No Child Left Behind

If you don’t actually know what “No Child Left Behind” entails, don’t feel badly. I don’t know what all it entails either. The people who wrote the legislation don’t even know what it entails, because things with that law are still a little fluid.

What I know is that I am a teacher. . .and it has long been my goal that no child be left anywhere they aren’t supposed to be–whether that is in the wrong grade, in the cafeteria, or at the museum after a field trip. That being said. . .

I keep on finding inconsistencies in things that we are supposed to be doing for children. SOME of the inconsistencies are “oversights” or “too much too fast” or “too little too late.” Some is that people simply are not doing their job. The former happens to all of us. The latter is turning me into a watch dog for middle school aged children.

I taught a kid two years ago. He’s a weird kid. He had REALLY thick, REALLY long, jet black hair. He “cussed” like a sailor. He drew pictures of naked women (and did a darn fine job, I might add) in his history journal. He still has the hair. . .I’ve not been privy to the other two things in the last two years. He is also BRILLIANT when it comes to reading. He can absorb and regurgitate a very thick, very detailed novel and do some quality anime drawings that go along with it. He has been commended on the reading portion of TAKS the past the past four years. He is HORRIBLE in math. . .and failed it in7th grade. He also failed 7th grade Texas History. I found out the other day that he has been placed in a “reading workshop” class. That is a class for kids who either failed reading TAKS or are 3 grade levels below reading. He’s not even 3 grade levels above in reading. . .he’s several more.

I began investigating why he had been placed in reading workshop. I started by e-mailing the counselor to see if he had, in fact, failed 7th reading TAKS. He had not. He HAD failed 7th grade math and Texas History. It was then that I found out he had been placed in a reading workshop class as “punishment–his consequence” for NOT attending summer school for Texas History. He did attend for math. Now, I found that a bit odd. First of all, you’re wasting this kid’s brain power. Secondly, you are taking a seat in a class that should go to someone else and/or adding a kid to a teacher’s load that doesn’t belong there. Well, I investigated further and higher up and found that it was, indeed, the decision of the retention board that this child should be punished for not attending summer school but COULD be placed in a different class at semester based upon his performance. I decided that I would make a lesson plan for him to do in reading workshop if I had to. . .read and outline To Kill a Mockingbird. . .or read “The Ransom of Red Chief” by O.Henry and draw a comic strip of it. He’s in my mentee’s class, so I have some leverage.

Alright. So I taught this kid upper level reading AND had him in homeroom and was one of the FEW teachers not completely weirded out by him. We hit if off. I didn’t always yell at him. He never drew pictures of naked women in my class. . .he did curse occasionally, but never AT me. He still speaks to me in the halls. So I find him today and say,
“Dude, what’s up with you being in reading workshop?”
He says, “It’s a mistake, but don’t get me out.”
“Why not?”
“Well, it’s an easy 100, and I have friends in there.”
“It’s actually NOT a mistake. You’re in there because you didn’t go to summer school for Texas History.”
(Totally shocked) “They said I wouldn’t be punished for that.”

WHOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAA. Hold on. . .WHAT????

“What do you mean ‘They told you’?”
“Well, I signed up for it in summer school, but there weren’t enough kids to make the class, so they called and said I didn’t have to take it since there wouldn’t be a class, and I wouldn’t be punished for it.”
“What were you GOING to take rather than reading workshop?”
“Keyboarding.” (I find out later that keyboarding is for highschool credit–which will do him a lot more good since he should be in honors English classes.)

Then we have the whole why-did-you-fail-TX-history discussion. The answer was that he didn’t like his teacher. . .then we had the whole if-you-fail-the-class-you-don’t-hurt-the-teacher-who-do-you-hurt talk. He knew all the right answers blah, blah, blah. He would still RATHER be in reading workshop for his 13-year-old reasons listed above, but he NEEDS to be in keyboarding.

