Every year, more-and-more good students are the victim of No Child Left Behind.
The vaunted federal program that requires schools to make annual yearly progress in bringing its students up to proficiency (or suffer penalties) is abandoning the average and good students. By 2014, all schools will have all students up to a minimum proficiency level “or else” face a variety of penalties. Each year, this jack-booted dictate has caused more schools to shift resources to the lowest performing students.
Gifted and special programs for the exceptional students are having funding pulled and are losing staff. Schools are diverting resources to keep the lowest-performing student scores rising–making “adequate yearly progress” or AYP.
Some teachers report—off the record—that they have been instructed to divert time and attention away from students whose reading skills exceed a certain competency level. Focus all efforts on the lowest performers, they are told. Administrators generally deny any such directive.
The NCLB penalties trigger only for schools not bringing the lowest students up to the proficiency threshold. There is no reward for moving average students to a higher level, or for working with gifted students at all.
Evidence that average and gifted students are being abandoned at more Kansas schools, under the pressure from NCLB, is increasing everyday.
A nationwide study of high school dropouts last January revealed that only one-third of those students were actually flunking classwork. Two-thirds were quitting school because they were utterly bored!
Parents desperate for courses to challenge their students have pressured for more concurrent enrollment with college credit courses. The Kansas Legislature and Board of Regents have obliged by extending such college coursework down to high school students who have finished their freshman year. Early college coursework for what should be a few exceptionally mature students is becoming a flood of somewhat average high school students seeking challenging courses and premature credit.
Another direct consequence of NCLB is the exodus of professional teachers who are not willing to teach-to-the-test. Combined with college students who do not desire to become assembly-line teachers, NCLB is the major factor underlying the science teacher shortage.
With too few science teachers to teach a full range of beginning to advanced science courses, some schools (especially the medium and small rural schools) have to cut the advanced courses in order to staff the basic courses that teach-to-the-all-important state assessment. This deprives students of advanced biology and other science courses that are the springboard to science careers.
By forcing schools into the impossible task of bringing absolutely every low-performing student up to proficiency, more schools must leave more of our average and good students behind.
John Richard Schrock trains biology teachers and lives in Emporia, KS.