been teaching since the sixties and seventies urged me to change my major to anything else. “It’s not like it used to be, there is no teaching, only test practice.” Those who were greener disagreed with the stance, offering me the argument I would hear through my entire, three years short, educational career, “what on the test do you not want them to learn?” I continued my path, curious how very much more test focused the classroom could have become since I was a student myself.
During my student teaching I was shocked at how dumbed down the education system had become, not just for the more disadvantaged schools, but also the top exemplary public schools. In my experience I was fortunate enough to experience teaching at the toughest most gang infiltrated schools, and then met with the opportunity to also experience the more upper class facilities, teaching the children of my college professors. Across all boards the focus was primarily on a test, because the NCLB initiative threatened to allow students pull out of underperforming schools, and more empty desks would lead to less school funding. The principals rode us on test practice because the administration rode them. Practice had to be commenced daily, or daily lesson plans had to in some way revolve around answering the (for the english classroom) six basic topics on the standardized tests, anything that varied from the tests would not be deemed appropriate for the classroom.
I taught the same lessons everyday it seemed just in a different way. From the grades fifth to eighth grade I was teachign my students inferencing, defining the main idea, and cause and effect. Even the concepts, despite all the time we were forced to focus on them, were in their most basic form. I watched a teacher I worked under have her class taken away in the middle of November 2008 as a result of a political fight over her low testing results. Through the entire investigation not once did I see anyone actually enter the classroom to evaluate her brilliant efforts to push her sixth grade students to be able to do much more than just summarize a variety of passages.
Obama hearing the complaints of the educators and with as much good will as Bush has made some alterations to the No Child Left Behind Act and has introduced the new concept of the Common Core. No longer in the educational field I have not worked under this new regime, though from several of my mother friends I’ve heard it’s a bunch of the same when it comes to dumbing down our children. Though we have to consider that the unit of measurement utilized to reveal its effectiveness has not changed. So does the end measurement being the same, mean that the end outcome is the same? Teachers need to fight this eternal struggle by teaching kids not the right and wrong and answer but how to create new and better answers. We can teach our kids to think on their own through better essay prompts, more opportunities to discover personal strength, and developing a thirst for knowledge.
More on this to be published tomorrow.