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NEA Overhaul of NCLB?


A majority of the 8,200 delegates at the National Education Association's July 2-5 annual convention overwhelmingly approved a plan that would push for aggressive changes to the federal No Child Left Behind law, which is up for reauthorization next year.

The nation's largest union, whose leaders have often complained they were not allowed to participate in the crafting of the country's chief education law, approved a plan that calls on NEA members to lobby Congress for reforms to bring the law more in line with the views of the 2.8 million-member union.

The changes proposed include establishing an accountability system that no longer relies on testing alone as the measure of success or failure. The plan also calls for smaller class sizes, more funding for schools, and revisions to the definition of "highly qualified" teacher.

Are there legitimate reasons to overhaul NCLB? Should the nation's largest union have input into the drafting of federal law?


The question is about NCLB…is full of irony. The very question of leaving students behind, have been left behind for many years and NCLB the way it is implemented will continue to leave children behind. This is not meant just our minorities but our non minority students as well. The question should address what we have done to our children and teachers. Primarily I feel there is no such animal as the achievement gap. The gap is not brought on by minorities’ inability to learn for minorities for many years were the backbone of civilization as we know it today. The question lies in equality, which has been a problem for America for many years. We ask that no child be left behind but due to inequality in legislature in cities the minority schools suffer with lack of qualified teachers due to lack of funding, supplies, and security. In our democratic world our focus has not been on quality education for all. This has been evident since the case of “Brown vs. The Board of Education” and is still much alive and kicking today. NCLB has constantly focused on teaching of SOL’s and test scores, but how effective are these practices when we know that education is not one dimensional. It encompasses field trips, projects, hands on activities, remediation, review, etc. All of these tactics are thrown to the wayside with the stringent pacing guide to just expose our children to the SOL objective without really teaching the materials. Are we now making our students accountable to only know the objectives listed or are we actually teaching the what, when, why, how and where that is the preface, foundation and resultant of a specific SOL. Accountability should not rest on test scores alone. If that were so then everyone would be universal. One can only demand quality teachers if they are looked upon as qualified professionals. Teachers are among the few professionals that are not paid accordingly. We demand high standards but are not paid as highly qualified. This is evident across the nation in colleges, where education graduates have dropped significantly and will continue until this cycle has ceased.

I'd say we need an overhaul... at least. This whole program was built on the false, misleading Houston School Districts "miracle plan" devised by Rod Paige. When he began in Houston only 26% of 10th grade students could pass the state test. When he left for Washington, 99% were passing it. His plan must be great! The panacea we've all been craving! Look how well it worked... right? WRONG. Closer inspection shows they did everything they could to "get the numbers right". At risk 9th graders were held back, allowing only fully achieving one's to move on. After being held back for 2 years, if necessary, they were then passed straight on to 12th, bypassing the state test altogether... if they weren't redistricted so they wouldn't show up as drop outs. In 2001 there were 1,160 students in the 9th grade in Houston, 281 in 10th. 99% of the 281 passed the test. Not really a miracle any more, is it? Houston also had troubles with its attendance records. One school in the district boasted 100% graduation rate... yet with closer inspection, a class that began with 1000 freshmen, ended up as only 300 seniors graduating. The missing 700 were all from low income families, and somehow "disappeared". Instead of the 100% number, it was found it should have been more like 50% when all correct numbers were factored in. It was also found that with the added pressures, teachers and children were found to be cheating to get scores higher or face the "consequences". (Principals of schools in Houston were made to sign one year contracts that were based on test scores alone. No pressure there, right?) Houston schools even misreported campus crime rates. it reported 761 cases (instead of the 2,330 cases it should have)
New studies on a national scale have shown that the "achievement gap" that is "closing" upon closer inspection is really showing that the top performers are coming down to the standards of the lower performers. Wow! Isn't that GREAT? We're finally closing that achievement gap! Now we're becoming a nation of low achievers across the board! Yippee!

No Child Left Behind: A plan built on a pile of garbage. Not all children bloom early, or particularly well at the same time. (Just ask Dick Cheney about his school career... failed out of Yale on 2 occasions and found his way back to Casper Community College for his education... who left him behind? Last I saw, however, he's made out pretty well for himself! George Bush doesn't have the best record either...Hmmmm. Wonder why these guys insist on so much for so many?)

Sometimes, the skills kids have are not of the academic nature. So what? Why don't we start focusing in on ways to teach that WORK and stop following the trail of garbage. The only place it leads to is the DUMP. Instead of investing in inquiry, phonics, understanding, we are investing in "teaching to the test" and "memorizing standards". These kids might not be left behind on a test, but boy, I'm afraid that LIFE will go whooshing right by them later on, when they can't solve problems and think for themselves. Yes, I think this system needs a major overhaul.

Does it need overhauling? Is that a rhetorical question? NCLB is a disaster the way it is, especially the importance of testing. EVERTHTHING revolves around the cramming of math and reading - now science - knowledge down the throats of children - teaching to "THE TEST." Tension is high. Principals and teachers try to think of ways to disguise the focus, counselors try to think of ways to help everyone relax. And what about sending children from schools that don't make AYP to schools that do? Year before last our school received over 100 extra students from school that didn't make AYP, which put our class sizes over the max, leaving the "bad" schools with class sizes of sometimes 4 or 5. How would that benefit anyone? Does NCLB need an overhaul? I'll pretend you didn't ask that question.

