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No teacher left behind

Posted on | March 7, 2010 | No Comments

A school board in Rhode Island has voted to fire all teachers at a struggling high school, a dramatic move aimed at shoring up education in a poverty-ridden school district.

via All teachers fired at Rhode Island school – CNN.com.

Basically, the Central Falls, RI school board and the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) program are using the teachers as scapegoats.

Here are a few things that I don’t like about NCLB, and this situation:

  1. It encourages teaching to the test.
  2. It ignores any other factors that might be involved in students’ poor performance.
  3. It fosters a view of students as victims.

1. Teaching to the test.

This happens in every school in the U.S. for a few months prior to the standardized tests. Parents and students complain about it every year, and yet it continues. But frankly, if I were a teacher, I’d be doing it too — if keeping your job depends on someone else’s  performance on a task, it pays to focus on that task.

2. Ignoring other factors

In any situation, there can be many factors causing a problem.  For a school where students don’t do well, perhaps the school is a dump, perhaps teachers are spending too much of their own money for supplies, perhaps the principal is not managing well, perhaps parents are not involved.

The school board involved has decided that the problem is that the school day is too short. But if nothing else changes, doing the same things for longer won’t help!

3. Viewing students as victims.

Finally, what about a student’s responsibility?  There are plenty of hard-working students who manage to rise above a poor school system and get an education. (I’m not saying that it’s easy to do, or desirable to put that burden on a child.) There are plenty more students who really try, but are overcome by the obstacles and give up. And, let’s face it, there are a few who just don’t want to work, and don’t care (and there are many reasons for that, too). If you blame only teachers for a student’s failure, then, to be fair,  only teachers should get praise when a student does well!

Blaming only teachers turns students into powerless victims, which does nothing to help them learn and grow.

We can’t fire students, but some hard-working teachers, that’s ok, apparently.


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