Friday, May 12, 2006

Leaving Good Teachers Behind

Here, from a commentary from the Lompoc Record, is another side of the story of the disaster known as NCLB. Para educators need to be 'highly qualified." These are people often with minimal skills and/or education, but with dedication and a real interest in kids. These are also the bottom of the wage stricture in most school systems. These people are necessary and do an important job. As with any job good people are always hard to find, so why make it harder? To help destroy public education, why else?

They call it No Child Left Behind. What they should call it is, Teacher's Aides Left Behind.

The No Child Left Behind program was supposedly designed to ensure that kids get a good education and that a high school diploma actually means something. No problem with that.

What I do have a problem with is the fact that somebody, somewhere had the bright idea to require teacher's aides to take a version of the test in order to keep their jobs. This in spite of the fact that some, but certainly not all, of these aides don't need to have a working knowledge of much of anything academic in nature in order to do their job. Let me give you an example.

My family has a close friend who has had various odd jobs working for the school district for some 20 years. Most of the jobs she has had were blue-collar in nature. Over time, she and the kids she worked with discovered she had a gift with disabled children. She has had a couple of different jobs working with these kids, none of which require her to teach anything that would for instance, require the use of math.

Having been out of high school for some 30 years, like most of us, she has forgotten how to find the area of a circle or multiply fractions. She never did take algebra.

But the important thing is, she has all the love and patience in the world to spend all day with kids who need her to help them with some fairly rudimentary skills. The kids, their parents and the school district she works for are lucky to have her.

But she could lose her job if she can't pass the standardized test that is being required by mandate of the federal government. Adding to this problem is the fact that the local school district could not have done a worse job in helping the aides prepare for the test.

The school district, for some reason, only gave my friend and her fellow teacher's aides a grand total of a week's notice that they were going to have to take this test!

I believe that aides working in an academic position should have a basic knowledge of the subject at hand. But it was terribly unfair for the district to in effect give a pop quiz to some employees that were never noticed before they were hired that they would need to have certain skill sets that were outside of their scope of job responsibilities. Neither did the district offer any training or practice sessions to help the aides brush up on stuff they haven't been using for decades and probably won't ever have to use again.

Can you imagine being threatened with losing your job because you didn't know how to do something that is irrelevant to your job?

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