In the news last week, I found this article about Florida's NCLB Waiver from the Obama administration. As I understand it, the waiver means that Florida may not have to account to the feds for its education this year as part of No Child Left Behind, while still receiving federal funds. (I'm sure it's more complicated than that, but that's my summary.)
I am not a fan of NCLB, and I think the law and the whole education system, need a serious overhaul. The waiver gives me pause, however, since in a related article published a few days later, it turns out that Florida counties (with the Department of Education's approval) have been including certain kids in their graduation rates that may be skewing the numbers. They include those who don't graduate high school but go on to adult ed (and then drop out), and special education children who are unable to obtain a full diploma but instead graduate with a special diploma.
As a result, last year Florida's overall graduation rate hovered "respectably" (on a national standard) around 80% with Pinellas County coming in a little below that average number. This year however, when the changes are made to exclude adult ed dropouts and special ed diplomas, that rate is expected to drop to around 60%.
60%?? Is anyone else appalled?? This essentially means that more than one-third (close to half) of Florida's children who are capable of obtaining at least a high school education without special accommodations DO NOT GRADUATE. Where are the teachers? Where are the parents? Where are the kids??
And now, Florida doesn't even have to account to the feds under NCLB. I get the argument that part of the problem may actually lie in the implementation of the law, since NCLB forces states (and therefore schools) to "teach to the FCAT" thereby tying schools to a certain curriculum (and rote drilling of math concepts and writing styles, which makes the kids want to drop out of school just from boredom), or risk the loss of much-needed funds. But to not be accountable at all seems wrong as well, when the numbers are so abhorrent.
Either way, good teachers get a bad rap, because they lose out financially despite their best efforts to educate. Bad teachers stay, because there aren't enough good teachers who can afford to teach: salaries are so low as to be ridiculous, and only those who can live on a meager salary or who have other household income can afford to teach.
But my bigger concern is, what about the kids? If Florida's graduation rates are that low, and the Florida DOE doesn't have to account to the Feds for money, and good teachers can't afford to be teachers, what in the world are the kids supposed to do?