An Examination of Social Justice and a Critique of Neoliberalism, Essay Example
No Child Left Behind Act: An Examination of Social Justice and Neoliberalism
“One of the greatest mistakes is to judge a policy on its intentions rather than its results.” -Milton Friedman
Education is a profound tool. Leaders of nations seek to arm their citizens with this powerful instrument. Each subsequent administration is faced with the same academic quandary: How to accomplish the task of educating young Americans while operating within the political environment of the day? The legislation known as No Child Left Behind (NCLB) was passed in 2001 during the conservative Republican Bush administration.
President Bush clearly intended for this act to become a catalyst for propelling the United States forward educationally and subsequently economically by creating a well-educated populous for the global marketplace. By all accounts NCLB was designed to be beneficial to each student engaging in the United States educational process from grades K-12. This inspired bipartisan proposal became such a legislative nightmare because of a concept that influences everything in westernized society today, but is rarely talked about: neoliberalism.
Federal Legislation Governing a State Driven Neoliberal Educational System
Neoliberalism has been defined in a number of ways since its popularization in the 1960’s, however for the intentions of this piece the definition entered in the body of knowledge by Elizabeth Martinez and Arnold Garcia will be the definition utilized (Ross & Gibson, 2006). It is as follows:
a set of economic policies that have become widespread during the last 25 years or so. Although the word is rarely heard in the United States, you can clearly see the effects of neo-liberalism here as the rich grow richer and the poor grow poorer. . . . Around the world, neo-liberalism has been imposed by powerful financial institutions like the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank and the Inter American Development Bank . . . the capitalist crisis over the last 25 years, with its shrinking profit rates, inspired the corporate elite to revive economic liberalism. That’s what makes it ‘neo’ or new. Thus neoliberalism references policies and processes whereby a handful of private interests are permitted to control as much as possible of social life in order to maximize their personal profit (Ross & Gibson, 2006, p. 1).
So how is the educational system supposed to incorporate a theoretical argument into practical use while maintaining the letter of the law regarding a legislative Act? In order to address this precipice the notion of social justice as delineated by the academician Nancy Fraser will be utilized in an effort to understand how the NCLB has influenced the population of students identified as English Language Learners (ELL). Fraser’s modern take on social justice provides, what many call, a more realistic measurement of the efficacy of the NCLB Act (Fraser, 1997).
The execution of the NCLB legislation and its neoliberal implications are best evaluated using the two domains of social justice as defined by Fraser (2008). How does an all-inclusive neoliberal policy actually fair in a diversity-tolerant and -circumstance driven world? With everyone seeking individuality and the right to create their own labels a legislative decision of this nature was handicapped from the onset.
The general educational issue examined within this document is the efficacy of the state execution of the federal legislation known as No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). The sub-group of English Language Learners (ELL) will be the sample scrutinized for this argument. The particular topic is a complex one because most educational professionals desire to meet the intellectual needs of every student in the classroom.
Today’s educational experience is governed by a criterion that is not on the syllabus, but is critical to the effectual implementation of the educational process: social justice. This widely interpreted intellectual concept permeates every aspect of western society, yet it is left to interpretation and vulnerable to political ambiguity (Fraser, 2008). Principals and teachers are faced with variables, such as learning disabilities and language barriers, which are significant obstacles related to social justice that must factor into the formula for student achievement (Fraser, 1996).
The most notable difficulty that faces the person seeking to comprehend this issue has nothing to do with children directly, but rather lies in the preambles of defining and executing policy around the systemic infiltrating concept of social justice that is dominant in all levels of society. Social justice coupled with neoliberalism is changing the educational landscape of the United States.
Neoliberalism is embraced by parties across the political spectrum, from right to left, in that the interests of wealthy investors and large corporations define social and economic policy. The free market, private enterprise, consumer choice, entrepreneurial initiative, deleterious effects of government regulation, and so on, are the tenets of a neoliberalism. Indeed, the corporate-controlled media spin would have the public believe that the economic consequences of neoliberal economic policy, which serves the interests of the wealthy elite, is good for everyone (Ross & Gibson, 2006, p. 2).
