Quite simply, “YES!” The No Child Left Behind Act is not only leaving children behind, it’s hanging teachers and teachers assistants out to dry.
Not only is the program under-funded by this administration, but the restrictions it puts on the hiring of teacher’s assistants will soon make the very position extinct. Without teachers assistants, teachers themselves will be burdened with the impossible task of having to teach overcrowded classes, and still try to find time to give special attention to struggling students or those with special needs. Here is where the fatal flaw lies. The students that need the most help, the ones that are most at risk of falling behind, will have less faculty available to help them. M.I. (Mentally impaired)are the fist to suffer, followed by learning disabled and behavioral disordered students.
The new requirement for teacher’s assistants under NCLB, is 30 hours of college credit, or to pass what’s called a “work keys” test, which sounds fair enough on the surface. At this time there is no shortage of willing assistants to work with regular – ed students. Usually these are people who are studying to become teachers themselves. Rarely are these people ready or willing to take on the challenges of working in special education. Take into consideration that teacher’s assistants are very low paid and often work in difficult environments, suddenly the short sightedness of NCLB starts to surface. It is becoming more and more difficult for schools to find people who meet the current qualifications that are willing to to work in such difficult classrooms for such little pay.
My wife works as a teacher’s assistant in an M.I. classroom. Many of her students have the most severe and profound cases of C.P. Down’s Syndrome, Autism, and sometimes a combination of the fore-mentioned. Besides the cognitive problems these conditions cause, they also result in some very difficult behavioral issues. Since my wife has the college required, she could go into the corporate world and make a heck of a lot more money that she currently makes. She is special. She loves what she does, even though she regularly comes home beaten up, bruised, scraped, glasses broken, covered in all types of bodily fluids, and just generally tattered. Unfortunately, there are not many people out there like her. God bless her.
How many people are out there that are willing to change a 5th grader’s diaper, restrain a 4th grader that just bit you or punched you in the face, lift a 100+ pound child out of their wheelchair, spoon feed or G-tube feed a child that can not feed them self, all while trying to teach the basic curriculum required by NCLB. All of this for a wage only slightly higher than minimum wage. Substitute teachers that are called into her classroom often turn around and walk out.
Many of the people who have the heart to do the job don’t have the qualifications to keep their job under NCLB. Those who do can make a lot more money elsewhere. Thanks to No Child Left Behind, some of our most vulnerable children will be just that.