I’ve been reading a lot of headlines lately about NCLB leaving out the over-achievers and potential leaders in our schools. Joanne Jacobs mentions it in her article, “What About the Smart Kids?” and the NYTimes and the Common Core blog both have touched on this latest Fordham report that claims that the achievement gap is closing, but from the bottom up.
Nobody can deny that this is happening, but there is also another symptom of NCLB that has slowly passed like a plague of yore over our schools, the disappearance of electives from the schedules of the middle-ground students.
OK, so the recent scenario is this: I was talking to two young ladies the other day about their electives program. In our school, you get one elective in 7th grade and two in eighth grade. But if you require double math in eighth grade you lose an elective. Still with me? OK.
So I’m talking to these two ladies and one of them says, “I don’t get it. I’m getting a B in math. I have a tutor at home. I stay after school for homework assistance. Why can’t I have Adv. French and Choir?”
Her friend turns to her and says,”I’m in Adv. French and Choir, but I have an F in math.” She smiles proudly at trumping her friend as 13-year-old girls occasionally are wont to do.
So it now goes like this. In an attempt to help boost up the school scores, the school (under our previous administration) decided to cut their loses and just focus on the group that could show the most improvement. We were not most likely to see a great increase in the accomplishments of our lowest performing groups. But if we focus our efforts on the middle-of-the-road group to push them up and over into the achieving categories, then surely we will have addressed the needs of NCLB.
Well, we may have addressed the law of NCLB but not the intent of the law.
So now here we have one of many F students with two electives and our hard-working B students are being shoved into double-math at the expense of discovering an activity of interest to them that they may never again have the opportunity to audition for themselves for free.
We may have addressed the NCLB law in this, our own reworking of education cause-and-effect, but we have, as a result, lost more well rounded kids overall.
I think it was originally a well-intentioned attempt to cut our loses as a PI school, but in so doing, we are sending a horrible message to the students: You can slack off in math, but don’t be late to your karaoke “Wicked” rehearsal.