October 19, 2007

Commentary:

No child left behind… Disregard the Minorities

By April Jimenez

The infamous 2002 No Child Left Behind act passed by the Bush administration was first received as a much needed breakthrough for education, the long overdue step forward for the children in low achieving schools. The promising act guaranteed America a better quality education for every student. Its aims were to narrow the brutal achievement gap between ethnicities and ensure better qualified teachers in low performing schools. However, six years later we can see that in its attempt to help the pobrecitos in the poorly funded, poorly taught and poorly resourced schools, NCLB has had a harmful affect on students who are in most need of help, more specifically the minorities. NCLB has two major flaws that greatly hinder the advancement of Hispanic students as well as other minorities. The first flaw is the countless negative side affects of mandatory state testing and secondly, is NCLB’s failure to rectify the grossly inequitable allotment of qualified teachers.

One of the major problems with the high-stakes testing set fourth NCLB is that it has caused an increase in dropout rates among high school Latinos, according to the April 2006 article “Congress Leaders to Probe No Child Scoring” in the Bay State Banner. Many Latinos and other students from different backgrounds have a difficult time with these exams and time and again under perform in comparison to White students. The English Language Learners have an especially difficult time in taking the exams; since ELL’s are regularly forced to take state tests without proper modifications they often have the lowest test scores (Bay State Banner). States were required to report graduation rates to the U.S. Department of Education in 2003 and 2005. Michelle Adams writes in Education Digest that the Education Trust reported that states have reported numbers that overestimate graduation rates far beyond reliable estimates provided by independent agents. Bob Wise, president of the Alliance for Excellent Education wrote in the San Jose Mercury News Letter that according to independent estimates, 57.8 percent of Latino students in the United States graduate with a regular diploma, compared with 76.2 percent of White students. The reason for reporting overestimated scores is the schools fear of facing the many sanctions that a low performing school must deal with.

For the poorly resourced schools that do report low scores, they can expect something like Principal Silvia Gonzales had to face. Chris Moran of the San Diego Union-Tribune wrote in September 2007 that Gonzales, principal of Balboa Elementary in southern San Diego, was forced by NCLB to replace 70 percent of her teachers. Not only do low test scores push teachers out, but they also make it impossible to attract good teachers. Many schools like this have been forced to suffer through a revolving door of amateur teachers. Until congress makes great revisions to this act, Balboa and other schools like it will continue with their loosing streak.

Linda-Darling-Hammond, a leading education expert, wrote in The Nation in May 2007 that America has one of the most unequal educational systems in the industrialized world. Unfortunately, Latino students and other minorities continue to suffer under the appalling inequality. This is awfully daunting for America’s future since, according to Bob Wise in the San Jose Mercury News Letter, the U.S. Census Bureau expects the Hispanic population to increase by 77 percent and the white population in the United States to only grow by 1 percent. Without immediately revision and managing of NCLB’s horrible flaws, California’s future looks frightening.

Jimenez is a student at San Diego State University.

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