"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Monday, April 03, 2006

Sucking Education Dry

This from a sophomore at Ohio State University. Bravo!

U.S. Education Problems
Brock Kingsley
Issue date: 4/3/06 Section: Opinion

The No Child Left Behind Act, the federal law signed in 2002, is sucking the United States' education system dry of diversity. Because the No Child Left Behind Act requires annual testing in reading and math, and punishes schools that do not meet the ever-rising benchmarks of those tests, there has been an increase in the amount of time - double and even triple - "at risk" students are required to spend on these subjects. Obviously reading and math are integral parts of any education, and are needed to function in the "real world," but should man have to live on just bread alone?

A recent survey by the Center for Education Policy - a nonpartisan group - found that 71 percent of the nation's approximately 15,000 school districts had lessened the amount of class time given to subjects like history, music, art and others. For some students, their entire school day is relegated to only math, reading and gym. This no doubt serves only to stifle any chance for creative exploration that some of these students might not find outside of school. It seems counter-productive to penalize students who struggle with certain subjects by removing from their curriculum certain other subjects in which they might flourish if simply given the chance.

Imagine if Picasso had struggled mightily with numbers, not scoring high enough on some standard test, therefore having all other subjects removed from his school day. Sounds silly doesn't it, but that is in essence what is happening. Subjects like the arts are being shoved to the wayside in favor of higher test scores and federal funding. To take money away from schools and school districts for any reason is asinine at best. If anything, schools that struggle should receive some kind of a boost from government. Look no further than right here in Ohio to witness how government on all levels seems to be asleep behind the proverbial wheel when it comes to education.

With each installment of the nightly news there seems to be another report of some school district cutting, and even slashing its budget. Subsequently, schools are closed, teachers are laid off, programs are cut and class sizes are increased to almost unbearable numbers. These bulging, ever-expanding classrooms create anything but an environment conducive to learning. With students packed elbow-to-elbow in a room, how can a teacher give each one the attention he or she needs? How can standardized test scores go anywhere but down? The fault for this, however, does not lie with the teachers. With the size of classes increasing, their numbers waning and the pressure for their students to perform well come test time, they face ever-daunting challenges. Soon, we will be lucky if there are any teachers left to fill public classrooms.

Teaching for the test is one of the greatest evils created by No Child Left Behind. It is creating a generation of students who will be trained in the regurgitation of information. They will be able to spit out what their teachers have taught them when the correct time comes, but they will have gained little analytical or creative prowess.

A decent, well-rounded public education should be a right afforded to those who seek it, not simply a privilege obtained by those with the highest test scores. And school districts should not have to perform well in some dog-and-pony education show in order to avoid penalty. The tests should be used to identify strengths and weaknesses so that district knows what it needs to improve upon, not to limit its funding or the types of classes students are allowed to take. If we as a country truly value the education of our children, then we better begin rebuilding our public school system into something that doesn't resemble a broken down merry-go-round.

Brock Kingsley is a sophomore in English. He can be reached at kingsley.12@osu.edu.

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