Public Education has gotten a bad rap under the Bush Administration and the Republican agenda. As a retired 34 year educator, I have seen our public schools evolve from serving only those children who want to go to higher education, to a smorgasbord of opportunities for students of all ages, from one day old to 18 and in some states up to 21 years old. And something that most patrons do not realize, every school district is responsible for the cost of every student, even those who are placed in out-of-district programs such as placements in therapeutic, delinquent programs in state facilities.
My first year of teaching was in 1968, and that year I taught high school Economics, Oklahoma History and 7th and 8th grade math. I never intended to be a teacher, but a less-than-physically capable label by my draft board and a death of a middle school teacher, put me into a career in education.
Now, to be honest with you, the history and economics classes were the only ones I was certified to teach. The math classes made me work to keep ahead of 75 totally lost junior high classes. Most of the states had decided to switch to a new method of teaching math called, SMSG Math.(SCHOOL MATHEMATICS STUDY GROUP) It was a great program for college-bound students; but for the average Dick and Jane, it was a nightmare. SMSG was "day-lighted" in the late 70's. Do a google on SMSG Math to find out what it was. My experience with SMSG math made my elementary certification in math a cake-walk. Hopefully, Bush's NCLB will go the way of SMSG.
My first call was to our own superintendent, to find out how we were using that money. He didn't know a thing about the new moneys. Now, his school district is considered a large school district in Oklahoma, so I phoned some other school districts at random across the state and asked them the same thing. Not one had any idea that they had received the amounts of money with which they were credited. No Child Left Behind has slammed our small school districts back to the 50's: no music, no art, no band, no drama ... . Virtually all of the few electives they could teach are gone.
Forget about college minors, every academic class has to be taught by a teacher who has a major degree in that subject. That is a big time expensive change for schools. I know most teachers in our school district are considered Master Teachers, but the program forces the schools into some strange decisions.
Today's school districts are a little bit like Arlo Guthrie's' "You Can Get Every Thing You want at Alice's Restaurant." Our schools deal with head lice, clean clothes, food for two meals, which is wonderful, athletics, drama, music, Spanish, and art. Personally, I think all school districts should at least offer some of those electives.
What's happened, though, is just the opposite for small schools in rural districts. Those elective teachers have moved on to larger school districts, where they can be afforded. The Internet can help some, and so can "distance teaching" over satellite feeds and state networks, but like Iraq, bombs simply do not take the place of "grunts on the ground."
We now know that the Houston School District that was used as a model for NCLB and its "first documented success," had their reporting cooked and the program simply did not achieve as promised. The teachers were basically teaching for the test, and claims about the school's significant decrease of their dropout rate was falsified. Testing is a growth industry and has seen huge growth, like military expenditures, since Bush became president.
There is an in-progress law suit against the Houston Public Schools, related to falsifying reports and other documents on the district's drop-out rate. We know, too, Texas, like most states under the NCLB, spends an inordinate amount of time, teaching for the specific normed and criterion referenced tests. Defining a student's "true test score" is difficult and is certainly not the score we find from the various norm referenced tests administered across our nation.
Our teachers in the grade schools have to test every student every week for reading progress, and then, when the middle of January comes around, our teachers spend the next month or more, either getting ready for testing or being tested. Like Haliburton, our test companies are getting rich off of Bush's federal mandated testing that may or may not be reliable or effective in pinpointing success in life or in higher education. In fact, many states have voted to not comply with NCLB standards. Too expensive!
Our public schools are much like Arlo Guthrie's song, "You Can Get Everything You Want At Alice's Restaurant." Those of us who attended schools in the 50's and 60's can remember a time when we matriculated from grade to grade without the burdens of standardized testing. Thus, ... those who are calling for public schools to get back to the basics, are asking for an education WITHOUT any type of mass testing and cutting important electives in which many students are gifted.