Tuesday, April 24, 2007

this is just wrong

There's an article on MSNBC about the high-pressure nature of early elementary education:
Brian And Tiffany Aske of Oakland, Calif., desperately want their daughter, Ashlyn, to succeed in first grade. That's why they're moving—to Washington State. When they started Ashlyn in kindergarten last year, they had no reason to worry. A bright child with twinkling eyes, Ashlyn was eager to learn, and the neighborhood school had a great reputation. But by November, Ashlyn, then 5, wasn't measuring up. No matter how many times she was tested, she couldn't read the 130-word list her teacher gave her: words like "our," "house" and "there." She became so exhausted and distraught over homework—including a weekly essay on "my favorite animal" or "my family vacation"—that she would put her head down on the dining-room table and sob. "She would tell me, 'I can't write a story, Mama. I just can't do it'," recalls Tiffany, a stay-at-home mom.

The teacher didn't seem to notice that Ashlyn was crumbling, but Tiffany became so concerned that she began to spend time in her daughter's classroom as a volunteer. There she was both disturbed and comforted to see that other kids were struggling, too. "I saw kids falling asleep at their desks at 11 a.m.," she says. At the end of the year, Tiffany asked the teacher what Ashlyn could expect when she moved on to the first grade. The requirements the teacher described, more words and more math at an even faster pace, "were overwhelming. It was just bizarre."

 
And we thought the charter school assigned too much homework.
 
Geez, what is it with people? I'm proud of how well our kids have done in school, and of their academic achievements. I like it that they're at the top of their class, but really, do we have to rob kids of the chance to be children in order to make them read, write and do math before they're ready? (Yeah, I know I've been guilty some times of putting too much pressure on our kids. The fault is mine as well.)
 
As a reporter I saw how much of an onus No Child Left Behind was placing on schools, and often in outrageous and unreasonable ways. There's a lot of ways American public schools are failing to educate our children -- though, to be honest, the fault doesn't lie entirely with the schools, as parents and TV have a lot to do with it too -- but overworking and overtesting kids hardly seems to be the way to go about fixing it.
 
I wonder how long it will be until No Child Left Behind gets scrapped.

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