I work in a Title I elementary school as a teacher. A Title I school is a school with a high percentage of students who qualify for free and reduced lunches. The number of Title I schools is growing. I love my work, but have never worked so hard in my life. I don’t mind hard work, but more and more I have been forced to work harder and longer hours, all in the name of No Child Left Behind.
I can understand why we have the government instituting standards and requirements on the public school system, but there comes a point when you ask yourself, “Is their approach the right way and is it ethical?” “Are we truly improving the education of our students, or are we just micromanaging it to the nth degree in order to say that we have data that supports so called improvements.” I think that it’s the latter. The test scores at my school indicate that we are improving the skills in our students; however, I’m truly not seeing it in the classroom. I mean that sincerely. I am seeing more and more students, year after year, who have so many issues that it makes it overwhelming to teach them.
I see that the Dept. of Education is implementing different ways of measuring the basic subjects of reading, writing, math and science. The latest measurements are what drive our instruction, and this is constantly changing, under the guise of “research tells us…”
There’s an old saying, “What gets measured, gets done.” School districts want to meet the demands that are put on them; so do administrators and teachers, but when the target is constantly changing, it becomes a little fuzzy as to whether or not our children are truly improving their basic skills. So, the education environment is trying to show that they are meeting the government’s standards, by becoming extremely microscopic in their analysis of what the state tests measure. Once they figure that out, they then tailor their instruction to that. This type of approach really hurts our students as they do not get a well rounded education anymore.
How do I know that students are not getting a well rounded education anymore? This is easy to measure. Just ask students to write for you. Nowadays, their grammar is very poor. Ask them to speak to you. You will find many have a limited vocabulary. Ask them about various topics and you will find that they have a limited knowledge about their world. But, hey, they scored as “above average” on their latest state test!
I have noticed that more students, year after year, come to me less prepared. There are many factors that influence a student’s grade-level readiness. Much of it has to do with what is going on at home. Home is where parents or guardians have control over the health and well being of a child. If that child is neglected and not academically supported, he/she is highly likely to fall behind in school. More and more, I see neglected and abused children coming into my classroom. I’ve noticed an increase in physical and mental health issues in my students. In fact, in one of my classes, I counted only 2 kids out of 16, who I would consider “normal and healthy”. I had another class of 13, where I counted only one student. This is really frightening to me as these kids are precious. They deserve normalcy. But, when they come from a home, where they are being raised by someone other than their birth parents, and they live in a town with high concentrations of crime and poverty, they usually come to school unprepared, confused, and out of sorts.
Then they have a stressed out teacher who crams as much info into their little brains as possible because she/he knows they are behind and will not be supported at home. We then have a pretty sick cycle going on and the school districts’ solution for this is to work the teachers harder….cleverly manipulate their schedules in away that will force them to work longer and more intense hours. The reason school districts have to be clever, is because they don’t want to pay teachers for their extra effort, and they don’t want unions to intervene and protect their rights. So it all becomes a huge mess and it just ain’t right. This whole problem in education isn’t just happening in poor schools, either. It’s happening everywhere and teachers are burning out.
What I think will probably, eventually happen, is that the good, hardworking teachers (these are the teachers who know they can take their smarts elsewhere) will get out of teaching (they are already leaving in high numbers). We will then be forced to hire people from other countries to come and teach American children. This is frightening!
If you can take time to tutor and/mentor a child, I encourage you to do that. Many kids come to kindergarten not knowing their ABC’s or how to count. Many have never picked up a pencil or pair of scissors. Some do not even know their whole name.
If you live in an area where there is not a lot of poverty, you can still volunteer at a nearby school. The teachers will be happy to pair you up with a child who needs a little extra attention.
Even better, see if you can work with your church to reach out to kids in impoverished areas, and bring some of them (with their parents permission, of course) to Sunday School.