xcriteria Wrote:Maybe I'm overly optimistic, but I think that the standards movement has some positive aspects (mostly unrealized). The pressure is based on a genuine recognition of the failure of the schools to meet everyone's needs. The desire to "leave no child behind" is a fine starting point, and some accountability can help achieve that. However, the accountability/standards used are SCHOOL-BASED rather than individually based. Schools are accountable, collectively (statistically) to national standards on standardized achievement tests. But shouldn't there be accountability TO THE STUDENTS, individually?
I think it's *possible* that standards-based reform might result in some good. However, the framers of the policy have given themselves a closed circle, rhetorically. Standards, assessment, and accountability are always already defined in terms of each other, so there really is no "outside" of the policy in logical terms. Any departure from reliance on collective measurement to assess "health" of schools undermines the public relations aspect of the policy. Parents, more or less, and younger teachers have been trained over the last fifteen years to believe in the numbers rather than to believe their lyin' eyes.
I spent about four years teaching a graduate course on public education refrom to public school teachers with anything from one to twenty-two years of experience in schools in Kentucky. From what they had to say, the Kentucky Education Reform Act (KERA), NCLB, and other policies include language about individual education plans, and that could be a good thing. However, *could be* does not mean *is*. Here are some of the reasons they gave:
1. Each school's AYP determines what counts as progress, not each student's IEP. Principals, by and large, are held accountable for meeting AYP. There are no incentives in the system for helping out individual children. In fact, "problem" children often are shunted into Special Education to avoid being counted in the same way as "regular" kids. However, there is not really much incentive to do the work to establish and follow up on deveoping IEP for those kids. They get ignored until they become somebody else's problem, particularly if they are borderline cases (see below, #4). Some are encouraged in various ways to get GED, to drop out, or whatever.
2. There isn't enough funding for Special Education, or for NCLB overall. In fact, since being signed into law, it has not *ever* been fully funded.
3. Even with full funding, there is a shortage of Special Ed. teachers. On top of that, those teachers tend to have the hardest jobs, with the longest hours, they have the kids with the most useless parents, and so on. They get to deal with the damage cases, and this often leads to their being called upon to do a lot of social work for which they: are not qualified, are not compensated, do not have the time. They burn out at a rate approaching that of other social workers. They do not feel supported, often times, by their administrators. School administrators are rewarded for average performance, not individual performance. Getting rid of the "zeroes" raises the school averages. Even if teachers want to help, their ability to do so requires having administrators with the balls to buck the system. This is exceedingly rare. It also tends to result in the brutal weeding out of such administrators because they don't tend to meet AYP.
4. Schools often do their best to avoid assigning IEP for marginal students and students who are close to moving on to a new school. My friend's daughter, Renee, for example, is a good kid, smart, but kind of clueless. She's had a lot of problems in school. Her parents have been lobbying her school for three years to get an IEP. They don't want to, because then her "inadequacies" will count against their overall numbers. They "promised" to pass along a recommendation that she get an IEP at the high school level, but without a paper trail saying that she needed one, how exactly would that be justified. Basically they've been getting blown off. She's already repeated eighth grade, after they more or less shamed the admin into letting that happen, but she still hasn't been given an IEP because now, because she's been held back, she's doing just fine. Hence, no problem. Hence, no IEP. It's a con job, at best.
Listen, I could add a lot more to this list, but there's an easy way to say it: The game is rigged. It's rigged in a way that makes it easy to blame schools, teachers and students for the fucked up ways in which some kids are forced to grow up (poverty and abuse, mostly). It's rigged to blame kids and teachers for the boredom with school that is virtually assured by the fact that children are denied the means of production of their own knowledge (without autonomy there is not curiosity; without curiosity there is no interest). It's rigged in a way that makes sure that teachers teach in such a fashion that students, especially "at-risk" students, are both more likely to fail and easier to blame for their "failure." The best predictor of success in most cases is the level of "success" of your parents. Priviledged kids get good schools, good teachers, better funding, safer schools, etc. Kids who are not priviledged get less of these things. In addition, less priviledged kids are in a position to be blamed more directly for their failure under these adverse conditions. After all, since everone is treated the same under the policy, then individual outcomes are justified even if the game is rigged.
And all of this doesn't even begin to answer the questions about why we go to school in the first place, or why one would want to learn something, or what it really means to be happy, or... you get the picture.
If you'd like to see a little bit more of my reasoning in this regard, I'd be happy to share it with you or anyone else who'd like to see it (roughly 400 pages of it). It's a thrillilng tale of my encounters with school, with the Marine Corps, and with kung fu. Just email me at email@example.com
and I'll send it to you by chapters.
Hope this is illuminating.