Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Catching Up and Clarification

I've been home since Monday evening. I have re-cleaned areas of the house that the family *thought* they had cleaned before my return (our techniques for dusting, mopping, vacuuming, laundering and disinfecting don't exactly match), and I finished reading The Other Boleyn Girl last night. I baked some cookies that are perfectly accompanying my coffee this morning, and I've just made it through all of the blogs I missed reading while I was away. Wowzer, was NetNewsWire *full*! I've emailed friends and family, sent photos of my trip, and fast-forwarded through most of my recorded t.v. shows on DISH. Catching up, catching up.

I'm not certain what inspiration will find me today, but I'm guessing grocery shopping and re-thinking the seasonal decor in the house will occupy some of my time this morning. Of course I'll be working up tomorrow's Show and Share blog, with more photos of some of the goodies I bought while in Oz this past weekend, and will keep my fingers crossed that our internet tech is able to find the source of our internet connection woes sometime today.

I'm looking forward to Shannon's visit next week as is Dear Daughter. Having moved four times in five years by this summer, time spent with our family and friends who are family helps us to stay connected in between our travels hither and yon. No, still no news on where we'll be stationed next- I'm keeping my fingers and toes crossed that we will NOT be staying here in the Bordertown. Thank you for your good thoughts!



For those of you who followed the link in my Knowledge is Power post, and were wondering if I was advocating that all parents pull their children out of school during mandated assessments, the answer would be "no." I do encourage and am an advocate for parental involvement, LOTS of parental involvement in the lives of their children, but I believe that in our country's present state of turmoil, not many parents have taken the time (for whatever reason) to really sit back and look at the long-term effects of decisions they've allowed others to either make for them or scare/convince them into making themselves in regard to NCLB. When I provide links that I've found interesting and thought-provoking, I share them in the hopes that their content will somehow engage others, get them thinking from another angle, or provide another detail or interpretation that will help with the bigger picture for those readers who are spending time to survey the terrain outside of their own backyard.

Remember, I'm not only a teacher (who has the year off, is not presently employed and is therefore not representing any state or any school district) but a parent as well. I don't believe that my own children will get "do-overs" once NCLB and its testing malpractice(s) are shown to have succeeded in obliterating both the pros AND cons of our public school system. My children will be out of school, and hopefully in college, surrounded by other problem solvers, knowledge-lovers and big thinkers who survived in spite of NCLB, while younger students still in junior high and high school will be doing all they can to just make it through. How many students that reach basic proficiency through today's drill and kill testing practices are really going to be motivated to attend or adequately prepared for a college's or university's rigorous curriculum?

Looking to the future, it's probable that should my children decide to study Education while in college, they'll take classes on the history of education, education reform, testing and assessment, etc. I suspect that college professors and other education analysts will tell future teachers that NCLB (and all of its programs, those based on punitive measures AND rewards) was one of the biggest and most successful tools used to control our country. Maybe my crystal ball is a bit cloudy, maybe my vision is a bit off, maybe I've had too much coffee... but WHAT IF...

What if the NCLB machine was engineered to make sure enough children failed? No, not every school, or every child. When enough students fail, the school puts canned programs into place that are not only endorsed but mandated by NCLB. When students continue to fail (and some always will, sorry to burst your Pollyanna bubble), for whatever reasons, school environments are taken over and restructured completely, and parents, if they so choose, can move their children to schools that have made AYP (Adequate Yearly Progress). "But what about those schools that have received accolades and rewards and who proudly advertise their school's report card that PROVES they've made adequate yearly progress? Doesn't that mean that at least those schools are succeeding thanks to NCLB?" Uh, maybe.

Let's assume those beribboned and shiny gold star schools are accurately reporting their test scores. That doesn't necessarily mean that the teachers are providing your child with the most comprehensive and well-rounded educational experience possible: it means that students have been taught enough to pass a single test. And guess what, if that gold star school honestly continues to do well while neighboring schools fail, the students from the failing school get to overcrowd Gold Star Elementary, increasing class size, bringing their less-than-proficient scores with them, thus increasing the chance that the school will lose ribbons and gold stars in the future. Yep, in giving schools those fun little awards, the government goes out of its way to make it more difficult for those schools to continue to succeed, though somehow most parents feel placated when told, "don't worry, your child can go to the good school now," and don't think too much past their own reassurance. For those who need an analogy:

Imagine a weight lifter. Strengthening his body, monitoring his diet, trying to make it to the next competition. He pushes himself, hopefully safely, by adding more weight, making his muscles stronger over time. He can bench press two hundred pounds, two hundred twenty five, two hundred fifty, three hundred, three-fifty, four hundred, success after success. Five hundred, six hundred, more. Believe it or not, there will come a time when someone puts enough weight on the lifter that no matter his training/development or his previous successes or trophies, he will not be able to lift it. Ever. Pick up the truck. Pick up the house. Pick up the weight equivalent to a neighborhood block. You can't. You failed! YOU FAILED. Gee, how did *that* happen? Guess you need us to take over.

Tsk, tsk.

Another thought that today's intake of cookies and coffee have fired off in my brain is this: If the NCLB machine has indeed been created to guarantee that all schools eventually fail, wouldn't those beribboned and gold starred schools that continue to blatantly "succeed" no matter how much weight is dumped onto their own weight bars be easily spotted and eventually identified as deserving of investigation? Of, perhaps, misreporting their assessment scores? Of altering test administration? Of cheating? It would certainly be a red flag to me if I made sure everyone would fail (gradually of course, don't want to tip people off), and one little upstart continued to succeed no matter what. In fact, if I were a real mastermind, I would have made sure that ribbons and gold stars were mandated as rewards BY ME, as my failsafe catch-all. Everyone would be on my radar, easy and clear targets.

Maybe my children will choose to study architecture in college instead. Maybe I should try a more well-balanced breakfast in the morning. Maybe it's time for that grocery shopping I'm supposed to be doing today.

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