My ENTIRE POINT BEING. When we say “no child left behind” that means the smart kids too
. . .even if they fail math. . .even if they fail TX history. . .even if they don’t attend summer school. . .and even if they are weird. If you are going to give him a seat in reading workshop where he does not belong–then you might as well give him a seat in TX History instead–he doesn’t belong there either–but that’s what he failed!

I have made the grade level assistant principal aware of the situation. I have drafted an e-mail to the director of instruction (with whom I’ve spoken once in my investigation and hold in the highest regard) and am awaiting confirmation that I should send it.

As mortified and angry as I am about the situation, the pleaser in me. . .the “leave things along that don’t concern you” part of me is nagging away. This is not the only inconsistency I’ve found this year. This is not the only drum I’m beating. I hate to be seen as the whistle blower all the time, but I know that my responsibility is not to the administration but to the kids.

I know I’m right. I know that putting my butt on the line for this kid and stepping on several toes in the process is the right thing to do. But it’s the end of a very long day here, and I’m needin’ some support.

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9 thoughts on “No Child Left Behind

  1. I really wish there were more teachers like you; seriously. I’m all for more pay for teachers. I admire you all – well the ones who really care and who haven’t given up on the kids and who don’t just go through the motions just because that’s what they’ve always done. Thank you for what you do. You keep fighting and stepping on toes all the way!

  2. Oh, Roxanne, I’m so proud of you! The poltics is why I never want to teach in the public school again! I’m happy SOMEONE puts the weird, angry kids in perspective. Keep truckin’ and trying to make stuff right.

    Punishment by reading – what’s wrong with that statement?

  3. Keep at it, Lady. That’s exactly what happened to Jason all through school. He tested right at genius on all the tests, but since he had ADD and couldn’t stand the boredom of doing repetitious homework over and over, they treated him like a problem kid and refused to work with him. He didn’t learn how to drudge through it and make the A’s til college. Now I see the school here doing the same thing to a fifth grade friend of ours. His non-ADD brother gets to be in the GATE program, while our friend, who they know to be brilliant, gets stuck in remedial classes pulling his hair out. He actually answers the questions wrong when his teacher calls on him, because he’s so angry that he doesn’t want to even give her an inkling that he already read the whole book the first week of class. Jason spends lots of time with him, but I wish there were something more we could do. I just don’t understand how they can hold him back like that, when they’re the ones who tested him and found out how intelligent he is. There’s something really wrong with that. Keep up the good work!

  4. Thank God for teachers like you. Sometimes it is that one teacher that really makes a difference in the life of a kid like that. Im sure he’s brilliant. Ah for an education system that could support intelligence whereever it found it!

  5. That kid is lucky to have you on his side. Stick to your guns!

    You definitely have a gift of relating to those ‘weird’ ones 😉

    Did I ever tell you about the time W drew a picture of the nude Rose, as inspired by Jack in the movie Titanic?

    It wasn’t bad either, for a 2nd grader!

    I am so inspired reading this recounting of your day. Yay blawgging!

  6. Okay, I stopped BACK by to cheer you on b/c I didn’t have time to comment the first time, and now I can’t think about anything but Stephanie’s son drawing a nude in 2nd grade. As a 2nd grade teacher, I HOPE I would appreciate the art there!

    I digress. (which is why we’re friends) If that whole scenario had happened where my own children go to school, parents would have been at the doorstep of the school the first day that kid was put in reading workshop with their screaming lawyer in tow. He needs someone to scream for him. Since it does happen to be your occupation, you will have to be more of a drippy faucet than screamer, but keep dripping.

  7. Very interesting and touching and infuriating story–all at once. This might be a good “letter to the editor” for your local newspaper if you felt comfortable doing so.

    With his talents, who knows–this child could be on a career path to becoming a graphic novelist. Perhaps you could show him some information about they do. If he has a goal, he might do better overall in all his classes. (Look at this article: http://www.jsonline.com/story/index.aspx?id=375353)

  8. I commend you for your efforts… no child left behind really means how much money can we spend on stupid tests that make our kids go to school in my world. I see college kids everyday who weren’t left behind because they could catch a football… I hate this for you and that kid…

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