In the American educational reform attempts this concept has been entered into the mix through things like school choice and the quasi-privatization of public education. Under NCLB the government opted to open educational goods and services to private investors while simultaneously imposing punitive rules on the public educational system (Ross & Gibson, 2006). The NCLB Act legislates the creation of curriculum standards and imposes accountability standards. Historically, when a policy is created with standards, accountability and no viable recourse to ensure that the original standard is met, the results can be dismal (Ross & Gibson, 2006).
Whether the stakes are high or low and whether the locus of control is local, state, or national, this strategy is one where a distant authority sets performance goals for students, schools, or school systems; holds individuals and units directly accountable for meeting the goals; and consequences are applied, including rewards for meeting performance goals and sanctions for not meeting them (Ross & Gibson, 2006, p. 4).
Examining neoliberal legislation through the proverbial lens of social justice is the underpinning of this document. Through these weighty ideological concepts, this document will expose the real world implications on the subgroup English Language Learners (ELL).
How does Fairness Fair with NCLB and Social Justice?
The theoretical modern philosopher John Rawls introduced the concept of fairness into the popular political psyche of the academic community with the publication of his groundbreaking book, A Theory of Justice (Rawls, 1971). It is not that the idea was not around, but this book gave the discipline renewed credence within academia and later among the general masses (Swift, 2014).
The division of the American system into two distinct domains is a construct of Fraser’s that through revision and intricate exploration has proven to be invaluable in the assessment of the educational system. The three domains are essential in achieving “participatory parity,” according to Fraser (1996, 1997& 2008). The two domains theorized by Fraser that will be theorized here within are: redistribution and recognition.
The redistribution camp seeks to take resources and essentially reallocate them to those who are considered to be oppressed or downtrodden in an effort to achieve a more balanced distribution of assets (Fraser, 1996). This is in direct conflict with the ideological principles of neoliberalism. This form of social justice has been the predominant philosophy of redistribution the greater part of its pervasive infiltration into popular thinking.
The struggle for recognition is seen by many as an integral part of the educational process. It is in our differences that some of the most striking innovations can occur (Fraser, 1996). Matters are relatively straight forward with the definitions yet complex in the application (Fraser, 1996).
When utilized to explore the NCLB legislation as it applies to ELL students Fraser’s model reveals the fissures in the mountain of high stakes tests, school choice and punitive accountability (Fraser, 1996). Many feel that the NCLB act supports an agenda to move the government toward privatizing education “from 2001 to 2003 the Bush Administration granted $77.6 million to groups dedicated to privatization through voucher programs. These groups aim to replace public schools with private schools (Ross & Gibson, 2006, p. 24).” The subject of educational efficacy is a momentous undertaking and yet it is measured narrowly with severe repercussions (Smith, 2012). The methodology used to govern the educational system leaves little room for the statistical outlier. Education reform as promoted through NCLB must be viewed under the microscope of social justice (Smith, 2012).
Since men began to interact the concept of fairness has been a major theme throughout the history of humanity. Each great philosopher has addressed the idea of fairness. In regards to the matter of the NCLB Act fairness is discussed using the definition rendered into the body of knowledge by Rawls (Swift, 2014). Essentially, he disputed the century’s old egalitarian argument that societies are theoretically in the business of the pursuit of the best for the majority of its citizens (Swift, 2014). Neoliberal ideas, which are infused throughout educational legislative policies, have brought into question the design of fairness. NCLB labels actually deem most schools as failing (Ross & Gibson, 2006). By their standard approximately 90% of schools and all of the districts in the state of Florida are failing (Ross & Gibson, 2006).
Rawls attempts to establish social justice through the creation of a social contract (Swift, 2014). He basically equates justice to fairness and utilizes the differences that exist between the members of any given group to create the rules that govern the assemblage. Previous to the acceptance of his theoretical postulation about society conformity to the majority was the widely accepted rule (Swift, 2014). Every subordinate group had to comply with the majority group standards in order to gain respect and position within the societal structure. Rawls challenged the feasibility of this idea and forced the reevaluation of social justice (Swift, 2014).
