Declining Field Trips and NCLB?
To the list of things people are blaming on No Child Left Behind, add field trips. Reporter Michael Winerip had an interesting article in Wednesday's New York Times called "No Child Left Behind? Ask the Gifted." It's a somewhat disjointed piece that seems mostly about this cool trip one gifted class got to take to Ellis Island, coupled with a few paragraphs on the decline of gifted education, coupled with another on the decline of field trips. I'm happy the class got to take their field trip and we talk about declining gifted education a lot, so I'll concentrate on the stats on the field trip's decline.
According to Winerip, "Peter O'Connell, who runs the educational program at the national park in Lowell, Mass., just completed a survey of school visits to 10 history museums in New England, including Old Sturbridge Village and Plimoth Plantation. He found a 20 percent decline in student visits in the last few years. 'Schools aren't devoting as much time to history, especially urban districts,' Dr. O'Connell said."
Now there's plenty not to like about NCLB, but after a while it gets a little tedious to have everything blamed on it. I suspect that with field trips, schools are using NCLB as an excuse, not an actual reason. The teacher profiled in Winerip's piece is an excellent, high-energy teacher. She looks forward to taking her class to Ellis Island every year. Many teachers are not so excited about these things. I had plenty of social studies and history teachers who managed to never leave the school building, long before NCLB. Organizing kids and sack lunches and parental chaperones and permission slips is work. Why take on more work if there's a ready excuse not to?
Actually, the more I think about it, I suspect some local districts that have cut funding for gifted education and have blamed NCLB are following the same line of reasoning. Among a certain set of educators trained in false notions of equality, gifted education is a constant thorn in the side. If there's an available reason to get rid of it -- a big, unpopular reason decreed by far-away lawmakers you can do nothing about -- why not seize it?