The “No Child Left Behind” act is, in fact, leaving many children behind! In a world where education is focused on making sure everyone, no matter what their ability or disability will be educated sounds like a noble adventure. In the trenches of the classroom, however, it just doesn’t work. Add to that the fact that the measurement of a child’s not being left behind is his/her ability to pass rigorous proficiency tests. This also sounds good but doesn’t work in the real world.
I have three wonderful, intelligent children, and all three of them were on IEPs (Individual Education Programs) in school for different reasons. IEPs are meant to make sure a child who needs extra help gets it, but that is not always what happens when a child is put on one. First, the child is then labeled for the rest of their school career. Everyone knows they are on the IEP, so the other children may tease them and teachers may learn not to expect as much from them.
Second, instead of helping the child learn the material and reach their full potential, what happens is that the material or the expectations are often “dumbed down”, allowing the child to pass even though they have not fully mastered the material. His/her IEP resource person may even begin giving answers and “helping” the child with his/her lesson. I’m not saying they mean to do this, or that their heart is not in the right place, but we place them in an untenable position in which the child must succeed. The time frame for success also pushes them to “help” in ways that aren’t really helpful.
With the advent of NCLB and all the additional paper work required, teachers just don’t have time to really teach any more. They are expected to jump through certain hoops, but not given the tools to do so. What happens is “teaching to the test” which is a form of cheating. No longer can teachers explore curriculum, they must prepare for the tests that will determine funding for their school district. They are no longer given a choice, and as a teacher, I know that teachers are even more frustrated about this than any one else.
I went into the teaching field because I wanted to help children learn and reach their full potential. This is what education should be about. But with the advent of NCLB there is very little room left for this ideal to exist. Standards are not the problem, standards are good. The problem is in how the standards are implemented and measured. Do I have a better solution? No, I don’t, but putting the teaching back into the hands of the teachers is bound to be better than turning them into monkeys performing tricks and jumping through hoops at the command of laws created by politicians instead of educators.
Having my children on IEPs only caused a lot of extra issues for us as a family and for their self-esteem. My daughter in particular did not do well. Instead of trying to teach her the concepts her disability made difficult for her, they just lowered the bar and handed her a calculator. I have no problem with that in theory, but in the end, all it did was get her a diploma. It didn’t help her with her problem. It did make her feel singled out and stupid.
Having also done a lot of work with non-learning challenged children as well as the learning challenged, I find that each child needs different things. NCLB sounds good, but it would be impossible to meet all the needs of every student. What really happens is that the non-learning challenged students lose out as the teachers are enslaved to regulations that hamper their ability to run their class. In order to offset all this, the IEP system has been set up which is essentially “cheating” on the NCLB law. IEPs can be a help, but teachers and others are so bogged down in paperwork, trying to level the playing field, that very little is actually accomplished in many situations. I don’t advocate “throwing children away” that have learning challenges, but the current system is not healthy and functional and doing what needs to be done. But, it is what we have now to work with. NCLB, however, puts undo burden on those trying their very best to make sure no child really is left behind!