In the article The side Effects of NCLB, Gordan Cawelti discusses his concerns regarding the focus of NCLB. The federal legislation focuses on math and reading test scores resulting in a narrowing of the curriculum in the schools. Although the purpose of NCLB is to diminish the gap among subgroups of students, the counter result is an imbalance that, in Mr. Cawelti’s opinion, “denies many students access to the high-quality curriculums that students in more affluent schools enjoy.”
An important piece of NCLB is the mandate that schools must show adequate yearly progress (AYP) in math and reading. Consequences are in place for those schools that do not demonstrate AYP. Teachers feel pressured to focus on raising test scores at the expense of time spent in creative teaching of other subject areas. Cawelti goes on to provide a review of models that might be employed to “create a balanced diet” in the curriculum.
Theodore Sizer presents a rather disturbing commentary on secondary schools in Horace’s Compromise. He speaks to curriculum choices, teaching methods, time allotment to teach a subject, and what the responsibilities of the state are regarding the education of our children. As schools attempt to provide a more broad range curriculum, perhaps the quality of the education suffers. Sizer puts forth the conclusion that “less is more” and “Information is plentiful, cheap; learning how to use it …requires a form of personal coaching of each student by a teacher.” Of course this takes time which is in short supply in the high school setting, perhaps due to broadened curriculum. Two themes that seem to recur throughout Horace’s Compromise...
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...ncourage teachers to find a novel ways to teach skills. Educators need to be cognizant of the fact that what works for one student may not work for another. It is important to teach to the learner by finding out what drives their quest for education. It has been my experience that enthusiasm is infectious and can go a long way to entice teachers to buy into new ideas.
Sizer’s passion for the learner is one I share. The New York Times included the following quote in his obituary last October. “Inspiration, hunger: these are the qualities that drive good schools. The best we educational planners can do is to create the most likely conditions for them to flourish, and then get out of their way.” In order to do this perhaps NCLB may require some “tweaks” but at the same time I think we have to be careful not to “throw out the baby with the bathwater.”
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