And oh, before I forget, I saved the best for last: According to Spellings and Co., schools will be held 100% accountable for getting 100% of students at or above grade-level in reading and math by 2014.
Schools must accomplish this laudable goal in spite of parents who will not return phone calls, bother to show-up to parent-teacher conferences, check to see that their child's homework has been done, or even make sure that their children arrive on time to school rested and with paper and pencil.Let's assume going into this that the school has discipline under control and that the teachers are effectively managing their classrooms. In short, we're assuming that the school is performing its job correctly for the six hours a day, 180 days a year the students are in their care.
It's also a safe assumption that a certain percentage of parents simply doesn't care about their child's education. Unfortunately, the lower the SES of the school the greater the percentage of parents fall into this category. These are, of course, the children who are in the greatest need of parental support. But, I have bad news for the Wonks and any other educator teaching in low SES schools. The sad fact is that you're not going to be getting the parental support you think you want or need. Moreover, you've made a serious error if you designed your instructional program around getting this elusive parental support. This is like a bridge manufacturer designing a bridge based on a design requiring steel when only wood is available.
I know this makes a difficult job even more difficult. And, the Wonks have every right to complain since they have an exceedingly difficult job. But at the end of the day, blaming lack of parental support when students fail is not a valid excuse.
When the parents don't care, you have to make the best use of the six hours a day, 180 days a year you have with the students. If the kids refuse to do assigned homework and you can't get them to do it, then you've made an error trying to use homework to instruct. And, I always thought parent teacher conferences were for the parents' benefit, if the parents don't care why bother with the conference? When students are tardy, then the school needs to do a better job enforcing the truancy and compulsary attendance laws. And, I don't want to hear about schools not having sufficient suppplies of anything with the lavish funding taxpayers provide them. This is a school mismanagement issue.
According to the federal government, our public schools must fulfill NCLB's mandates despite disruptive and defiant students who cannot be placed in more structured classroom environments due to federal regulations. These same students will often not even make an effort to attempt their school work. Pupils cannot even be required by teachers to get the after school help that they need.Show me a student who is not engaged, motivated, and/or disruptive, and I'll show you a history of ineffective instruction. Show me an unmotivated high school student and I'll show you a student who wasn't taught to read properly back in elementary school when they were motivated. Show me a disruptive student and I'll show you a poor reader who'd rather act up than be viewed as being dumb by his peers. Show me an unengaged student and I'll show you a student who is being instructed far above her ability level and who lacks many critical preskills.
Sure, they'll be a few hard cases that won't respond to effective classroom management or who lack sufficient cognitive ability. A few percent at best. This might be an issue in 2014, assuming the NCLB stanards aren't loosened before then, but it isn't an issue today.
Instead of simplistic platitudes, I heartily wish that the Secretary would for once mention the need for parents and students to also share in the responsibility for achieving their own academic success.I wouldn't characterize it as a need per se. An advantage, perhaps, that would make teaching easier, but not a need that would excuse teaching failure. The sad fact is that most future failing students are, for all intents and purposes, academically dead before they're out of elementary school, before they are old enough to be responsible for much of anything.
Educating children is a team effort involving educators, parents, and the children themselves.
Six hours a day, 180 days a year is sufficient time to teach children what they need to know. There are low SES schools that get the job done within these constraints. There's only a need for a team effort when the job isn't getting done during school. So whose fault is this?
Almost without fail, Spellings aims her remarks at only one component of the team: educators. A classroom teacher who is serving between 20-40 students of varying academic abilities should not cannot be reasonably expected to get 100% of his or her students at or above grade-level proficiency in reading, math, and (soon) science.With this I agree. But we can't blame the student or his parents for this shortcoming. The school is responsible for this problem. Children of varying academic abilities should not be in the same instructional grouping. Grouping should be by ability. The fact that children of wildly varying abilities are routinely placed in the same classroom is a good indication that the school does not know how to teach effectively. Show me one low-SES school that is pulling off heterogeneous grouping successfully. There are none. Yet, this is the preferred method of teaching children. Go figure.
But it's so much easier for Spellings ... hold us teachers and site administrators solely responsible for the satisfactory academic progress of 100% of our students.It might be easier. But it's also proper. The reponsibility of teaching is the school's. And, it is the quality of the teaching that determines whether satisfactory progress is being made. Where are these schools that are both not making satisfactory academic progress and teaching effectively. There are none.
If the Secretary really was interested in helping teachers more effectively serve students and parents, she would advocate the adoption of legislation that would give teachers the classroom management and instructional tools that they need in order to do their jobs so that they would have at least a sporting chance of accomplishing the mandates set forth by the No Child Left Behind Act.Is this a rhetorical question? The Wonks fail to give any examples of the instructional tools they think are necessary to comply with NCLB. I'm willing to bet that there is either no legislative prohibition and/or there is no evidence of success for many, if not all, of the Wonks' proposed tools.