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Fifth, the NCLB is devoid of any meaningful consequences for failing to achieve federal objectives other than the publication of such failures in conjunction with the rights of parents to request transfers of their children to better-performing academic institutions (Darling-Hammond 2004). Critics have suggested that the most likely result of enforcement of such limited consequences for noncompliance is the overcrowding of institutions who fulfill the federal requirements to their detriment by virtue of diminution in their ability to meet the educational needs of increased enrollment of low-achieving students (Sonnenblick 2008). Likewise, the NCLB Act authorizes increased federal funding of home schooling and for-profit institutions that further reduces necessary funds to public institutions.
Sixth, whereas George H. Bush articulated the connection between adequate nutrition and access to healthcare and preparedness to learn in school, the NCLB Act ignores this element entirely. Many critics and career educators believe that any proposed educational reforms subsequent to the failure of the first Bush administration to meet its stated objectives by the year 2000 should have renewed the attention to early childhood nutrition and health. Unlike the philosophy underlying the NCLB approach, the link between adequate childhood nutrition and health has been established conclusively in myriad empirical studies (Caillier 2007).
Seventh, the consensus of contemporary education theorists has evolved in the last several decades to the appreciation of the multiple intelligences concept of human intelligence, cognitive development, and academic learning (Gardner 1999). Traditional educational curricula emphasize a very narrow subset of human intellectual potential: namely linguistic and mathematical (or quantitative logic) abilities. Researchers like the renowned Howard Gardner of Harvard School of Education have tested the theory extensively with tremendously positive results.
Essentially, they have demonstrated that in addition to linguistic and mathematical abilities, human cognitive potential includes the ability to learn through other senses. Specifically, by providing educational curricula through nontraditional methods and materials, Gardner (and many others) have established the degree to which the traditional design of public education academic programs unnecessarily exclude students whose greatest learning potential is more amenable to lessons that emphasize their kinesthetic, musical, social, emotional, and other senses.
Similarly, a long history of research going back decades (Schroeder & Spannagel 2006) suggests that rote memorization through drilling, and lecture-based passive learning is not at all conducive to maximal attentiveness, interest, or subject matter retention. Rather, optimal learning, particularly in the sciences, requires a more active learning design and hands-on involvement with materials and practical applications of academic concepts (Huber & Moore 2001). Instead of incorporating the results of research (and volumes of anecdotal evidence with which it is entirely consistent) documenting the immense value of the multiple intelligences and active learning theories of modern education, the NCLB Act does the exact opposite: it emphasizes the focus on linguistics and mathematics even more than traditional education programs to the virtual exclusion of alternate methodologies that have been proven to increase learning and promote genuine academic enthusiasm (Huber & Moore 2001). Eighth, and perhaps most significantly, the entire mechanism of using "pass-fail" (or, in NCLB parlance, proficiency) standards to measure academic improvement is conceptually flawed (Murray 2006), and completely belies the entire effort of quantifying performance in a meaningful way. By definition, for the same reason that all children cannot possibly be achieving at an "above average" level, they cannot all be "proficient" to the extent that the term proficiency is defined in a meaningful way.
Similarly, the only measure considered in the NCLB standards is whether or not students reach a minimum standard of performance; as such, that measure is utterly devoid of valuable data quantifying their performance such as by what extent their performance surpasses minimum standards (Murray 2006). Even worse, the compliance requirement, particularly in conjunction with testing programs designed by each state, provides both the incentive as well as the obvious opportunity to devise tests that are deliberately intended to maximize performance by minimizing difficult or challenging subject matter. This, quite obviously, completely contradicts the fundamental purpose of NCLB standards and reporting in the first place. Finally, as Murray (2006) details, the statistical relevance and presented analysis of the data used by the Bush administration to document the purported progress of minority student achievement in relation to closing the gap between the performance of white and black students in Texas is so flawed conceptually and methodologically that it actually borders on deliberate deception rather than mere mathematical inaccuracy.
Specific Issue Analysis -- Contemporary Learning Theory and the NCLB Approach:
As a career educator, I am intensely opposed to the NCLB approach to public education because it contradicts so much of the various philosophies underlying modern educational theory. Consequently, my hope is to secure a teaching position at a private institution that is not subject to NCLB federal requirements. Specifically, my philosophy of education incorporates different elements of several perspectives on education into a more holistic program design. In that regard, I aspire to implement aspects of educational constructivism, multiple intelligences theory, brain-based learning, and objectivism.
The essential characteristic of the constructivist perspective that I intend to cultivate is the fundamental distinction between learning through passive instruction and active intellectual participation. More precisely, students learn better when they are encouraged to participate in the intellectual reasoning process of deducing the right answer than when merely presented with the same information or subject matter in the traditional lecture format (Huber & Moore 2001). The beauty of this approach is that it requires little expenditure in materials or financial resources to adapt existing academic material for a more objectivist presentation. It merely requires a shift from a lecture- based presentation to a conversational format that provides the opportunity to hypothesize, discuss, test, and form conclusions through logical deduction and objective reasoning.
As previously referenced, Howard Gardner has demonstrated the degree to which traditional educational programs neglect students whose greatest intellectual abilities lie outside the two areas traditionally associated with measures of human intelligence and learning, linguistic and mathematical abilities. In that regard, it is likely no coincidence that President Bush's NCLB vision mirrors this completely antiquated view of academic learning and achievement. According to Gardner and other proponents of multiple intelligences-based academic learning, there are at least five other distinct aspects of human cognitive intelligence neglected by traditional educational programs: bodily- kinesthetics, spatial orientation, interpersonal, intrapersonal, and musical ability. Most significantly, multiple intelligences theory does not propose instruction appropriate to the five alternate components of intelligence instead of traditional educational subject matter; nor does it require providing subject matter relating directly to any specific type of intelligence to reap the benefits of its method. Multiple intelligences theory conceives of identifying the underlying obstacles to academic achievement represented by overrepresentation of certain cognitive abilities over others. However, its method is to make beneficial use of different abilities as a vehicle of instruction for the same basic subject matter presented to all students.
For example, a student whose musical abilities fall in the superior range but whose mathematical abilities fall below average can learn mathematics more effectively through musical concepts such as rhythm and musical timing. Likewise, a student who is naturally inclined to learn more efficiently through relating physically to the external world will absorb natural science lessons better if they are presented in outdoor experiments than from reading about (the same) physical concepts in a science textbook.
As an educator, I consider it my responsibility to identify each student's individual intellectual strengths and weaknesses for the purpose of devising lesson plans and a general approach to learning that enables each student to benefit optimally from lessons presented in formats conducive to learning.
Brain-based learning has also proven itself a valuable asset to academic instruction (Darling-Hammond 2004), provided it is practical for the educational environment. In principle, brain-based learning recognizes the differences between individuals in terms of their ideal learning environment and external circumstances. In that regard, it is my hope to have the luxury of inquiring into whether students prefer to learn in groups, or by themselves in quiet reflection, as well as various other preferences that correspond to increased lesson absorption.
For example, some students simply learn better from listening (or watching in audio-visual formats) than from reading. Naturally, apart from appropriate instruction in reading skills, other substantive subject matter need not necessarily always be presented in textbooks. Traditional history lessons that may inspire only abject boredom in some students may be received completely differently when students are given the option of watching a documentary instead of reading a chapter about World War II. Since the object of the lesson is to learn history, the mechanism of information transfer is irrelevant if students who prefer to watch the documentary perform well on the same objective test used to gauge subject matter comprehension.
Finally, I also hope to have the opportunity to inspire my students with the…[continue]
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