No Thoughts Left Behind

Two compelling stories today that we wanted to think more about. We couldn't choose, so we want to ask about them both. They're different. Hope it's not too much of a head snap. Here goes...

Education first.

Do you have kids in school, or do you work in schools? We're asking because we really want to know how parents, teachers, kids feel about the education reform measure, No Child Left Behind. It's five years old, it's up for renewal, and we know it's extremely controversial. One of our guests said that "hated" is NOT too strong a word to describe its reception in the city she covers (Chicago). How is it working in your city?

Change is always hard, but what's interesting to us is that that bill passed with overwhelming bipartisan support in 2001. But now, attacks are coming from all sides — people say it robs the schools of resources for art, music and the things that give education its spark. Others say it encourages districts to game the system. Still some say, it's about time that schools were called upon to teach everybody, not just "the best and brightest." We want to know what you say...especially if you have first-hand experience.

So, if you would, drop us a line. What could be more important than education? Yet, it's actually one of the hardest things to cover, I think. You can get so lost in numbers, in theory. It's why we're interested in how the new law has actually changed people's lives (or hasn't.)

And on to a very sensitive subject. Rape.

Our friends over at News & Notes hipped us to a new documentary about black-on-black rape. They knew about our Behind Closed Doors segment and thought it would be a perfect discussion for us (it was). The film, No! The Rape Documentary, was 11 years in the making; it's being seen at festivals. You can get it on DVD.

The filmmaker, Aisha Shahidah Simmons, was able to persuade women, including her own mother, to tell their powerful stories, sometimes in excruciating detail. Although inter-racial rape so often captures the imagination and the headlines — both the fantasy and reality are a backdrop to so much of the ugliness in our nation's history (slavery, the lynching era...need I say more?) — these days, let's face it, most rape seems to be intra-racial. That means white-on-white, black-on-black, etc. And there's sometimes an added pressure not to "inform" or betray "the group" to which one belongs; or the spectre of negative stereotypes. That's another, raw conversation.

That's not what we want to talk about (right now).

We're engaged by the question of responsibility. In a number of the stories making recent headlines — the Duke Rape (that wasn't) case, the Genarlow Wilson story — the throughline is choices around sexual conduct.

Who is responsible for which choices?

The rape documentary makes the strong argument that ANYTHING other than "YES" is in fact "NO!" In other words, "MAYBE" means no, "I'M NOT SURE" means no....SILENCE means no. I'm not a lawyer but I'm pretty sure the law agrees with that interpretation. But that doesn't mean juries always agree.

So our question: is there ever shared responsibility? What happens when girls/women present a sexually aggressive exterior? Do the rules change?

And NO, we're not talking about wearing a mini-skirt to the mall...with or without tights. We're not talking about kissing a boy and that suggesting you want to have sex. We're talking about the fact that girls are sometimes the pursuers these days...not always the pursued.

Are there new rules for new times? Or, do the old rules apply? We want to know how girls/women and men really feel about the gray areas. Or, is it not gray to you at all?

We think this is grist for another conversation. Just not sure how to have it in a way that's tasteful and respectful...but honest and real.




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I am a middle school teacher in a small, urban school district. Our school, like many others, is focusing on complying with the No Child Left Behind legislation. Our administrators and staff are open to change--and we are continuously retuning our efforts as we work long, hard hours to make our students a success. For example, the entire staff teaches a reading class every day to every student. We also have added one class per week as a "sucess" class--remediation for those who need it and enhancement for those who earned it.

We have added other items into our daily workload: data collection; redesigning our lesson plans and assessment tools to align with state objectives; school improvement plans; committee meetings; professional development trainings; etc.

You name it and we are either doing it or have made an informed decision not to do it. We are working very hard, long hours and focusing on meeting the needs of every student as well as government expectations.

And, we are seeing success. We are making small, steady gains in our test scores. We are seeing a slow decline in our behavior issues and truancy. We are working together as a team for the benefit of our students.

But some things do not change. Our students are still predominantly lower income with major family issues. We also lose out to neighborhood issues; it is often more important to our students to be known as "tough" versus "smart". School is often the lowest priority to our students and their families. We constantly battle negative feelings about education along with all of the issues that go with poverty: transiency, single parent households, hunger, poor parenting skills, violence, etc.

So, I have mixed feelings about No Child Left Behind. On one hand, I think it has forced the large, bureaucratic educational institutions to make changes and focus on success. Districts seem to willing to focus more resources to assist classrooms.

It has also helped to weed out some of the more mediocre teachers and administrators. It has even made the general public aware of what is happening with education, both good and bad.

On the other hand, there is little recognition of how difficult our jobs are--and, at the same time, we are getting more and more to do. If our kids do not do well on the test, it is the school and teachers who have "failed"--not the student, parents, the neighborhoods, the community or our society.

As usual, teachers and schools are expected to fix everything that is wrong.

