I'm an educrat
Last week I submitted an opinion essay to Edspresso.com's Featured Commentary section. In the essay I discussed my feeling that despite NCLB's well intended goals of bettering the education system, there exists a flawed approach to implementation. The purpose of the essay was not to detail every little flaw in NCLB, but instead, to simply call for a change in execution, to hope that NCLB's one size fits all approach would be recognized for the ultimate failure it will be. Rightwingprof, from Right Wing Nation, felt that I was too vague, that my thinking was fuzzy, and that my anectdote was irrelevant. He also called me an educrat--see definition here.
What this self-proclaimed "grumpy old coot" said about me really upset me. He can dislike my anectdote--though I think it works well to lead into the topic without giving too much away too soon--and he can fail to recognize that the purpose of the essay was not to pick apart NCLB--but he cannot get away with calling me an educrat, a word that has "An officer, administrator or other bureaucrat in a school district" as a definition.
Believe me, I am far from the bureaucracy. The definition goes on to describe the educrat as, "pinheads who are so process-oriented that they are more excited in the process of learning than the myriad wonders that can be learned." Again, this does not describe me very well. I am results based, something that a NCLB advocate should pee his pants in excitement over.
But the statement that prompted an entire post for a response is this one: "And we have to clean up your mess when your students who know next to nothing and think their "feelings" are as valid as real-world data get into our classes" (rightwingprof).
I had been giving rightwingprof the benefit of the doubt in terms of his own credibility. Before I began teaching the Pre-College English class for 12th graders interested in college, I attended a local community college's English Dept. meeting to ask for their expectations of incoming freshmen--so I am confident that I am less concerned with their "feelings" and more focused on their "real world data."
Now, what I want you the reader to understand from this post is that while many critics of public education will regularly claim that we, the teachers, are more concerned about warm fuzzies and blaming other people, it is those same critics who fail to live, breath, and have their being in the classroom. Whenever a critic tosses around rhetoric, and fails to discuss the entire issue, whether that critic be a right-winged whacko or left-leaning loon, we ought to have the courage to provide the truth.
So, for the rightwingprof, here is one example of a flaw in NCLB. Let's say that a school makes gains in the area of Language Arts. The school's overall passing rate for Reading rises from 77% to 81%. And, let's say that the ethnic groups' scores rise, the limited English proficiency scores go up, and the special needs students' scores go up. But, the sub-group of students from low income homes scores stay static. This one sub-group's lack of test score gains can put a school's Adequate Yearly Progress in jeopardy. This is a flaw.
A second flaw of NCLB is that it does not take into consideration a statistical cohort group. Progress must be made every year until 100% of students by 2014 are proficient. Which is a third flaw. Now, I run the risk of being misquoted or taken out of context, but I am willing to take the risk.
The notion that NCLB, a law that is intended as comprehensive school reform, fails to acknowledge that parents and students are also culpable in the improvement of education, is the single greates flaw. If parents don't value education and subsequently the student doesn't value education, there is little I can do to help that student succeed. This does not mean that teachers do not still have an obligation to use effective methods and maintain high standards. But truthfully, and from experience in the classroom, sometimes the best we can do with certain kids is to get them to class more often than not.
And if someone outside of the classroom, whose only data comes from government reports or other fishbowl observations, wants to challenge the effectiveness of a school or teacher, I dare them to put down their research journals, enroll in their Education School of choice, and do a better job.