|Agenda 21: No Child Left Behind, or, No Teacher Can Keep Up? (Part 4)
“Whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government.”
This editorial does take a critical look at the failure of our public schools and the case that the main culprit is the No Child Left Behind act.
Michael Moore did a credible job of exposing America’s broken health care system. Unfortunately, our educational system is just as “sick(o)” as America’s medical industrial complex. The underlying educational agenda (21) has failed in its fiduciary duty by not putting the individual student first in all cases.
Let’s begin this discussion by asking ourselves why educational institutions don’t combine basic consumer math classes with advanced trigonometry? Why don’t educators teach first graders the same material that they use to teach ninth graders? Any reasonable person would see that these questions are ridiculous on their face. Why then does the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) insist that we educate 150 IQ (gifted-genius) children, or even 100 IQ (average) children in the same classroom, learning the same material, at the same pace, with 70 IQ (i.e., mentally retarded) children through a practice called full inclusion which is mandated by NCLB?
Under the practice of full inclusion, can you imagine how difficult it would be for the slower child to keep up with children of greater ability? What price does the self-esteem of slow learners have to pay in order to satisfy the United Nation social utopian creators of NCLB and its “one size fits all approach” to teaching and learning (see former U.S. Education Secretary Ron Paige’s quote which revealed that NCLB owes its origin to the United Nations UNESCO’s, “Education for All” program in Part 3 of this series)?
A fundamental question that has not been successfully answered, states, “Does NCLB help disadvantaged learners, through inclusion, or, does NCLB artificially slow down the learning process for regular students while masquerading as a humane intervention technique?”
Can any reasonable person explain why our public schools insist on continuing the current practice of educating fully fluent English students in the same classroom with students who are years away from achieving English speaking, reading and writing competence? If the classroom teacher is doing their job and each student is taught at a pace which ensures lesson objective(s) comprehension, then what happens to the interest level of average and gifted kids as the teacher is forced into a plethora of relatively simplistic and repetitive review strategies, which to the gifted and average child, makes watching the paint dry a preferable activity? One might also reasonably ask, “What are the learning gains or learning deficits experienced by students on both extremes on the bell curve of IQ distributions under NCLB’s controversial practice of full inclusion? Before I attempt to answer this question, I want to make a few observations about the science of IQ distribution. IQ is a measure of learning potential, not actual knowledge. IQ scores are based on a 200 point scale of measurement. IQ scores very rarely fluctuate more than four points after the age of 12. Therefore, IQ scores represent a stable and overwhelmingly reliable method to compare the intelligence potential of children over the age of 12. Knowing these facts about IQ testing should provide the ammunition that one needs to refute the liberal argument that an unlimited amount of education can compensate for any deficit and that all children are genetically endowed with the same potential. As distressing as it is to say this, the science in no way supports the latter assertion. In short, the world of genetic endowment is not fair. Further, student environmental backgrounds are not equal. If they were, we would not see white canes, wheel chairs, crack babies, neglected and abused children and poverty. Children come to a teacher with a variety of advantages and disadvantages,. To federally mandate that 100% of all children will perform at grade level will never be achieved until the genetic and environmental factors which impact children are equalized. Didn’t communism promise the same utopian results? All schools can do is to try and educate children to the best of the child’s potential given the circumstances of the child.
Educators across this planet have known for years that children often learn best with their cohort learning groups. To do so, avoids the discouragement of falling behind and the degradation of achieving far less than some of their more gifted counterparts. Previously, learning was designed to take place at the pace which accommodated the median level of any cohort group. The rest of the world still follows this notion as most nations largely segregate its children by ability. America no longer does. Perhaps this is why American children score last on international measures of math and science despite the fact that America spends the most money on education. I find it ironic and contradictory that America segregates its children based on age. After all, age is a moderate predictor of ability in young school children. The main reason why school systems segregate students by their age, is because age, for children, is often highly correlated with a general potential to do the same kind of work. First we learned addition and subtraction in first and second grade. Then we graduated to multiplication tables in the third grade. This is segregation and it is not a civil rights violation. Yet, if one speaks of educational segregation based on ability, the United States Office of Civil Rights raises its eyebrows. For a more detailed, scientific explanation, I would refer the reader to the work of Jean Piaget and the age based stages of learning based on brain maturation.
