If you want to witness the height of absurdity, you have to look no further. I invite any of the NCLB apologists to defend this, if they can. They won’t because they can’t. It is just the natural progression of drunkenness from a drunk/high law.
I’ve discussed on numerous occasions how absurd it is that students with an IQ of less than 25 have to show progression in the standard curriculum. The Georgia Alternate Assessment (GAA) is supposed to show some sort of progression in the regular education curriculum thus meeting the mandates of NCLB. Up until now, those students undergoing the GAA received a special education diploma which is essentially a certificate of completion and little else. It’s only fair, since these students are not taking the regular education classes, could not ever pass the end of course tests or the graduation tests. They can not do the work or even a reasonable facsimile thereof. The GAA is NOT even close to the regular curriculum. My students will never write a research paper. They are pretty high functioning if they write their name! I have students who I work with on recognizing their own name and still can’t do it after 4 years! So giving them a standard diploma would seem to be some sort of sick joke and totally out of the realm of reality.
Now I have been told that this is about to change.
According to the latest information handed down from our county office, those students who pass the GAA will be getting a standard diploma.
From the merely absurd to the outrageously ridiculous. It’s the most abnormous* phase of NCLB but at the same time it is just a logical progression as school districts are forced to game the system. For those still absorbing this, let me paint a picture…
Jim and Larry are two students who are severely and profoundly intellectually disabled respectively. They are currently going through the GAA which means doing several tasks that show they have access to grade level standards. Jim can not speak but he can at least use the bathroom independently. Larry functions at the level of an 11 month old. There are many ways to fail the GAA but none of those ways have anything to do with student achievement. Tameka is actually a pretty bright girl, but she is on her 4th or 5th try passing the Georgia High School Graduation Test (GHSGT). She took algebra, geometry American literature , physical science, biology and world history among other requirements in order to get sufficient credits in order to graduate from teachers specializing in those content areas. She has no diploma of any sort and she will not get one until she passes that test. Jim and Larry will pass their GGAs. Jim and Larry will get standard diplomas but as of this writing, Tameka will not.
Now let’s talk a second about accountability, which proponents of NCLB like to glom all over. Tameka is one of a class of 400 or so. Jim and Larry are part of the class but the GAA group consists of less than 30. When a student fails the GHSGT, it counts against the school for making AYP. However, as an individual, there is no one pressuring her teachers to get her to pass this test. There is no directive issued: TAMEKA MUST PASS THIS TEST OR ELSE! That is not the case with Jim and Larry. Remember, the GAA is not really based on student achievement. It is based on teacher achievement. I have a figurative gun pointed at my head to get them to pass that assessment. Last year I got a nasty letter in my file even though my students passed it, so passing is not even the sole criteria in this thing. But none of Tameka’s teachers got a letter in their file stating that they did not do enough to get Tameka to pass the GHSGT. As long as enough other students pass the test for the school to make AYP, Tameka’s teachers can move on with what they are doing. My kids will get a standard diploma, not because they have learned physical science, but because I was clever enough to assemble a portfolio that shows they had access to the curriculum. Tameka will not get a standard diploma because she has failed the test. It could be because she did not study or work hard enough while doing the coursework, and this is the assumption as long as other students do pass. How, exactly, does this show accountability when teachers of students with IQ’s below 25 are held to a more rigorous standard than those who teach kids with a normal IQ? Or to put it another way, how is accountability demonstrated when the students who have little or no accountability are awarded a diploma when students who are given greater responsibility are denied it on the basis of a single test?
The devastating truth is that a student like Tameka who takes all the classes and does all the work and has actual potential of holding a competitive job may be locked out, while my students will be given the standard diploma even though they will never hold a competitive job and will be recipients of welfare for the rest of their lives. Any system that awards the standard diploma on anything other than student achievement is a farce. Any system that esteems accountability on the basis of anything other than student achievement is worthy of nothing but contempt.
NCLB is worthy of nothing but contempt because Tameka is being left behind while Larry and Jim will be getting credentials that they do not know or care about. Tameka cares deeply about getting her diploma. Larry could care less as long as someone is there to feed him and wipe his bottom. For him, these are major priorities. Tameka passed all of her classes and did all the work and could get a higher paying job, enabling her to produce more in order to pay taxes that could help support people like Jim and Larry. But she will have to live with the minimum wage while Jim and Larry will have less and less services available to help them because of resources that are increasingly scarce. In fact, Tameka herself may join them on the welfare role.
*abnormous – A portmanteau of absurd and enormous