Through the lens of the Fraser theory of social justice, it is evident that the NCLB legislation as it relates to the English Language Learners (ELL) was doomed from the onset (Fraser, 1996). The negation of the individual in an attempt to promote neoliberalism is the main quandary with the current legislation. The fact that neoliberal federal legislation is attempting to influence state-governed educational institutions is just the beginning of the problem. The vast, diverse constituency within each of the nation’s states lends itself to many universal problems as well as unique difficulties that challenge the goals of the NCLB act (Power, 2012).
The division of injustices into distinct domains has been highly contested, particularly by those who would argue that they are indivisible (e.g., Young 2008) or that the cultural has been ‘reduced’ to a form of identity politics (e.g., Butler 2008). Fraser herself acknowledges that these different injustices rarely exist in their ‘pure’ forms, but she contends that there are heuristic advantages in disentangling them. Moreover, she argues that disentangling the different domains of injustice is crucial if we are to understand the match (or mismatch) between inequalities and strategies to address them. Indeed, she goes so far as to argue that inappropriate political responses can compound injustices (Power, 2012, p. 474).
Never has there been a better example of neoliberal political injustice than the NCLB Act. When lawmakers initiated this groundbreaking legislation they were attempting to improve education. Analysis of the ideological principles that govern the process reveals the desired outcome is not achievable given the currently delineated parameters (Power, 2012).
The analysis shows that since the Second World War there has been a slow but recognisable shift in the politics of education. There has been a move from attention being directed at obstacles in the economic domain through a politics of redistribution, to obstacles in the cultural domain being tackled with a politics of recognition, to more recent attempts to tackle obstacles in the political domain with a politics of representation (Power, 2012, p. 476).
Today there is a shift in the public perception of social justice to the secondary leg of the justice model known as recognition social justice (Swift, 2014). Under this definition of social justice the participants are no longer being held to the standard of meeting the norm. This form of social justice is promoting a world where conformity to the majority is no longer the principle, rather it is to be eradicated wherever possible (Fraser, 1996). The promoters of social recognition seek to understand differences within and between groups. They are promulgating a social landscape that is inclusive, while maintaining the individuality of the non-majority group (Abedi J. & Dietel R., 2004).
The political dichotomy that these camps create can sometimes put the proponents’ of each squarely on opposite sides of the same fight (Fraser, 1997). It is in these murky political waters, wrought with interpretative ambiguity, that the ELL children of the noble notion of NCLB are clearly being lost. Educators at all levels are finding it difficult to follow the NCLB proposed standards as related to ELL pupils and other sub-groups that have historically trailed the majority (Abedi J. & Dietel R., 2004).
Principals arguably hold the front line position on the subject of educational responsibility. It is to the children within the educational institutions governed by the principals that the standardized tests will be administered and interpreted for evaluative purposes. Yet, the vast range of variables that impinge on the popular legislation due to social justice related concepts are daunting. Top students are vacating schools, through the use of vouchers, to seek better educational opportunities. This exodus is causing already dismal scores to plummet even further (Ross & Gibson, 2006).
According to the 2012 Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) there are over 231,500 school principals in the United States. These professional educators are responsible for managing every aspect of their school’s operations. They oversee each day’s activities. They maintain state and regulatory compliance, all the while navigating the political interactions interwoven in the management of teachers and staff. Principals are the intermediaries between the upper echelon of school administration and the rest of the world (BLS, 2012). With all of the tangible things that are a part of their world, still the intangible concept of social justice remains the true leader of each classroom across the United States.
Given the large, growing, and diverse groups of the ELLs who are entering U.S. schools, virtually every teacher and every school district serves, or will serve, ELLs. Therefore, all assessment programs in all states and localities should be responsible for reporting on the educational progress of ELLs in terms of developing English language proficiency and content knowledge. Since assessment should play an enabling and supportive role in education and does not exist for its own sake, development of equitable assessment systems and policies to support educational excellence is only possible within the context of an equitable education system that promotes excellence for all students (Lacelle-Peterson, & Rivera, 1994, p. 60).
