Monday, November 1, 2010

We Cannot Wait For Education!

My husband came home from work, one day last week, with a glint in his eye.   He told me that a co-worker suggested going to see "Waiting for Superman." After listening to his brief description he had me hooked.  He knew he would have me hooked though. The movie deals with a subject close to my heart, No Child Left Behind. "Waiting for Superman: is a documentary about the cracks in the public school system, many of which seem to stem from  No Child Left Behind (NCLB).  NCLB was created to make certain public schools educate all kids.  That was and still is it's intention.  My husband knew I would be all over going to see the movie because we are swimming around in the mess right now. 


 In Georgia,  the Criterion Referenced Competency Test (CRCT), given at the end of the school year,  is used as a measure of accountability, making certain that No Child Left Behind (NCLB) is being adhered to.  The schools begin reviewing for the test the moment the school year begins. No, I'm not joking.  My daughter loves to make the announcement every year.  Students in grades 1-8 take this test.  The results help to not only uphold No Child Left Behind (NCLB) but it also ranks the schools and provides funding to those schools who make the "list" of schools passing the test.  Those who do not pass the test fall under a different category, one that parents do not even want to think about. These scores hold the school systems, schools, the teachers and the students accountable.  Funny,  but it's the students who take this week long test and the teachers who have to make certain what they have taught is enough for their students to pass the test.  If a school as a whole does poorly they are penalized.  They will not receive the funding that is given to the schools that pass.  Who is helped by NCLB? Are the students living in suburban middle and upper middle class neighborhoods who happen to be good test takers the only ones being helped? Are the only schools that are helped the "good" schools?  Don't you think it should be the other way around? 


This is the side of NCLB that we do not see unless we are in the middle of it. "Waiting for Superman"  gave viewers a glimpse of this underside.    It was packed full of statistics that are very discouraging.  The movie also made mention of the fact that even in areas where kids are not disadvantaged,  scores on the standardized tests, like Georgia's CRCT, are not the best. Disadvantaged students still remain at the bottom and it doesn't seem there is any hope for them unless there are changes made within the system. 


The CRCT covers a different subject everyday but only certain sections are used for grade placement.  Yes, the results of the CRCT place your child in the next grade, unless they do not pass.  Grade 3 has to pass the reading portion of the test to be promoted to 4th grade.  Students in 5th, 7th and 8th have to pass the reading and math portions of the CRCT in order to advance to the next grade.   If these students do not pass the test,  the classroom grades will be used as the  determining factor as to whether or not a student would be retained or allowed to continue.   There is an opportunity for a retest before school lets out for the summer.  Summer school was offered previously to help these students but due to budget cuts some schools cannot afford to offer it.  In instances like these the teachers are forced to take a week during class time to review and then retest before school ends in May. Each school  and school system is held accountable but is the accountability placed where it needs to be?  "Waiting for Superman" talked about this very thing sighting example after example of why the system is failing the kids.  Too many variables in the accountability aspect of NCLB to even consider it to be helpful.





 The movie does provide alternatives.  One of the suggestion is putting your child in a Charter or Private school.  The movie is of the opinion that would be a better choice because these types of schools are not bound by standardized testing like public schools are.  In a charter or private setting, teachers can teach the way a student needs to learn instead of "teaching to the test."  Also the movie is of the opinion that it is easier to remove an unqualified teacher from a Charter or Private school than it would be to remove a teacher from the public school system.  This may be the case but  I can think of a couple of friends who have their kids enrolled in private schools where there is a teacher or two that, in their eyes, "Needs to go, but no one can get them removed." So, paying extra, $10-12,000 per year does not guarantee "special privileges." In my experience as a parent of elementary and middle school aged children,  attending public school, there have only been 1 or 2 teachers total that I seriously thought were not a good fit.  One of these teachers may have not been as qualified as I would have liked but there were other factors that played into the school year from hell.  It wasn't just the teacher.  So, my children have been taught by many different teachers over their school career and I could only come up with 1  teacher that potentially was not a good one.  That is pretty remarkable. From my point of view the problem is the system not the teachers.


One more thing, aside from having good teacher experiences, that helps parents get a better handle on their child's education is being involved in your school.  "Waiting for Superman" also stresses this point.  I would almost say it is the most important piece of this puzzle.  The system is not going to change anytime soon.  That is just a fact.  Staying in touch with your children's teachers lets them know that you care.  You are sending the message that you care about the teacher, the student, and the school.    Get involved in your school if you are not already.  Also, make certain you are up-to-date on how your child is doing.  Do not just rely on progress reports or report cards.  If your child is not having a positive experience at school you need to know as soon as possible so that you can sift through your options.  Just be an advocate for your children because we cannot wait for Superman :0)

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