Tuesday, November 01, 2005

New Orleans's Dirty Little Secret......

In a previous post , I alluded the problems that accompany the students we've acquired compliments of Hurricanes Katrina.

Judging from the comments I received and from what I'm reading in the papers the problems appear to be universal. Just about everywhere schools are enrolling students who are at least 1 if not 2 or 3 years below grade level. Last week we got a first grader who will be 9 in December. The child, who ought to be in the 4th grade is to big for the chairs and can read only a few simple words. We've a second grader who doesn't recognize the pattern in Brown Bear Brown Bear - a book all our kindergarten kids can quote verbatim.

In Dallas the school officials had to go into the shelters and explain that yes, Texas does have compulsory attendance laws and yes, they are enforced.

My school is low income, mostly ESL Hispanic and 85% Free and Reduced Lunch. Many of students our are poor, speak limited English, have difficult home lives and parents are who are barely literate and speak little English . We do a good job with what these parents send us. My principal always says "Our parents send us the best the kids they have, if they had any better they would send them too". Our reading and math TAKS scores are in the 90+%.

We're used to poverty and what accompanies it, as are most the schools these children are attending. FEMA Housing vouchers aren't accepted in Yuppie Puppy neighborhoods. But these kids have us reeling.

Something is very wrong here. The Shrub proudly touts No Child Left Behind and Schools to Standard and Test em, Test em, Test em, scantron. The TAKS test certainly runs our schools, our curriculum and our lives and we live and die by the scores.

In New Orleans, an entire public school system appears to be totally ineffective and has been for quite a number of years. No attempts have been made to fix it, or even to try to fix it. Where are all the guidelines, the standards, the watchers? Why wasn't New Orleans held to same standard as Texas? Somehow New Orleans managed to hide the failure of their public schools till the levees broke.

The flood waters managed to sweep much of the Lower 9th Ward away but somehow education or the lack thereof managed to rise to surface and float out into the rest of the nation.

The cleanup should be interesting to watch. I hope, for the children's sake it's up to the standards of Mr. Clean.


H0kie Erin said...

Teachers have been saying it for years, we don't need district-wide or ever state-wide standards, we need NATIONAL standards. Until we get that, things are gonna be difficult. When we get kids from Cleveland, generally they are a grade or two behind, same goes for kids from other states. Once in a while a kid will be ahead, but they generally move before test time. Grrr!

Julie said...

Man, that is so sad. Interesting what you said about the cleanup, though. Katrina seems to have exposed a lot more problems than just the bad levees.

MsAbcMom said...

As much as I hate the testing situation I know it is inevitable. With that in mind, we do need national standards. How can we possibly compare studnt across states when we don't even have a level playing field?

Casey said...

I wondered upon your blog as I was linking and looking all over. I very much enjoyed reading your thoughts and comments. I'd like to add you to my list of educator links.


Melissa said...

I agree with the need for national standards; we moved to Arkansas from Mississippi when my daughter was in first grade, and played catch up for a few months.

That said, I think there's a "well, we're at the bottom, so why bother" mentality going on here. Louisiana, Arkasas and Mississippi have vied for the bottom position for years now, and it's hard to get a populace moving when you've been trodden on for so long.

I admired Gov. Huckabee in Arkansas for actually trying to do something about the education system (consoldation of the smallest, poorest schools), but you wouldn't believe the resistance that met with, both in the state legislature and from the general population.

Perhaps, though it's sad to say, Hurricane Katrina was the shake-up New Orleans really needed.

Library Lady said...

I wish I could say I was shocked, but I'm not.

It's going to take a lot more than standardized tests and rhetoric about "No Child Left Behind". We need programs that encompass not just the child, but the whole family.

There's a lot of children who got "left behind" and have now grown up into the parents of these kids. Unless we do something for them as well, it's never going to get any better, no matter which politicians are in charge.