Previous to the NCLB legislation assessments for the educational advancement of ELL students were being formulated on a state- by-state basis with overall ideological concepts coming to light as subsequent subgroups were recognized (Lacelle-Peterson & Rivera, 1994). This style, though certainly not perfect, yielded a great deal of valuable circumstantial evidence that indicated ELL students faired best when taught in a dual lingual environment. Educational programs that utilized both the native tongue of the participants coupled with English administered at an understandable level resulted in increases in student efficacy (Lacelle-Peterson & Rivera,1994).
Based on neoliberal NCLB standards this cannot be achieved in most states as many districts are failing to meet legislative standards. The failure is thereby rendering them incapable of attaining the funding necessary to implement the compulsory changes. ELL students must be addressed properly if the nation is to see a change in the current educational climate. High stakes tests are sinking in a debilitating quagmire of neoliberal rhetorical interpretation. These tests are not aiding in reducing the complex problems associated with the education of ELL students (Abedi & Dietel, 2004).
Four elements must be considered in seeking educational excellence and equity for ELLs: Access to the full range of content knowledge that is valued by the school, community, and society; participation in meaningful interaction with challenging subject matter, with classmates, and with teachers; benefit from and success in learning that challenging subject matter; and continued development of their native language abilities to the greatest possible extent (Lacelle-Peterson & Rivera,1994, p. 60).
By utilizing the participants native language the classroom can become a more effective tool. The problem lies with the political nature of the educational system. When neoliberal agendas are negated everything works better (Ross & Gibson, 2006). If each student is given the opportunity to learn within the full accuracy of their abilities, better results can be achieved.
The educational pathology of producing well educated scholars is possible if legislators and educators alike create an executable plan designed for actual students. When schools teach in ways that are incomprehensible to the student it only results in frustration and low test scores (Lacelle-Peterson & Rivera,1994). Through the use of these NCLB policies, educators are finding that when implemented the tests are creating barriers for the ELL students rather than the pathways to knowledge that were so highly anticipated.
English Language Learners: the Litmus Test for NCLB
The NCLB Act leaves ELL students behind because it is purporting neoliberalism along with the old way of thinking: conformity to the majority (Abedi J. & Dietel R., 2004). Though the goal of academic achievement for all is to be commended, the ELL population is at a disadvantage under the standards set forth in NCLB. According to the Center for Research on Evaluation, Standards and Student Testing (CRESST) ELL students present many difficult issues including (Abedi J. & Dietel R., 2004):
- Historically low ELL performance and very slow improvement. Sate tests show that ELL students’ academic performance is far below that of other students, oftentimes 20 to 30 percentage points lower, and usually shows little improvement across many years (Abedi J. & Dietel R., 2004, p. 782).
- Measurement accuracy. CRESST research shows that the language demands of tests negatively influence accurate measurement of ELL performance. For the ELL student, tests measure both achievement and language ability (Abedi J. & Dietel R., 2004, p. 782).
- Instability of the ELL student sub group. The goal of re-designating high performing ELL students as language proficient students causes high achievers among ELL students to exit the subgroup. The consequence is downward pressure on ELL test scores, worsened by the addition of new ELL students, who are typically low achievers (Abedi J. & Dietel R., 2004, p.782).
- Factors outside of a schools control. CRESST research shows substantial nonschool effects on student learning even within ELL subgroups. Schools are therefore unable to control all the factors related to student achievement (Abedi J. & Dietel R., 2004, p. 782-783).
With a problem that has been virtually impenetrable like low performance and slow improvement, how are states and subsequently classroom professionals supposed to navigate the educational pathway? Evaluations and perceived success are tied to tests that are in English which are being administered to a subgroup that is not adept in the language. It is at this point in the NCLB application that the theoretical argument is faced with the harsh truth of reality (Abedi J. & Dietel R., 2004). The facts are that though there is merit in attempting to improve each student’s educational experience the measurements by which we are ranking the successes of the project have to be adjusted according to each subgroup while maintaining achievable comparisons to the majority. Accuracy in the application of the social justice ideology requires an amalgamation of the recognition, political justice and redistribution domains (Fraser, 1996). In the case of ELL across the United States the two camps are needed, but the emphasis that is assigned should be weighted and assessed according to the group.
