Friday, May 12, 2006

Leaving children behind by putting them in

We found out this week, in an unpleasant manner, that next year in 6th grade there will be no "special day class" available for Sally Ann, anywhere in the district. Schools are now required to use a "collaboration model" where special-ed students mix with mainstream students for most of the day. Yes: sitting in 6th-grade math, english, science, and social science classes when she is currently achieving 1st-grade or, at best, 2nd-grade academic levels.

We know very little yet, but it sounds like a terrible idea. And it gives me an opportunity to cite a few quotes from this evaluation of what "No Child Left Behind" is doing to our schools:

  • A huge increase in federally mandated testing will not provide the services and strategies our schools and students need to improve.
  • Standardized testing does not lead to lasting increases in student achievement and may in fact reduce it.
  • The inclusion of special education and Limited English Proficient students in the testing calculations will make it harder for schools to reach the unreasonable "adequate yearly progress" targets, but will do nothing to improve educational services to these children.
  • If the federal government wanted to help special needs students it would fully fund the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), as called for repeatedly by education advocates.


At Monday, 15 May, 2006, Anonymous John said...

Having been a teacher in the public schools for over two decades, I feel uniquely qualified to address this issue. I am no fan of No Child Left Behind for two reasons. Primo: it mandates onorous testing that drains away time better spent teaching,rates schools against each other in a manner that makes absolutely no sense, and creates an atmosphere of teaching to tests. Secundo: it puts the schools in the hands of a distant bureaucracy instead of the local community.
But Pete is angry at the wrong group. The liberal touchy-feely wing of the education community has been trumpeting the inclusiveness of heterogeneous grouping for almost two decades. Of course this is ridiculous and hypocritical.
Here's the heterogeneous classroom. Sap the best and brightest out of the mix and place them in special "honors" and "accelerated" classes because they obviously require differentiated curriculum. But place everyone else, including special needs, low skills, limited language learners, and non-attenders into the same group with the mid-range students, because all of these students will learn better in a heterogeneous environment. Give me a break.
Pete, I feel your pain.


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