The Children Left Behind

n Wednesday, April 25, 2012,  students from Detroit’s Western International High School walked out of class to join Southwestern High School students to protest against school closures and to demand a better education.

Southwestern is set to close and potentially overcrowd Western and Northwestern. According to Detroit’s Board of Education, some 180 students were suspended from both schools because of their protest participation. 

A Facebook page explains students have chosen to attend their own “freedom school” for the extent of their suspension; making their actions more than just youthful antics.

In 2001, former President George W. Bush enacted No Child Left Behind, landmark educational reform. This legislation established standard state testing in math, reading comprehension and history. 

Today, many argue that standardized testing does not accurately test a student’s individual mastery nor does it improve overall learning.

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The attempt to define and provide adequate education despite one’s ethnicity, gender or social standing seems to be the question of the millennium. It is a problem that has not been appropriately solved by legislation and has reached the concern of young students-not just parents and teachers.

The Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) stated that “in 2006, the United States ranked 14th in Reading, 25th in Science, and 25th in Mathematics out of 30 nations.” PISA has ranked the knowledge and skill of 15 year olds in 70 countries since 2000. 

On the 2009 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) math test, American “fourth graders showed no sign of progress for the first time in many years,” while 8th graders barely showed any growth. 

In 2011, the Michigan Department of Education reported that 17 percent of students are college-ready based on ACT’s set standards. The “Yes We Can: The Schott 50 State Report on Public Education and Black Males,” reported Detroit as one of the worst performing districts because of its 27 percent black male graduation rate.

So, how do we make education “the process of imparting or acquiring general knowledge, developing the powers of reasoning and judgment, and generally of preparing oneself or others intellectually for mature life?”

We cannot wiggle our noses, click are heels or run to the nearest telephone booth and expect a miracle.

Most recently, poorly rated and/or failing districts have begun to use the plans and actions of other successful districts to improve their schools-often gathering inspiration from entirely different states. However, is it enough to adopt their frameworks without the existence of educational equality?

On many online educational forums, complaints are lodged in matters such as school security, learning despite disability, the nonexistence of single gender schools/classrooms, millennium ready/relevant curriculum, the absence of qualified teachers, the competence of “No Child Left Behind,” the lack of parent involvement, charter schools as an effective alternatives, appropriate disciplinary actions and much more.

In 2009, filmmaker Cevin Soling directed “The War on Kids.” For six years, he compiled the testimony of educators, authors, medical professionals and students that concluded that overall the “problem with public education ultimately stem from the institution itself.”

Soling found that “astonishingly all efforts to reform consistently avoid even considering this to be a possibility.” In the documentary, Soling also compares public school systems to prison systems.

The documentary discusses the alarming rate of suspension as well as the disturbing emphasis on discipline versus curriculum. One interviewee stated that teachers should be required to want to teach children, should love children.

The debates, documentaries, school closings, jaw-dropping school incidents, lack of parents at parent teacher conferences, shortage of competent teachers, and groundbreaking student failure represent a strong need to scrap any concepts that no longer work regardless of what history has proven.

In December 2011, “The Atlantic,” published an article titled “What Americans Keep Ignoring about Finland’s School Success.” The caption below read “The Scandinavian country is an education superpower because it values equality more than excellence.”

Maybe equality does breed excellence, but if the institution that teaches society structures its philosophy with the dynamics of its penal system, how can we expect scholarship?

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