In 2002, when the “No Child Left Behind” education act was passed it was for educational reform targeted to change the use of Federal funds to close the achievement gap and improve the achievement levels of America’s students. The Federal funding required states to fund their own expenses in order to adhere to the law and gain the Federal monies.
Between 1965 and 2001, $120 billion a year in Federal dollars was allotted to close the achievement gap between rich and poor. Yet, today, we see this gap growing wider.
Now legislators are calling for a revamping of the law in order to make it more flexible and effective.
With 70% of inner city fourth graders unable to read at a basic level on national reading tests, concerns are being raised. Since our high school seniors trail students in Cyprus, China and South Africa on international math tests, educators are seeking ways to ameliorate those statistics for America. Nearly a third of students entering colleges and universities today are required to take remedial classes before they can even begin to participate in regular college courses.
So what is the hope of advocates of the “No Child Left Behind” law? The objective is the same as it was a decade ago. The methods, however, are now in question. How to make educators and school districts accountable for their performance is a mammoth undertaking. With states, like Texas, reducing state funds to schools, the problem of student achievement is increasingly frightening.
Teachers and schools are already burdened with the task of meeting high expectations for educators and more and more involved curricula. Frankly, teachers and schools need tons of assistance that is going to be missed when teachers, teacher assistants and whoever is considered “non-essential staff” are let go because of lack of funding.
One giant contribution which Americans can make toward improving the achievement of our students is by volunteering in the schools. Volunteerism, by its nature, is the giving of oneself, one’s talents and time. That is a service that cannot be legislated. Willing service from those who are equipped to offer it is the component that is embarrassingly missing in Elementary and Secondary Education in America today.
American adults have the ability to contribute and make a positive impact on children’s education. Teachers and Administrators need our help. Students who are “at risk” desperately need our help.
You’ve heard that old idealism ” If I can make a difference in the life of just one child…” Well, we can. It is not so difficult. In working with a Third Grader at a nearby Elementary School, I got a real kick out of his response to a simple suggestion aimed at reducing his obvious stress as he viewed a full page of text his teacher gave him to read. I just asked him to go the second page and read the questions first. Then I showed him how he could scan the passage for keywords that would lead him to the correct answers.
The passage was in the format used for the achievement test mandated by the state of Texas. He has to be able to manage that format in order to be successful. That little boy was thrilled and completed the assignment independently and with enthusiasm. We were both pleased. His teacher was relieved to know that he could work independently. After all, she has a lot of other students for whom she is accountable and she wants each of them to be successful.
Whether or not the “No Child Left Behind” education law remains a Federally funded initiative and is extended by the next school year, our help as educated adults may be crucial to students’ futures.
That tutoring session was just 45 minutes long. The student’s confidence in his abilities is growing exponentially. Volunteerism certainly is a “win-win” process! Try it. Help out in America’s mission to improve students’ achievement.