Monday, September 17, 2007

Some NCLB Info

So, they're going to be reauthorizing NCLB before too long. It's been such a success, evidently, so why not?

Valerie Moon at Home Education Magazine had an interesting little tidbit about some language in the new discussion draft, which I guess is government-speak for draft, for the NCLB reauthorization, sponsored by Representatives George Miller and Howard P. "Buck" McKeon, who sit on the Committee on Education and Labor. NCLB has nothing to do with homeschooling, of course, but Moon points out an interesting little paragraph having to do with yet another government tentacle reaching inside American homes.

Quoting from the discussion draft:

‘‘(d) SHARED RESPONSIBILITIES FOR IMPROVED STUDENT ACADEMIC ACHIEVEMENT.—As a component of the school-level parental involvement policy developed under subsection (b), each school served under this part shall jointly develop with parents for all children served under this part a school-parent compact that outlines how parents, the entire school staff, and students will share the responsibility for improved student academic achievement and the means by which the school and parents will build and develop a partnership to help children achieve the State’s high standards. Such compact shall—

(1) describe the school’s responsibility to provide high-quality curriculum and instruction in a supportive and effective learning environment that enables the children served under this part to meet the State’s student academic achievement standards, and the ways in which each parent will be responsible for supporting their children’s learning, such as monitoring attendance, monitoring homework completion, and monitoring television watching; volunteering in their child’s classroom; and participating, as appropriate, in decisions relating to the education of their children and positive use of extracurricular time; (emphasis added)

The wording of this draft is indicative of two things. The first is the fact the government is inviting itself into our homes via our children. Second, the method by which this happening is slow, stealthy, and probably under the radar.

I guess these legislators decided that poor parents were being left out of the NCLB fun. No longer content with holding mere schools and teachers responsible for student achievement, now they suggest that parents and schools delineate each other's responsibilities. How long before this so-called compact becomes a contract? Schools and teachers can expect adverse consequences if they don't uphold their responsibilities under NCLB. What kinds of consequences will parents of unimproved children face?

Who decides the appropriate ways in which parents should monitor their child's school attendance? Or television viewing? If the wording of this draft makes it through the legislative process, I can see how this might play out. At first, schools/teachers and parents will sit down together to discuss the parents' side of the deal. After a year or two, the school will just send home a list of recommendations for the parents to sign and return. Soon, the states will develop state standards for TV-Monitoring for each age group, the parents' responsibilities, how many televisions can be in the home, suggested alternatives to tv viewing. Probably by then, the feds will tie your parental rate of compliance to tax incentives. Of course, extreme cases of parents failing to uphold their responsibilities in monitoring tv watching will result in more state intervention (that is, funding), up to and probably including losing your child. Sound extreme? Maybe. But when the state gets to decide what's best for your children in any area, when you cede your rightful parental responsibilities to the state, in the end, this is the risk you run.

Valerie Moon also correctly identifies the principle behind the strange wording "positive use of extracurricular time." LIFE is not extracurricular, that is, outside of the school. School is a part of life (for most), not the other way around. That wording really irks me because it's indicative of the extent to which the lives of children, and therefore their families, revolve around schools and school activities. The school--the state--should not define, recommend, standardize, monitor the activities of law-abiding citizens and their children with those kids are not in school. The courts have already ruled that kids can face school consequences for off-campus, non-campus activities. Students can be punished in school for things they wrote on their MySpace page. In my state, there is talk of jailing parents for truancy. In my county, parents do not determine if a school absence is excused or unexcused. When I was a kid, all the parent had to do was send a note and tell the school officials that the absence was for a good reason. That determination now comes from the state.

The state, via our schools, our children, has encroached on our freedoms too much already. This isn't just about unexcused absences or tv watching. Quite simply, it is not the job of the state to force parents to be good parents (as defined by the state). Hopefully, the language in this latest draft of the NCLB reauthorization bill will be removed before it comes to a vote.

By the way, I got information about this NCLB draft from Home Education Magazine, which is a great publication. Their writers, in particular Valerie Moon, stay on top of the politics of education in this country and generally identify the principles and ideas behind educational legislation in America. They are wonderful, and I encourage everyone reading this who is interested in education, not just homeschooling, to check out the magazine or the website.

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