Monday, July 25, 2011

Adequate Yearly Problems...er...Progress

            I immediately breathed a sigh of relief when I saw that my son’s high school made Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) this year. A few seconds later, I found myself wondering why I cared enough about the artificial standard to feel anything at all. The whole issue would be laughable except for the fact that No Child Left Behind – now morphed into Race to the Top under President Obama – has inflicted considerable damage on the nation’s education system.
Many schools in Georgia didn’t meet the AYP goals for the 2010-2011 school year. Gwinnett County, which won the $1,000,000 Broad prize for best urban school district in 2010, did not meet AYP goals as a county. I live here and I have to wonder what this year’s AYP scores are going to do to my property value. Does this mean that Gwinnett County has lousy schools?

Well, no. Gwinnett County schools for the most part are pretty good. Students who graduate from a Gwinnett County high school are able to read, write, and do basic math. Most of our students go on to attend colleges, universities, or trade schools. What more do we really want from public education?

Now that’s the question, isn’t it? What do we really want from public education? Do we want to churn out students who can answer multiple choice questions or do we want to nurture students who can think and solve real-life problems? Do we want to churn out teachers who feel they have to cheat the AYP system in order to retain their jobs, or do we want to nurture teachers who are effective, enthusiastic educators?

            No Child Left Behind, if you choose to be charitable, was formed from good intentions. Everyone wants children to receive a good education, but politicians and educators have long held vastly different ideas about how to accomplish that. It seems clear to me that the politics-based AYP system is harming the very children it was supposed to help. We need to get rid of it before our road to hell is completely paved.