If you read this wrong, or read things into it that are not there, this has the potential to tick some people off.  Please read carefully.  

September 2011

Dear Concerned Citizen, Official, or Government Representative,

I would like to voice my professional opinion about No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and Closing the Gap.  I was an Exceptional Children's teacher for the state of North Carolina with 11 years experience in the field.  I have worked in elementary school, middle school, and high school as well as teaching Early Childhood Education courses for the local community college.  I have experience with NCLB and Closing the Gap and following are my observations on these issues.

If parents are parenting, the only "Gap" that should exist is between developing teeth, unless there is some undiscovered, recessive, ethnic and/or gender specific gene that hinders intellectual functioning.  Statistically,
Caucasian and Asian children perform pretty well across the board.  These two groups, for example, tend to expect and demand educational performance from their children.  They hold their children up to specific standards and those children often come close to meeting or exceeding those standards.  They also tend to read to their children when they’re small and prepare them for a life of literacy and learning from birth.  I am speaking in very general terms.

This is not to say that there aren't horrendous parents in both groups.  There are, and their children don't do well in school, or life, either, thus creating one of the mythical "Gaps."  But we don't talk about this "Gap." It's not PC to tell parents that they are not doing their jobs well enough.  No, it's much better to blame ethnic groups and call the failings of these parents "Gaps."

It's time for parents to step up to the plate and parent.  It's time society stopped molly coddling ignorant parents and held them accountable for doing their jobs; producing happy, healthy, well-prepared children ready and capable of understanding the educations that are being provided for them at a large cost to the state and nation and no cost to the families.  It's time to make parents responsible for parenting their own children instead of expecting the schools to do it for them.  It is absolutely not my job to parent children to whom I did not give birth.  It IS my job to take children on whatever level they are currently functioning and move them ahead at a pace at which they are capable.  However, if my time is spent teaching the basics and social skills that didn't get taught at home because some parent chose not to, or was too lazy to, higher educational pursuits and/or closing "Gaps" will NOT occur.  There just isn't enough time in the day.

I guarantee your parents taught you the basics of reading and math.  I also guarantee they taught you social skills.  Mine did.  Why is it socially acceptable for others not to do the same?  Why are the schools being blamed for the inadequacies of parents who choose not to parent?  

With this new interpretation of Closing the Gap, the "Gap" becomes one between students that achieve and students that don't, instead of a battle of the races, which is completely off the mark.  Under the current system, student populations that are presently achieving are discriminated against with lawsuit potential.  Right now, the educational goal is to close the "Gap" between minorities and Caucasians by raising the abilities and test scores of minorities while those of achieving students remain the same.  That is the only way to close the "Gap."  However, has anyone realized that ALL children need to be challenged more?  ALL children need to be held to higher expectations and standards?  The goal of education should be to push everyone as far as we can get them whether they're exceptional, gifted, or somewhere in between.  If we're doing that, the "Gap" will NEVER close.  There will always be a "Gap" between those children whose parents prepared them from birth for school, and a lifetime of learning, and those parents that didn't care enough to do so.  It is absolutely not fair for the states and feds to be spending so much time and money on one specific, poorly parented, sub-group when that time and money should be spent benefiting ALL children.

Children need to come to kindergarten ready for school.  The first five years of children's lives seem to be perfectly adequate for most families to prepare them for the tasks of pre-literacy, math, and social skills.  The pre-k programs that are in operation should not be limited to those few financially challenged individuals who qualify for them; they should be open to EVERYONE because it's not just the financially challenged who are not preparing their children for school.  If you want everyone to be on equal footing, level the playing field.

It is time to stop blaming the educational community for the negative consequences of bad parenting.  It is time to make parents responsible or their own children instead of passing the buck to the easiest target, the teachers.  We do enough.  It is not our job, nor our responsibility, to parent our students.  NCLB should be about a nationwide effort to make parents parent instead of creating more work and more paperwork for educators.  We have our own kids to parent.

Thank you for your time,

Tracy Stroud, M.A.