What happens when ridiculous mandates are made more ridiculous? Believe it or not:
No Child Left [with a Fat] Behind?
by Pierre Oâ€™Dee
TEXAS â€” In the Fick-Tishes Regional School District, teachers and administrators take physical education — or â€œrobust exercise,â€? as they like to call it — quite seriously. â€œItâ€™s one of the four Râ€™s here,â€? Superintendent of Schools Richard Tater proudly declared.
On Tuesday, the school district was rewarded for its devotion to robust exercise with a visit from U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings. In the packed gymnasium at Fick-Tishes Regional High School, the Secretary presented Tater with a plaque for â€œrobust achievement in physical education and exemplary standards of fitness.â€?
Spellings then unveiled a â€œmodest proposalâ€? to broaden the requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act to include physical education, beginning in 2007. â€œOur schools need to educate the whole child,â€? she asserted.
â€œIt is not enough to demand proficiency in traditional academic subjects such as reading and math. Children who are fit in mind alone are not fit. Our schools can do a much better job of ensuring that students are successful in every realm. Intellectual achievement and physical fitness are not mutually exclusive.â€?
Spellings cited Fick-Tishes schools as â€œa perfect example of how schools can attain excellence across the curriculum,â€? a remark that elicited a loud ovation. She commended the crowd for understanding â€œthe need to invest in the futureâ€? and then noted that â€œthe students of today are the soldiers, astronauts, and firefighters of tomorrow.â€?
Later, Spellings acknowledged the â€œoften difficult and demanding jobâ€? schools have, but she insisted, â€œif President Bush, who has the toughest job of all, can maintain a commitment to physical fitness, then there is no reason our schools cannot.â€?
The new provisions of NCLB are slated for implementation on October 1, 2007. They include specific standards for what every child should be able to physically achieve, based on their age and gender. Schools will be expected to annually assess student proficiency in several fitness areas, with emphasis on (1) aerobic capacity, (2) body composition, and (3) muscle strength, endurance, and flexibility.
For middle and high school students, one assessment measure will be the one-mile run, a task that a 14-year-old boy would be expected to complete in 8 minutes or less. A girl of the same age would be expected to run that distance in 10 minutes or less.
Critics of NCLB say that expanding the reach of the controversial law to include physical education puts an unfair burden upon schools that are already overwhelmed and underfunded. â€œItâ€™s another example of the federal government asking schools to do more for less,â€? said Eileen Leftwich, the executive director of No School Left Behind. â€œItâ€™s unreasonable to place added demands on schools without providing the funding to back it up.â€?
Another group opposing the new requirements is TAUghT, Teachers Against Unfair Testing. The grassroots organization contends that an overemphasis on testing unduly narrows the definition of proficiency and makes for a less rich and less diverse learning experience. â€œItâ€™s a cruel joke,â€? said Eduardo Cater, a spokesperson for TAUghT. â€œBut weâ€™re not amused. Children are more than the sum of their test scores, and teaching is more than testing.â€?
Cater took particular exception to the proposed physical education requirements. â€œItâ€™s not a level playing field,â€? he argued. â€œSome kids are naturally slower than others or have disabilities that hinder their proficiency. Other kids are slowed down by the baggage they carry from home. Or they just got a late start. You canâ€™t expect these sorts of kids to perform as well as their less encumbered peers.â€?
With a shake of his head, Cater then added, â€œthere are so many factors and circumstances over which schools have no control. How is it fair to blame us when students donâ€™t measure up as a result? Itâ€™s a setup for failure.â€?
The Secretary of Education bristled at such criticism. â€œFailure is simply not an option,â€? she responded. â€œThese naysayers would do well to stop finding reasons to fail and start finding ways to succeed.â€? Spellings then gestured at the now empty gymnasium. â€œThey could learn a thing or two from Fick-Tishes schools.â€?
NOTE: As you may very well have surmised, the above news article is fictitious (Fick-Tishes) and was written to satirize the many flaws of the No Child Left Behind Act. For more serious reading on the subject, I refer you to the following:
â€¢ Those Who Pass Classes But Fail Tests Cry Foul (Washington Post)
â€¢ Flawed No Child Left Behind Discourages Teachers (FOX News)
â€¢ What It Takes to Make a Student (New York Times)
â€¢ All That Is Left Behind (Kmareka.com)