Friday, February 03, 2006

Going beyond No Child Left Behind --

This from the San Diego Union Tribune, an opinion piece by Richard Louv. He has quite a bit to say but this is what struck me:
The brewing rebellion is particularly intense in Utah and Connecticut, states that are political polar opposites. In Connecticut, more than two-thirds of cities and towns have thrown their support in support of a lawsuit against the No Child Left Behind act. Connecticut's attorney general, Richard Blumenthal will argue the case today in U.S. district court, in New Haven.

Like many rebellions, this one has yet to offer much of an alternative for education reform, other than support for local control. If an overemphasis on standardized testing was failing to significantly increase literacy, what approach – or approaches – would work?

The debate about testing should not prevent a closer look at the forgotten environment in and around the school itself. Long before No Child Left Behind, school districts began to isolate students from the surrounding neighborhoods, from nature, from the non-cyber world.

Indeed, during the 1970s, many districts, including San Diego Unified, began to construct new schools with no windows. Educators argued that windows prevented students from concentrating; architects of these schools created “vision strips,” as they called them, thin slots at the tops of the walls that allowed some light to come into the room, but nothing else. Some vision.

Today, school districts are cutting recess and building schools with no playgrounds, even as Johnnie and Jeannie spend more of their time bent over a test or a video game. Meanwhile, a growing body of scientific knowledge points to immersion in the world, especially in nature, as one of the most effective ways – perhaps the most effective way – to help children learn. Standardized test scores might even improve, if no child were left inside.

Why would anyone think a quality environment for learning would be one with "vision strips?" We treat out pets better than this. The man has a point about getting kids outside more, don't you think?

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