One of the questions that has been left unanswered in this unprecedented educational experiment is, “What about the welfare of the average student under this practice of inclusion?” Does the average child benefit from such an arrangement? Does the welfare of the average child even matter to these NCLB social utopians? This bizarre experiment contains no meaningful data related to this question. A second question that never gets asked is “Are we educating gifted children to their full potential?” After all, are they not the leaders and inventors of tomorrow and does not society depend upon the full development of their talents?” Again, this research question is also unanswered. I can draw no other conclusion that in today’s American, NCLB-dominated educational world, our society is literally doing next to nothing to fully develop the talents of over 85% of American children. Spare me the argument that our gifted children take advanced classes. The fact is that most do not on a regular basis. And this still does not mitigate the educational neglect that we are seeing for our average children. Why then do American schools and only American schools insist on such silliness? It must be that the practice of inclusion is so beneficial to the less privileged, and the research based evidence is so compelling as to the benefits of inclusion, that our moral conscience dictates that we do so. Unfortunately, there is no conclusive research proof to support the effectiveness of this practice and the educational planners have known so for almost 20 years.
In a pioneer study conducted by Affleck et al (1988), their data-based conclusions revealed that the integrated classroom for students with special needs were, indeed, far more cost-effective than the segregated, resource program. Saving money is good if these children actually learn more. Unfortunately, Affleck et al (1988) found that achievement in reading, math and language remained basically the same in the two service delivery models (i.e., inclusion and segregation). Even to the more conservative educational advocate that does not buy into the deliberate dumbing down of America notion, it seems that saving money is more important than helping the majority of the American kids learn to the fullest extent possible.
A more modern review of the data revealed that the measured effectiveness of full inclusion reached the same conclusion as the Affleck et al. study (Hechinger, 2007). Despite the lack of research based evidence to support this craziness, many school boards do embrace the practice of inclusion because it does save money to practice this unproven method rather than doing the right thing, which is to educate EACH child to their genetic potential.
Five years after the implementation of NCLB, the results of the educational effectiveness of NCLB, speaks for itself in that American students have just experienced SAT scores that are at a 31 year low (College Board, 2006). Can there be any doubt that these College Board figures represent a significant move, since the inception of NCLB in creating a populace that is less aware? If American citizens do not know what they have lost, they are less likely to question the shift of allegiance to regionalization on the way to global governance (i.e., North American Union). A side benefit to illegal immigration, to the global governance, North American Union crowd, is that America, through the practice of unrestrained illegal immigration, is being is flooded with millions of individuals who will never understand what is means to lose their American civil liberties, national sovereignty and what our forefathers fought and died for. There can be no doubt that the primary vehicle which is responsible for this betrayal of the public trust is NCLB. The generational effect of illegal immigration combined with the hordes of illegals that would become citizens through a McCain-Kennedy amnesty plan, would produce a multitude of less educated and largely ignorant Americans with regard to their heritage and civil liberties. It would certainly make it easier to usher in the North American Union under these conditions of general ignorance. Who will notice the ongoing loss of American sovereignty, college professors? Most will be dead in 20 years. As Thomas Jefferson stated, only an educated populace can maintain a republican form of government. Fifty percent of our children cannot name the Vice President. Sixty five percent cannot locate Great Britain on a map. Need I say more?
I have been involved in the frontlines of education for over 25 years. I personally believe that all children should be educated to the full extent of their potential and each student should have the same educational advantages as every other student regardless of ability. However, NCLB continues the misguided practice of mainstreaming under the banner of full inclusion and it is clear that the vast majority of the parents of special needs students are not in favor of the NCLB dictates. In the “good ole days”, children with special needs were educated at their own pace and in small classes from which the student was more likely to receive the extra help they required to academically achieve to their potential. The test results of our children demand a return to this practice. The process of providing special education services is expensive and requires significant resource allocation. Yet, the process worked for many special needs children in the past. Only after the special needs child demonstrated enough mastery to have a reasonable chance of success in the self-contained classroom, was the child mainstreamed.