In the ELL population CRESST studies have shown that students can improve test scores by 10 to 20 percent when the language on the test is simplified (Abedi J. & Dietel R., 2004). ELL students perform substantially higher on mathematics and science tests (Abedi J. & Dietel R., 2004). However, one of the more difficult problems that consistently appear is the fact that this is Federal legislation attempting to improve standards across the United States in regards to state run systems. Each state has a different set of educational standards and socioeconomic as well as ethnic demographics.
CRESST research has consistently proven that there are many non-school factors that influence the performance of students to a larger degree than the classroom practitioner.
CRESST research supports hundreds of other studies showing that nonschool factors, usually level of parents’ education or socio-economic status, outweigh school factors in their effect on student achievement. In a study of more than 30,000 students, we found these influences even within the ELL population itself. In one comparison, the gap between SAT-9 reading scores of ELL students whose parents had postgraduate education and the scores of ELL students whose parents had not graduated from high school was approximately 15 percentiles. Nonschool factors are strong, and they are persistent (Abedi J. & Dietel R., 2004, p. 784).
When evaluating the efficacy of the NCLB, often academicians and laymen alike, wish to identify the merits of the intent without scrutinizing the neoliberal nuances of the execution. When applying social justice ideology in a neoliberal context, it is becomes resoundingly evident that the true victims of this mess are children. Actual people with real educational deficiencies, like ELL students suffer from the politicization of this process (Abedi J. & Dietel R., 2004). Something as seemingly innocuous as diversity among the ELL subgroup proves to create its own set of issues that are a quagmire to all parties involved. Ambiguity seems to rear its ugly head at every turn in this process regarding this subgroup (Abedi J. & Dietel R., 2004).
Another challenge to states is the diversity of student achievement within ELL subgroups. ELL performance varies along cultural-linguistic lines, for example, similar to performance differences in the general student population. In one study, we found substantial differences in performance between ELL students with a Chinese speaking background and ELL students with a Spanish-speaking back ground. For both the ELL students and the general student group, students with a Chinese-speaking back ground had significantly higher performance on science and reading tests than students with a Spanish-speaking background (Abedi J. & Dietel R., 2004, p. 783).
Though ELL students as a subgroup did not standout to legislators as a potential stumbling block they did to educators. The federal legislation that dictates the parameters of the controversial education reform act has shown how unjust a blanket application of the best intentions can be. Subgroups are being identified in increasing numbers in each state which is leading to a plethora of issues across the country (Abedi J. & Dietel R., 2004).
Research by Thomas Kane showed that the probability that schools will meet specific goals decreases as the number of subgroups increases. We have observed that schools with sizable ELL subgroups tend to have higher numbers of subgroups overall, thereby increasing the probability that the schools will fail to make adequate yearly progress (Abedi J. & Dietel R., 2004, p. 784).
Every subgroup in the United States is struggling to be recognized because of their uniqueness. The ELL students are no different. They are actively seeking to be included and evaluated based on fair assessments. However they are being undermined by the politicization of the educational process (Ross & Gibson, 2006).
Everyday problems are enough. No one benefits from political agendas. The difficulty in assessing the needs of the subgroups from state-to-state lies in the comparison process. Groups of 100 or more participants are difficult to assess, while smaller groups are statistically unreliable (Abedi J. & Dietel R., 2004).
Not surprisingly, the high-stakes nature of NCLB has pushed states into submitting accountability plans that delay consequences to future years, hoping that the next Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) will be more flexible (Abedi J. & Dietel R., 2004, p. 784).
The current climate of social justice as it applies to NCLB mirrors the Weberian paradigm (Fraser, 1996). Administrators are actively trying to change the neoliberal criteria that govern this legislation because, in terms of social justice, it is unjust to both the administrators and the students (Rouse, C., Hannaway, J. Goldhaber, D. & Figlio, D., 2007). Though each state is demographically different, there is little incentive to change the process being administered. The penalties are great under the system.