Sent by Patricia Velten | 9:36 AM | 6-19-2007

I am a middle school parent of a seventh grader. Our school district is considered one of the best in the region when measured by "Test Scores".

A recent "Time" magazine article: "Report card on NCLB", pointed out my predicament.
Schools seem to be "teaching" to the "tests", and the majority are "shinning".

Congratulations I say for these winners with trophies. What about the 10-15% of special-needs children that are being left behind? I believe our state would receive an "F" in this subject of "special-ed".

After having done some "research" of my own, I find Ohio "gets" it. I award Ohio an 'A'.
They have identified a significant percentage of the school-age population that requires a different approach to teaching / learning. No time to elaborate here, but suggest others take a look. Especially our states school administrators.

Why is there such a difference in approach to NCLB among our States?

Dad, PhD (Pauper hinder Dad)

Sent by Gordon Hurlocker | 12:49 PM | 6-19-2007

One of the Candidates for President of the United States in 2008 will be inheriting an enormous mess. The liability of this mess is already on the backs of thousands of unsung heroes. Our heroes need help.

We know about our heroes all but abandoned in Iraq. Then there are the heroes of ???homeland security??? working in various emergency response teams without adequate infrastructure, funding, or equipment. We must not forget the unsung heroes of our broken medical system.

Underlying all of this, however, is the failure to address our Public Education system in a real way which works. The No Child Left Behind Act has, through it???s punitive policies, placed an undue burden on the Public Education teachers and volunteer parents. If students don???t achieve certain standards, rather than assisting that school, the government pulls money out.

This punitive policy is unjust and ineffective because it assumes that the reason for lack of ???performance??? is due to poor or inadequate instruction. In fact, our schools have talented and dedicated educators. Additional training of teachers identified by school site principals as candidates for improvement is one thing, but mandated additional ???professional development??? training of all of the teachers is a poor use of resources, not to mention insulting to our master teachers. Many schools in our area of central coast California have a majority of English learners (Spanish speakers) and poverty status children; a situation made more pronounced by the mandated open enrollment program. So then we have a concentration of children with special needs in elementary schools with dwindling resources because these same children who must overcome language and class based barriers do not pass the tests. The vicious cycle is obvious, and the dismantling of our Public Schools is well on its way.

Many of the parents who are able to volunteer have taken on a lion???s share of the school fund raising, classroom volunteering, and advocacy efforts as they keep their own children in these federally punished schools. We believe in integration, not segregation; and we believe in Public Education for the good of our Country.

We need our Presidential candidates for 2008 to help our unsung heroes in Public Education, and in so doing they will strengthen the future of our country. Remove the punitive aspects of No Child Left Behind, and fund the mandate for Excellence in Public Education in the United States of America.


Kelly Salazar
Architect, Public School volunteer, Mom of a 2nd grader, Registered Voter.
522 South Branciforte Avenue
Santa Cruz, CA 95062

Sent by Kelly Salazar | 1:59 PM | 6-19-2007

Hardly a day goes by when we are not made aware of crimes being perpetrated against innocent victims from sex offenders, rapists and child predators. It is difficult to put into words the level of anger and exasperation I feel with our representatives and judicial systems who do not press for an end to these heinous acts. I have listened to many knowledgeable people pontificate how these men can learn to control this behavior with professional help. The flip side are other experts who contridicate that opinion and say in spite of these remedial attempts, these men are never free from this compulsion and will ultimately give in to that urge some time again in their life. Throughout these discussions, I have never heard anyone suggest the solution is to put these men under the knife rendering them incapable of an erection. What could be simpler? Opposition to that penalty would argue these offenders have some individual rights. Where does that place the rights of the victims? What policy should take precedence? What are we waiting for and how much longer will it be before we make these crimes a thing of the past?

Sent by Toni Macante | 3:53 PM | 6-19-2007

I'm writing a book about the future of education. Most people trying to solve education are looking at the edges or just outside of "the box". I'm looking very deep and far where there is real excitement in learning. Improving education is not one single item or category. For forty years, the American education system has failed to improve by the hard work of the many. It's time to look forward in this new century of great change instead of looking and holding on to what is behind us.

The goal of education will be the life long experience of wanting to know, of excellence, top character, creative and imaginative thinking and building, mindfulness, and creativity through music and art. Narrow and shallow minded thinking will be abandoned for the deep and wide. The experience of sharing knowledge communitively along with creative competition will keep students engaged.

The idea of testing has become unfortunate and held above every learners head to perform to enter into higher education. However, a change in requirements i.e. the SAT as the doorway to quality education will eventually be eliminated as professors, administers, and parents begin to understand that a grade or a score says very little about any person, their experiences, problems, capabilities, and capacities in life.

No matter how good NCLBA is made, it does little to provide building blocks and opportunities into student???s future lives. The world 20-30 years from now will be a completely different place than where it is today.


Sent by Rob | 4:40 PM | 6-19-2007