I’ve been thinking a lot about NCLB lately. In my district there are two big schools that did not meet AYP for the whatever year in a row and therefore have to undergo restructuring. I am not familiar with the specifics of the law, but what it seems to dictate is that, no matter how you restructure, it involves staffing changes. The union president came in to our faculty meeting to help us understand what is happening in our district this week.
I need to understand the law completely. But the way it was explained, you have a few choices. One is to give your school over to a private company to see if they can do better. (And we all know how well privatization has worked lately). Another is to change into a charter school. Another is to adopt a new program for the school. All of these options involve a fruit basket upset in your staff (and consequently in your district).
Besides being an un-funded mandate, NCLB assumes that it’s the fault of the teachers that the students are not making AYP (Adequate Yearly Progress). It does not take into account the precarious situations of our students’ lives. Would I care about how I did on a test if I was worried about where I was getting my next meal? Would I care about how I did on a test if I didn’t know if I had a roof over my head? Would a care about how I did on a test if I had a parent in jail? Would I care about how I did on a test if I were part of a gang and didn’t plan on being alive by 25? Would I care about how I did on a test if I were pregnant and didn’t know how I was going to support myself and my baby? I could go on and on about various situations of students, but I’m hoping that you get my point.
As teachers, we are trying our darnedest to help our students learn. I teach in a district with a staff of fantastic, dedicated teachers. When I talk to friends who have taught elsewhere, they concur. The amount of diversity and hardship amongst our kids makes us be more creative about how we teach and deliver lessons. And when we reach one of them, you can really tell. Actually, they tell you. You may be the only adult in their life that truly cares.
Every teacher in the schools that are undergoing restructuring has to re-apply for their job. They have to re-apply in a school that is now labeled a failure. The teachers and students in the schools are all being labeled as such. They’re not failures. The law is black and white and this is a gray area.
Regardless of what happens this year, it has a lot of us questioning the profession and how long we can last. My school will be in the same precarious position if this law stays in place. It demoralizes a school.
I realize that we need to take a different approach to how we educate our kids. But NCLB isn’t the answer. It sounds great to say that no child is left behind. But if they want to make sure that no child is actually left behind, then there needs to be other people involved and held accountable besides teachers. We need help. Half of my job probably falls under the category of a social worker.
But I do wonder how long I can last. If I have to re-apply for my job because of this law, I just might apply somewhere else or for an entirely different profession. I’m always thinking about how I’m doing my job and if my skills fit what I’m doing. The circumstances of this era have me thinking about how my skills can be used elsewhere.