Let's face it- No Child Left Behind sucks. It strips teachers of their most valuable asset- sovereignty. Teachers can no longer rely on their experiences and instincts to make sure each and every child has an amazing educational experience. We have strict standards. Standardized tests. Accountability.
Schools were already ill-prepared to handle the rapid change represented by the Internet age. Schools were designed to churn out factory workers then later white collar workers. Automation and outsourcing have effectively killed most careers our schools were designed to train. NCLB makes the problem infinitely worse. Teachers and administrators may have been able to navigate the rapid changes of the Internet age, but not under the oppressive weight of NCLB.
The task is Herculean- prepare kids from a diverse background to take tests that are marginally valid with ever-growing "adequate yearly progress" to avoid stiff funding penalties. It forces schools to teach to the test. Gone are creativity, autonomy, and even dignity. Kids are reduced to numbers. If most kids were unmotivated by school in the past, they're REALLY unmotivated now.
The worst part- kids aren't stupid. They realize their schools are doing a poor job of preparing them for the world they'll soon enter. The age-old question 'Why do I have to learn this?" has never been more relevant.
So what are we to do?
Teachers and administrators need to take three steps:
1. Eek out as much freedom as possible, then use that freedom to let kids explore using organic learning. We get so involved in trying to solve the riddle of teaching kids in schools, we sometimes forget every human can learn perfectly well on their own outside school. It's all about intrinsic motivation.
2. Become marketers. There ARE good things being taught in schools. Unfortunately, those good things are being obscured by a lot of unnecessary crap. We need to do a better job of selling ourselves, our schools, and the genuinely good things we have to offer.
3. Put ourselves in a position to hit "eject." Far too many teachers and administrators build a lifestyle that makes it impossible to leave. If we're part of a district that's not aggressively seeking authentic change, we need to get out.
What do you think? Do you have any other useful tips? Share them in the comments section!