When something is worth saving, you fix it, otherwise it needs to be thrown in the trash. The debate over how to "fix" No Child Left Behind has begun as the drumbeat for more funding and national standards dominate the discourse. A recent editorial in the New York Times on the "needed fixes" for NCLB yielded the following responses from around the country on why changes to NCLB won't fix what's broken.
To the Editor:
When a significant segment of the school-age population is homeless, hungry, upset by discussions over possible or actual loss of health insurance, inability to get health insurance, possible or actual loss of employment, and discussions on deficiencies in the household budget, they are not equipped to learn.
Students do not check these problems at the school door before they enter the classroom, and these students may often be absent from school.
The failure to deal with these problems makes improvement in this segment of the school population difficult.
Worse, the teachers who deal with these student populations will be unfairly judged deficient because of not being able to perform an impossible task.
This is not to diminish the needed improvements that your editorial notes.
Ken CurtisValley Park, Mo., Feb. 15, 2007 The writer is a retired high school teacher.
To the Editor:
You rightly recognize that school reform is at a historic crossroads in this country, but even if the 75 specific recommendations made by the bipartisan Commission on No Child Left Behind were carried out, they would do little in the final analysis to help students most in need.
The big deficits in socialization, motivation and intellectual development that they bring to class (through no fault of their own) will overwhelm efforts by the best teachers.
It will take intervention on an unprecedented scale in the lives of these students to significantly narrow the achievement gap that continues to plague the system.
Whether we have the will to take the necessary steps is another question.
Walt GardnerLos Angeles, Feb. 15, 2007 The writer taught for 28 years in the Los Angeles Unified School District and was a lecturer in the U.C.L.A. Graduate School of Education.