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No Child Left Without a Big Behind

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No Child Left Untested

It had been suggested that our government should test America's children to death, give them the option of crap food alongside already marginally nutritious food, and give states the option of (read: not the money for) providing physical education programs. Naysayers said it would strip teaching of creativity, result in test failures across the board, and fatten up the younguns.

Those who designed and supported No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and the lunch menus said, "You're wrong." They promised a lot of money to support the new mandates, delivered on a bit, and the dismay has come to pass. America's children are getting fatter and they aren't NCLB-standards smart.

Those manning the front lines of children's ever-expanding waist lines say NCLB's demands and lack of promised funding have drained schools of the resources they need to provide physical education and schedule physical activity. Additionally, the older a student gets, the less likely they are to be provided with a school-sponsored physical activity.

Physical education is not the only program to suffer. Resources have been pulled from social studies, science, and the arts so reading and math programs have all the resources they need to keep in line with the law. "What our data is showing is that there is a cut [in time devoted to physical education], it just isn't as large as academic subjects," said Center on Public Education (CPE) president Jack Jennings.

Warm Fuzzies for everyone, it's on Jack.

Seeming improvements mask the ongoing struggle of school lunch programs to keep up with guidelines without enough funding and they are having a difficult time providing nutritious foods even when the money is available. “The reality is that the food industry is incapable of changing as fast as that group wanted things done,” said Ben Matthews, director of school support at the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction. “It takes the food industry a minimum of one year — but sometimes two to three years — to change processes.”

Christina Dodd, child nutrition director at Henderson County, North Carolina Schools suggests a menu of hamburgers, salads, fruits, various vegetables, and side items constitutes having served a balanced meal. Offered is not the same as served, Ms Dodd. Many school nutrition directors, and parents, believe that offering children both healthy and unhealthy options will prompt them to make the healthier choice. When they don't, they cite the child's decision to eat poorly rather than take responsibility for having provided a poor choice as an option. "Well," Dodd says, "a lot of students only want to eat the hamburger.”


No Child Left Without a Big Behind

Under the guise of approaching a solution, some critics seem willing to become part of the problem. Instead of suggesting a different approach to academic testing, Russell Pate, a professor of exercise science at the University of South Carolina, suggests adding physical education to the list of tests. Would doing so translate into fitter kids? It's not likely, given how academics are delivered under NCLB.

Kids are being taught to pass tests by way of a strict academic curriculum, and they're no smarter for it. In Old School terms, this is known as rote learning — tell the children what to say, tell them to say it, repeat. Again. Physical fitness would no doubt suffer under the same system — the kids might be a little trimmer, but still not meet standards, and at no point will they know why or how change in their bodies occurred. It must be conceded that this would be better than what many states offer — no physical education program whatsoever.

No Child Whose Parents Are Rich Left Behind

"I think you have to look at many other factors when you look at obesity," Chad Colby, deputy press secretary for the Department of Education, defended. "To put the blame on a program (NCLB) that requires kids to read and do math at grade level is absurd. It tends to be an excuse, but it is a poor one."

The positive effect of physical activity on the brain's ability to read and calculate goes unaddressed by NCLB supporters; instead, many contend there is the option of extracurricular activity. Jacalyn Lund, president of National Association for Sport and Physical Education, countered with the reality of every child's parents not having the money to provide for after-school activities. This, too, went unaddressed by NCLB supporters.

No Child Will Escape

NCLB was named the way it was for one reason: any detractors could immediately be called on the carpet with "What kind of parent/teacher/person are you that you would leave a child behind? Sniffle, whimper, whine." The name has absolutely nothing to do with the program. It wasn't named more accurately so as to deflect the obvious intent of the program — batter children with the only information we're willing to give them.

If you can't dazzle them with bullshit, pull their funding. The fail-safe within NCLB is the conditions under which it will provide and reduce monies. By setting the standard only as high as those achieved by the best performing schools, NCLB insured continued funding of these schools and does now deflect blame for underfunding the most needy schools by citing their failure to meet the standards. This is government-sanctioned survival of the fittest — a curiously hypocritical approach for this administration to take.

It's no coincidence that rote learning came into law on the heels of evolution coming into curricular question across the nation. Color me paranoid (but you'll have a hard time coloring me with anything from a government funded public school art education program.) The passing of NCLB into law is the perfect safety net for "critical evaluation" and its incestuous cousins, creationism and intelligent design.

Bush and his band of NCLB'ers know its better to have a fat, dumb, and happy (read: patriotic) population than it is to have an educated mob that could catch you in a dead run. He and his have fooled many into thinking repetition and memorization is the same thing as learning; that heart-stopping trans fat, being worse than mere heart-clogging saturated fat, means it's okay to make the latter part of the school menu; and that tattooing a flag on your flab is a grand ole thing.