The classic case in the Weberian paradigm is the low-status ethnic group, whom dominant cultural patterns of interpretation and valuation mark as different and less worthy, to the detriment of group members’ social standing and their chances of winning social esteem.8 But the conception can cover other cases as well. In today’s politics of recognition, it has been extended to gays and lesbians, whose sexuality is interpreted as deviant and devalued in the dominant culture (Fraser, 1996, p. 9).
The injustices of the current NCLB policies are evident in each group that exhibits fundamental characteristics that are different from the majority. When observing ELL students in states like Florida, the profoundly erroneous legislative mishaps are quickly brought to light (Rouse, C., Hannaway, J. Goldhaber, D. & Figlio, D., 2007).
Many ELL students fall into multiple subgroups – for example, special education and cultural-linguistic minority. Consequently, these students’ scores frequently are counted more than once. Meanwhile, the scores of students in the general population are counted only once. This may cause a diversion of resources away from those children who are not in a specific subgroup (Abedi, J. & Dietel, R., 2004, p. 785).
The data indicates that in an effort to prevent discrimination and promote equality the United States federal government has managed to legislate itself into the exact position it is trying to avoid. On its face, the legislation may appear to be beneficial, but the execution creates circumstances that are unavoidably contrary to the original intent (Rouse, C., Hannaway, J. Goldhaber, D. & Figlio, D., 2007).
In order to achieve the proper balance between the competing factions of social justice Rawls makes many concessions, that if utilized would assist in the education of students (Gewirtz, 1998). However, the placement of the emphasis solely on the distribution of rights while simultaneously waging a high stakes game of testing makes it difficult for classroom teachers to do their jobs effectively (Smythe, 2008). Ultimately education is still about the process of imparting knowledge to the student, yet this rudimentary concept seems to get lost in the neoliberal rhetoric. The execution of policies is complicated for the ELL students under NCLB. The political pundits would have the public think it is a cultural issue or a language barrier problem, but it is, in fact, a systemic issue that spans many ostensibly difficult issues exacerbated by neoliberalism (Gewirtz, 1998).
The validity of AYP reporting is threatened when schools inconsistently label limited English proficient (LEP) students (Abedi 2004). States like California, Texas, Florida, and New Mexico face a greater challenge when educating LEP students and making AYP in comparison with states that have sparse LEP student populations, like Vermont, Maine, and Connecticut. State assessments demand high levels of English-language ability. Because of the linguistic complexity of these exams, many schools cannot report AYP and therefore receive low state marks and lose state and federal funding; in the end, LEP students are left behind (Smythe, 2008, p.135).
Flawed Neoliberal Legislation Produces Systemic Wide Problems
Upon reviewing the research regarding the ELL student and the NCLB Act it becomes evident that the ideology is defective. This piece of legislation has managed to fail in its self proclaimed purpose.
These conceptions refer to the political/relational system within which the distribution of social and economic goods, rights and responsibilities takes place. In one sense this arena can be conceived of as another dimension of distributive justice in that, in part, it refers to the way in which relations of power are distributed in society. But it is not just about the distribution of power relations, nor is it just about the procedures by which goods are distributed in society (commonly referred to as procedural justice). Relational justice might include procedural justice, but it is about more than this. It is about the nature and ordering of social relations, the formal and informal rules which govern how members of society treat each other both on a macro level and at a micro interpersonal level. Thus it refers to the practices and procedures which govern the organization of political systems, economic and social institutions, families and one-to-one social relationships. These things cannot unproblematically be conceptually reduced to matters of distribution (Gewirtz, 1998, p.471).
The creation of subgroup specific policies and procedures are more viable alternatives to the NCLB. Each State has a different set of issues related to the topic of NCLB. Even the more homogenous states face their own set of concerns regarding the legislative nightmare that has become the NCLB Act (Smythe, 2008).
Evaluating the effects of the mandates of NCLB leads to the undeniable conclusion that many subgroups of school populations are not receiving equal educational opportunities. Students from low socioeconomic backgrounds, minorities, students with special needs, and second-language learners are adversely affected by this legislation. After investigating the history of educational assessment and analyzing the various populations affected by legislative mandates, a call for public action is imperative (Smythe, 2008, p. 135).
