Tuesday, September 16, 2008

My Rant du Jour

I wanted to have a really catchy title for this one. Unfortunately, I have been unable to make a really clean analogy; been unable to get across the exact point I wish to make. What I have so far is this:

NCLB and HQT have done for student for achievement what the Pinto (Gremlin, Crown Victoria, etc) did for passenger safety.

I like the overall analogy, but I am afraid my point will be lost on the majority.

There is nothing new in the notion that education in America is in a crisis situation. We have been here for years. In fact, if memory serves, we were in this crisis when I was in elementary school... and we all know how long ago that was. So, this "crisis" is nothing new.

What is new (thanks, George) is the preponderance of legislation and requirements put forth that are supposed to fix the problem, but in fact make several more layered upon each other.

Legislators seem to think that students are widgets. One blanket regulation, one standardized test will ensure success for all. Unfortunately, the truth is not that simple. Not by a long shot.

NCLB, with its offspring HQT, have, I would argue, NOT improved the quality of the classroom nor of the teacher in that classroom. Case in point: at my school, I have a fantastic math teacher. She is not only well respected by her peers and loved by her students, she has received accolades for her teaching from several organizations, both local and national. By all accounts, THIS woman is the gal you want teaching your child Algebra and Pre-algebra. In fact, for years, she taught the Algebra class in middle school, for high school credit. Heck, one year she even had a class of Trigonometry.

So, what did she need to be a HQT for this job? (And HQT stands for Highly Qualified Teacher, in case your cheat-sheet for educational jargon is on your office desk) Well, she needed to pass about 3 different State tests, have a degree in education and have 15 years of experience under her belt.

This is the kind of person we want in our math classes, is it not? Someone who is passionate, who is talented and who reaches the students? One who has proven herself time and time again that she gets kids to achieve in math...

Ladies and Gentleman of the blog - I'd like you to guess what she is teaching this year.... Go on.... Guess....

No, I am sorry - you guessed wrong... the most highly qualified Math teacher I have had the pleasure of knowing is NOT in fact teaching math this year, but rather Language Arts. No - she did not ask for the move...

Why the change? Because some suit somewhere decided to change the rules in the spirit of improving our classrooms. Some bureaucrat in an office, who has NEVER seen the inside of a public school, decided that we needed another test. One that we give to HIGH SCHOOL teachers. One that focuses on Geometry and Calculus in order for this teacher to teach a class for high school credit... an honor, by the way, we are not mandated to offer (or were not mandated to offer until this spring).

So who has taken charge of those students who were supposed to be in her class? Well, a teacher who passed the test for high school, but whose former school did not have a place for her to return this year (which speaks volumes given the ever-present teacher shortage) and who, by all accounts, is killing her students slowly with an overall lack of enthusiasm and understanding of the middle-schoolers mind.

So, Yes, ladies and gentlemen... Applaud the overabundance of regulations hitting today's teachers like a knife in the back and rest easy because tomorrow's leaders will be so much better prepared than was your generation, or mine....

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