No Child Left Behind, Really?

Societies expect students to shape the future by initiating change and transforming the world. But educators and policymakers relegate students to schools that structure inequalities and restrict learning opportunities. Students struggle to assert agency under social constructs that influence their daily school lives. Today’s students bear the burdens of achievement gaps, bullying, college-prep pressures, evolving identities and many other dynamics rooted in today’s social conditions. Our course seeks to understand how American students both reproduce and challenge social, cultural, political, and educational realities of today. We will seek to understand how students from different marginalized communities experience school, including racial groups (white and minoritized communities), LGBTQ students, students with special needs, and language minorities in rural, urban, and suburban settings. Beginning with an exploration of today’s American students and their schooling realities, this course will consider the structures, beliefs, and traditions that influence how elementary and secondary students experience schooling. Unlike other courses in the School of Education that consider the role of schools in society, or best practices for teachers and leaders, this course will explore how students experience schools today. Recognizing that the overwhelming number of AU freshman and new transfer students have prior experiences in elementary and secondary education – this course will enable us to draw on our collective experiences in school as background knowledge. Primary sources will be used to amplify diverse voices of American students across school contexts. Additional course content will be presented from materials spanning multiple disciplines, including education research, literature, digital media, news, and scholarly papers. The instructor will guide the identification of issues that elementary and secondary students are currently facing in schools, these will comprise the foundation of the course, emphasizing issues that resonate both in scholarly literature and popular discourse.