The U.S. Department of Education insists that almost all of the nation's public elementary schools had a physical education program of some kind in 2005. This would directly contradict the National Association for Sport and Physical Education's (NAPSE) findings, except that one of the things NAPSE found was that twelve states offered students the opportunity to earn credits through online courses in physical education. This is tantamount to teaching a cooking class in a refrigerator. Look children, see all the ingredients. You can heat things up if you just apply yourself.

If this is how the U.S. Department of Education defines "some kind," then hey, they got us there. He who defines the terms, and all that. More states than made up the original colonies require no physical education at all for elementary and middle school children.

It's easier now to see how a promise of something can result in nothing. How’s that road to hell coming along, Mr President?

Example isn't another way to teach, it is the only way to teach. – Albert Einstein

A mind is a fire to be kindled, not a vessel to be filled. – Plutarch

Information cannot replace education. – Imparato and Itarari

The secret of education is respecting the pupil. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

I hate quotations. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

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About Diana Hartman

Diana is a USMC (ret.) spouse, mother of three and a Wichita, Kansas native. She is back in the United States after 10 years in Germany. She is a contributing author to Holiday Writes. She hates liver & motivational speakers. She loves science & naps.
  • Spoken like a champ.

  • Amy W

    You’re all missing the point here people. It is just as important to be healthy as it is to be smart. What is the point of being able to explain how a rocket is able to reach the moon, if you cannot even fit through the door when you get there. It does not matter how intelligent you are if you die at the age of 26 from type 2 diabetes. Physical education should be the first on the list, not the last. Obesity is taking over and we as Americans are the laughing stock not because of our IQ, but because of our BMI.

  • Lazy teacher, “Teachers that “teach to the test” are doing themselves and their kids a diservice.”

    No, they are doing what it takes to keep their jobs. Most likely they are told to “teach to the test” by their admistrators.

    Heloise, “It is working people.”

    Not according to all the published reports which say that only small pockets of the country have achieved even minimal success according to NCLB standards.


    Read the ENTIRE article prior to making statements please, you ended up looking foolish.

    Look here for another take on testing and NCLB. This blog also looks at the immigrant situation regarding NCLB.

  • as you go north, are children whiter? their parents richer? yes…

    nclb and immigrant children have nothing to do with each other unless you’re saying you’re having to tutor this child to pass a test per nclb…is that what you’re doing? how’s that working out for you?

  • Heloise

    Folks, it is too early to determine if NCLB works or not. And yes, there is a measure of success. Students from New Orleans cannot pass or measure up to the standards here in Texas. And students from the northern states do much better than the students in Texas. As you go north are students smarter? No butts about it.

    It just kills me that parents and bystanders say that education is failing and NCLB is not working. It is working people. We are the only country in the world who has to educate illegal aliens who criminally entered the country without speaking any damn English and then we have to get them to pass the test. I am tutoring one right now to do so. If you don’t know, then shut up.


  • lazy teacher

    so I think lazy is great. i mean why bother teaching anything but what the state or NCLB tells me to teach. for that matter why bother with punctuation or capitalization i can make it just fine wit out dat or spelin 2

    Seriously, I am from a family of educators and am one myself. Teachers that “teach to the test” are doing themselves and their kids a diservice. Schools that focus only on test scores and irrational test results (100% proficient by 2014? gimme a break) break with their duty to teach ALL state and/or local standards. This all too common criticism that NCLB is “narrowing the focus” to just reading and writing is just an excuse for laziness of a different kind. We need higher expectations in all content areas, including PE, but we also need hyper-parents to not intervene or enable lazy kids and lazy behavior.

    btw… “pleasexcusethei” is wrong about no Science requirements in NCLB. Science has already been legislated and has mandated testing starting in 2008.

  • pleasexcusetheinterruption12

    You obviously werent paying attention. The author also lays out very carefully how NCLB not only makes kids fatter, but also fails to improve education at all. You point out that U.S. students are behind in math and science. Did you not know, or are you skimming over the fact that NCLB has no science standard WHATSOEVER?

  • I find this hilarious…our nation’s children are falling behind most other advanced countries in science and math…NCLB garnered bi-partisan support for a method of fixing this problem…and the author complains that it doesn’t also make students thinner!

    “Hey! I have an idea for making people smarter!”

    “Okay…but does it make them thinner too?”

    “Uh, nooo…”

    “Then it’s worthless, and you suck!”


  • Heloise

    LOL, no butts or pun intended I plan to make a living off of selling test-taking skills to master the TAKS. I am testing a study/pilot group now. Thousands of kids do not pass the science portion.

    There is some correlation between being a) physicall fit b) more wealthy, and c) being able to pass tests (especially standard ones). This means that if you are well-off you are probably white, thin and in a school where they don’t care about the size of your behind because it is not a problem.

    Where I teach the size of the waists and behinds do keep students from not only getting behind their desks but also puts them behind on tests because this means that they are probably poor, or less well-off, black or brown, and less likely to pass the TAKS test.

    More later