With the constant increase in costs and dollars allocated to testing, the multibillion dollar industry is not going to go away any time soon. Policy makers and politicians face a great deal of scrutiny regarding their motives as they relate to the failing standards. Estimates of testing costs for the period spanning 2002 to 2008, six years, are between 1.9 billion and 5.3 billion (Smythe, 2008).
Nearly ten years ago Gordon and Reese offered a well thought out set of suggestions in an effort to evade the obvious effects of the tests that were a part of the educational system at the time (1997). These suggestions should be applied to today’s education reform policy (Smythe, 2008).
- Policymakers, assessment experts, and local school administrations should begin an intensive dialogue about the preparation for side effects of high-stakes tests (Smythe, 2008, p. 136).
- Provide staff development on the purposes of standardized testing and appropriate ways to prepare students for the test (Smythe, 2008, p. 136).
- Schools need to be monitored to make sure that large portions of the established curriculum are not thrown out as a result of test preparation (Smythe, 2008, p. 136).
- Total reliance on test results should be replaced by the establishment of a variety of indicators of student achievement, including various types of authentic assessment (Smythe, 2008, p. 136).
- Standardized achievement scores should be but one of a broad range of school performance indicators (Smythe, 2008, p. 136).
- State personnel, educational associations, and local educators should work together to convey to the media and local communities the limitations of high-stakes testing as a single indicator of school and student success (Smythe, 2008, p. 136).
What is the emerging solution to the problem? Waivers: more and more states are applying for waivers from the narrowly defined parameters of the NCLB (Ross & Gibson, 2006). Educators are vehemently arguing for the use of exceptions for the disenfranchised subgroups in an effort to circumvent the effects of the legislation. The state of Florida alone is expected to hire 25,000 highly qualified teachers to teach special needs subgroups (Smythe, 2008). State leaders across the union are perplexed as to how to deal with the problem when they have schools that specialize in educating those with special needs. (Smythe, 2008). This means that 100 percent of the institutions population is experiencing some form of educational obstacle (Smythe, 2008). These institutions face loss of state and federal funding according to the mandates of the act.
Conclusion: Education Reform Sans Neoliberal Underpinnings Is Still Needed
After examining the social justice model as purported at the onset of this work it is evident that there is still a pervasive need for education reform in the United States. It is not simply a desire of the ELL subgroup that was scrutinized, but also for many other subgroups as the American educational system attempts to accomplish social justice. In order for us to achieve our outcome what would it take?
We are currently so far from social justice in terms of both educational experiences and outcomes that we need to engage both pragmatic, ‘short-term’ strategies alongside deeper future thinking. What is clear is that in this period of Western austerity we are entering a phase of post-neoliberalism wherein the state and commerce, public and private are no longer clearly distinguishable (Francis & Mills, 2012, p. 583).
In order to change our educational system the NCLB has to be either reformed or eradicated. In its current state it is a great hindrance to the students it is meant to serve and the teachers who are operating within its guidelines. In this hopeful time of education, reformers need to focus on meeting the needs of all of the students in the educational system (Lacelle-Peterson & Rivera, 1994).
For the purpose of providing optimal and equitable education for ELLs, the most appropriate discussion regarding assessment policy is not whether to include, exclude, or exempt ELLs from assessments. Rather, the discussion must center around two questions: How best to incorporate the data into accountability assessments of schools and school systems (Lacelle-Peterson & Rivera, 1994, p. 70).
The examination of ELL students as a subgroup, through the utilization of the social justice model designed by Fraser, magnifies the failures of the neoliberal infused NCLB Act. Evaluation of student populations on a group-by-group basis is necessary to accurately meet the needs of each student being educated within the United States boarders (Lacelle-Peterson & Rivera, 1994). A sweeping approach to this complex subject simply is not feasible. The neoliberal NCLB Act has managed to decimate many schools through unfair testing, student stealing vouchers and unachievable standards (Ross & Gibson, 2006). Education reform must create standards with practical plans for achievement. This is not just academic theory; it is the nation’s children. They are worth seeking a solution.
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