Monday, March 24, 2008

Dropout Epidemic Fueled By NCLB

It appears that what was rumored by many concerning the No Child Left Behind legislation is being proven true. It was believed by many that one of the side effects of this legislation was that many struggling students were being pushed out of school by administrators in an effort to improve their school’s standing. And if they were not actively pushed to drop-out they were at least quietly allowed to disappear by administrators who were fearful of having their schools labeled as failing. The truth of the matter is that this legislation has fueled the leaving behind of millions of students.

Most troublesome to some experts was the way the No Child law’s mandate to bring students to proficiency on tests, coupled with its lack of a requirement that they graduate, created a perverse incentive to push students to drop out. If low-achieving students leave school early, a school’s performance can rise.

No study has documented that the law has produced such an effect nationwide. Experts say they believe many low-scoring students are prodded to leave school, often by school officials urging them to seek an equivalency certificate known as a General Educational Development diploma.

“They get them out so they don’t have them taking those tests,” said Wanda Holly-Stirewalt, director of a program in Jackson, Miss., that helps dropouts earn a G.E.D. “We’ve heard that a lot. It happens all over the system.”

So rather than encouraging struggling students and providing them with the tools they need to improve, administrators are instead opting to have them removed from their rolls by coercion at worse and neglect at best. So the emphasis is no longer on education, but instead on scores and rankings. The NCLB legislation is just another smoke screen provided by politicians to help to enrich the wealthy at the expense of the poor and middle-class. One of the main routes to improvement in our society is through education. Public education should be one of our most important and well-funded endeavors as a society, however for some reason it is the least. How can this be? It can be because the way to ensure that the wealthy stay wealthy and that there is a large pool of unqualified and unskilled workers is by keeping public education poorly funded and poorly administered.

If we as a society truly valued the improvement of all of our citizens we would be investing the billions we are spending daily in Iraq and Afghanistan right here at home in the improvement of our schools for all Americans. The problem with this is that it would create too many well-educated people. Democracy may demand an educated population, but a well-educated population is the bane of the ruling-class. The same people who send their children to private or upper-echelon schools are the same ones who say we are spending too much money on public education. The best insurance for keeping the inadequacies of our society in place is a poorly funded public education system where the majority of students are poorly prepared for continued education. You would think that after billions of dollars and many studies later that we would have developed a system that actually works to educate the masses, but we have not. The reason we have not is because it is not a priority in our society. We talk about the benefits of education and raising the standards of our children, but the truth be told compared to other programs education is one of our least funded.

Even without the wars, education has never received the amount of funding or critical study necessary to produce adequately prepared students for the future. Rather than focusing in on education our system of education has focused in on conformity and assimilation. As Pink Floyd so adequately stated, “Another brick in the wall.” Another compliant worker bee to feed to the machine of commerce and capitalism has been our chief concern. Any child that does not meet the standard must be drugged or isolated and finally removed from the system. We have some pretty good ideas of what is wrong with the system, but we do not have the desire or the will to improve it. Year after year more and more of our greatest resource are allowed to slip and in some cases forced through the cracks.

I hope for our sakes that education will once gain become a priority not just for the wealthy, but for all of America’s children. We can not afford as a society to continue down the path we are on. As more and more of our children become uneducated they will begin to rebel against a system that has left them unprepared for the world and this rebellion will not be expressed in a positive way. We are at a crossroad in America. This election will determine the direction of this country for years to come. I hope instead of war, fear, and death we choose life and the future of our nation, which is our children. And that the words no child left behind will truly mean something.


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