Can you even imagine what it is like to be a teacher with the maze of new federal regulations contained in NCLB? Let us project this educational madness into a typical classroom. Just imagine that you are a present day teacher. You walk into your class and as you look to the left, you see 3-4 children who struggle with reading, writing and speaking English. The number of foreign language speakers has dramatically increased in the past several years and their numbers are increasingly inundating our classrooms. As a teacher, NCLB requires you to keep extensive and daily documentation of your specialized teaching techniques for these non-English speaking children. These specialized teaching methods are often based on the intervention techniques derived from pseudo, unscientific researched models which compare apples to oranges in support of NCLB’s inclusion programs. The teacher training programs that you, the teacher, will be forced to sit through on your personal time and on your nickel, focuses on language interventions with English Language Learner (ELL) students which is primarily based on prior research performed on school children who were fluent in English. I must have been absent on the day in my graduate school class in research methods when the professor told the class that the research conducted on one group can be bastardized and inappropriately applied to a different population with a very different set of demographics. Teachers are forced by state mandated interpretations of NCLB to take 45 hours of “SIOP” inservice instruction, which repeats the mantra, “If these instructional methods work for regular students, they will work for ELL children” (Echeverria, Vogt, & Short, 2004). Now keep in mind that the SIOP approach does not mandate that these ELL students work with a teacher who speaks the native language. Today’s teacher is merely instructed to use a variety of pictures, sign language, body gestures and simplistic vocabulary lists in a futile attempt to bring ELL students to the same level as native speakers in today’s classrooms. Ask yourself, if you were to relocate to a foreign country, how long would it take until you perform at the same level as the other students in the class? It takes years to learn to read and write the language. But relax, NCLB will not require you to become fluent in the over 100 languages presently spoken in American classrooms. Wait a minute, are not today’s Spanish, German, French, Italian, Chinese, Japanese, Hebrew and Russian foreign language instructors required to be bilingual in order to teach American children a foreign language? Full inclusion for many ELL students is based upon pure unadulterated voodoo. It is almost mind numbing to imagine how all the Ellis and Angel Island immigrants of the 19th century quickly learned to speak English. How did they every survive without NCLB? And the American public buys this politically correct nonsense of full inclusion? As a teacher are you feeling overwhelmed with your newly mandated work demands? And you thought you only had to create lesson plans, teach the lesson, take attendance and grade some papers? But wait another minute; you have only been exposed to a small portion of today’s classroom experiences as we forgot to look to the right side of your classroom.
Again, you the teacher, teaching in a one-size fits all approach, looks to the right side of their class and you see students who are mentally retarded, speech-impaired, deaf, mentally ill, non-toilet-trained, disciplinary problem students, emotionally disturbed, abused and neglected children with a plethora of special needs in regular public-school classes. These children are supposed to pursue individualized curriculum with teacher aides, under the supervision of the teacher who is attempting to teach an overcrowded class of 30-40 students. Cramming so many children into a typically overcrowded classroom, would be like trying to give a speech to the United Nations General Assembly without the benefit of a translator. To accomplish this impossible task, the teacher would be expected to take special education classes in addition to the state- mandated SIOP English Language Learner classes, and again, on their own unreimbursed dime. Teachers are told that they can manage this daunting task by relying on an array of consultants and classroom aides to help defray the overwhelming, uncompensated increase in teacher workload. Yet, these consultants and certainly the aides are in very short supply. Further, the stringent NCLB requirements have disqualified most of the teacher aides based on a lack of educational attainment. As with the ELL children, you, the teacher, are required to attend specialized meetings outside of the teaching day for each of these children in your class. Additionally, you are also required to keep detailed documentation on your individualized interventions with each child from these various subgroups. Do you feel your teaching day becoming incredibly shorter? And of course, as you, the teacher, look to the center of your class, you see all the students who depend upon you to fully develop their potential while conforming to an arbitrary set of national and state mandated standards from which your district had no voice in establishing.
At what level are you going to teach at Mr. and Ms. Teacher? Well, the social utopians will tell you to individualize your instruction. However, the cloning of the classroom teacher is not allowed! Therefore, individualizing instruction is only possible by creating an untold number of writing packets and workbooks, which average to gifted students refer to as busy work. How much did you learn when you engaged in busy work as a student? Do you think that you, the teacher, will ever have the time to meaningfully engage in class discussions about the legitimacy of the Vietnam War or the constitutionality of the Patriot Act? Do most students get to fully explore the true symbolism and meaning of the classics like Moby Dick of the Great Gatsby? Our average and gifted kids are bored and our less privileged kids are not benefiting from these practices!
These are but a few of the reasons on why my son attends a private school based on biblical principles.
Affleck, J. Q., Madge, S, Adams, A., Lowenbraun, S. (1988). "Integrated Classroom versus Resource Model: Academic Viability and Effectiveness." Exceptional Children: 339-348.
Echevarria, J. Vogt, M. & Short, D. (2004). Making Content Comprehensible. Pearson: Boston
Gatto, J. (2002). Dumbing Us Down. American New Society Publishers: New York.
Hechinger, J (6/26/2007) 'Mainstreaming' Trend Tests Classroom Goals
Disabled Children Join Peers, Strain Teachers; 'We Need More Help.' Wall Street Journal Online. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB118254994081445264.html (Retrieved 7/7/07).