Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Robbing Elementary Students of Their Childhood: The Perils of No Child Left Behind

Works Cited
Henley PH. D., J., McBride PH. D., J., D., M. P., & Nichols ED. D., J. (2007). Robbing Elementary Students of Their Childhood: The Perils of No Child Left Behind. Education , 128 (1), 56-63.

This article details the struggles students, teachers, and administrators are encountering with the implementation of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act. The article beings with a brief description of the now seemingly desolate campus of Maple Street Elementary School. The reason for the desolation is attributed to the restraints of NCLB and the increasing pressure teachers are facing to increase instructional time. Schools are making a decision to cut recess, P.E., sports, art, and music programs. Although a brief playground description is initially included, not much else is described setting wise to allow the reader to visualize the school and its habitants. The article continues to describe how detrimental it is to cut these programs, which foster a “whole education”. The authors cite several health groups such as the Center for Disease Control and The National Association for Sport and Physical Education to help support their claims.

In addition, the article also details the threats NCLB is making to Gifted and Talented Programs as well as individualized education for students with disabilities. Parents with children in both camps voice their disapproval of how NCLB is negatively impacting the type of education their children are getting. They feel as if their gifted students are not challenged because the focus is now being put solely on students that are not meeting state testing standards. They also feel that their disabled students are not receiving education according to their capabilities and are rather being mainstreamed and held accountable to “frightening” state standards. The article concludes with a brief summary of how NCLB is negatively impacting all students, nationwide.

This article does not go into detail as to what methods they used to gather their data nor does it describe the setting of their study effectively. The elementary school they are reporting on is stated to be a “metaphor for elementary schools across the nation”. (56) They have concluded that this is a good school to use to make assumptions about other schools nationwide because it supposedly “mirrors” attendance, student ability levels, family compositions, and diversity of an average school. The article fails to go into great length about what these qualifications are defined as or what they imply.

Although I can relate to and agree with the conclusions that this article makes (that NCLB is harming students), the study seems biased. I felt like the information presented was dramatized and limited. For example, the article claims that because of NCLB, “Daddies’ old long sleeve shirts that were handed down to children to cover up school clothes to keep from being stained with tempura paint and water colors are no longer needed.” (56) These seems a bit extreme, and the claim is not supported with data, but rather coming from a personal bias to the situation and climate created by NCLB. However, I do believe that this article can be of use to educators. I would not use it as a source of hard data to back up personal research, but rather as an anecdote to what NCLB is doing to “some” students and how it is affecting at least ONE school in the United States.

I am interested in how NCLB affects students in school across America. Seeing the effects of NCLB in my own classroom, I was drawn to the title of this article while researching. It made me think about how NCLB is affecting the art, music, P.E., gifted and talented, and resource specialist programs at my own school. I am able to see how these programs are the first to get cut in light of recent budget issues and the increasing pressure to raise test scores. I was interested to learn how one school has cut its recess to increase student instructional time. This is something that has not occurred yet at my school, but I have heard of other schools within my district adopting the idea of an “optional” recess. An optional recess is where teachers are free to make the decision to allow their students to go to recess or not. If they do, they are responsible for watching the students as well as making up instructional time in other ways (i.e. cutting an art or music lesson). I believe that all of the programs listed above, as well as recess, are incredibly important to a student’s access to a well-rounded education. Many of my students have demonstrated the need to have extra-curricular activities as well as breaks during the day to release pent up energy and develop appropriate socializing skills.

Relevant Quotes/Citations:
-“Across the nation, traditional school days, instructional programs, and programs such as recess, music, and art, along with programs for the gifted and educationally disabled, have been eliminated or altered beyond recognition.” (56)

-“In many cases, parents are becoming vocal and angry in what they see as a set of standards that are robbing children of activities that develop them affectively and socially.” (57)

-“According to U.S. Education Secretary Margaret Spelling, the nation’s parents and educators have had expectations that are undeniably too low, resulting in a set of standards and goals that have reflected those expectations for students. Spelling credits NCLB for the raising of those standards and indicates that the nation’s education report card is improving with encouraging results indicated by reading scores that have increased more in the last 5 years than in the previous 29 years combined.” (57)

-“In One western state, teachers were provided a two-day day seminar on strategies for improving test scores. The presenter explained that teachers should not be concerned about students who scored in the bottom or top quartile since it was the students in the middle who statistically made the most gains in scores.” (59)

-“All of the assessment in not free. A report by the Government Accountability Office estimated that states will spend between 1.9 to 5.3 billion dollars to develop, score and report the tests required by NCLB (Associated Press, 2007). One just has to question that if all that money was to be put back into schools for teaching students, training teachers, lowering student-to-teacher rations, and updating schools resources, would not our nation’s children be much better served?” (61)


Stacey Caillier said...

This is a thoughtful summary of the articles main points and the quotes you pulled out are terrifying (to say the least). I'd love to know what this article made you think of? How does it relate to what you are seeing in your school? And did you agree with the points being made, and feel they were well supported?

Ashley Walker said...


I just revisited this article and edited to include the concepts we discussed in class regarding a more thorough annotation. To your delight, I have included my own reflections and evaluations of the article! :-)

Stacey Caillier said...

I am indeed delighted!!

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