Whatever anyone wants to say about NCLB, it has done this: it has established some comparable data by which we have some idea of how well our children are learning. Yes, an unintended consequence is that some teachers/districts cheat (and some have gotten caught). Another unintended consequence is that many poorly performing schools/districts have tried to work around the limited education levels they were doling out by various test-cramming schemes (and some "cherry picking" schemes to lose the harder to teach students).

Good teaching (which results in measurable outcomes) includes field trips, hands-on learning, group projects, intervention and remediation--all the things that NCLB is charged with getting rid of. But these things have to take place within a soundly structured environment of learning toward specific goals and objectives.

It's hard to see what problem NEA might have with NCLB's definition of highly qualified. Most reviews have concluded that holes are big enough for individual states to ensure little change. It will be years before all of the "grandfathered" teachers who met HQ by counting workshops, time on committees, etc have retired. During my classroom time I taught both in and out of my field. I stepped into a position formerly held by a teacher certified in mathematics--but included teaching English. My certification is in English--but I also had to teach math. I can tell you--her students had a better math teacher. Mine had a better English teacher. It makes a difference.

Frankly, I would love to see accountability on measures in addition to academic testing, but I would caution the NEA to be careful what it asks for. The non-academic measures currently included (generally attendance and graduation rate) have been contentious enough. Persistently dangerous conditions have been defined out of existence. I believe one state did adopt a Collection of Evidence (portfolio) approach to accountability. Some states use this for their alternative testing of students with cognitive disabilities. I haven't heard too many cheers from teachers on this one. It is very labor intensive.

There are other indicators--levels of parental involvement, but then you have to be willing to involve parents and work at it. Some states have been granted the go-ahead to implement value-added measures. In the long run, I don't expect NEA will be supportive, because it provides an apples to apples measure that can compare the success of individual teachers.

The other unintended consequence of NCLB is that it provides one more scapegoat for our poor standing as a nation in educating our children.

Most if not all of the comments and commentaries I've read focus on the perceived problems with NCLB. I've also heard a lot of 'general' solutions and prescriptions relating to what should be done. But, none seem to be as specific, as targeted or as accurate as the present NCLB initiative. In any standards based educational system, accountability and assesment measures must be in place. NCLB has specific role as a social indicator, for states, districts, schools and students. If anything, more consistency across state lines in needed, not less. The implication of NCLB requiring 'teaching to the test' as the only way for success is nonsense. If your Core Curiculum Content Standards are practiced and implemented by teachers as well as students and effective intervention strategies are in place to deliver quality assurance instead of quality control, the measures of success (NCLB)would be much greater and society in general would much better off for it.

For sure NCLB needs to be overhauled. The nation's youth should be a priority, but the problem of low achieving students is much more than mandating passing of paper based exams. The achievement gap as well is more than a function of finding new ways of teaching minorities. Until the following issues are addressed we are spinning our wheels.

1. Parents and students need to be accountable for their learning. Too often schools and teachers are being asked to raise children, to teach manners, and social skills.

2. Alternative programs at seventh grade should be available for students who would rather follow a different path other than traditional core subjects, i.e. an earlier vocational track. This does not have to be a one way door. If students decide they want to revert to a more traditional path, then they will have to make up the essential work they missed.

3. More teeth needs to be instituted within the public schools in order to send a strong message that the main reason students are in school is to learn academic subjects, not for a fashion show, or to fool around with their friends. Too much money, $8000 per student per year, approx. $100,000 by 12th grade, is being devoted to supportiing their education.

School uniforms should be required so that education is not a fashion show.

Students who do not finish classwork, who do not do homework, and who's parents do not have influence over their children to improve, need alternative programs. We continue to try and fit a square peg in a round hole, one size fits all approach to education.

By lack of effort and motivation, students are telling you that they have difficulty relating to the curriculum standards.

For what American schools provide, an opportunity for an education, for any student that walks in the door, we need to be applauded. The real message needs to be sent to students and parents that this is too important and valuable of an opportunity to squander. If they choose not to take advantage of it, then alternative paths will be provided.

I look forward to reading your comments.

In my not-so-humble opinion, the only thing that has come of NCLB is a magnification of the inequality that exists between schools. In Florida, almost one half of our students are Hispanic and speak English as a second language. How does expecting these children to become proficient in speaking and reading English within one year create equality for them? How does witholding funding from schools that are "failing" to meet AYP help them? AYP is a farce, with no scientific or logical reasoning behind the measurement process. NCLB is leaving more children behind than ever, and the ramifications are profound. If someone had told me 5 years ago that we would refuse kids the right to graduate high school if they do not meet an arbitrary standard on a standardized test, or that we would misuse standardized tests and abuse our students with them, I would not have become a teacher. We don't let them graduate, regardless of their academic achievement, if they don't "pass the test", and as a result, we are vastly limiting their future opportunities. We write kids off because of their test scores, we have to, by law, track them into "intensive" programs, we make them feel weak and unintelligent, and more often than not, these kids end up in the judicial system. I refuse to sit back and take it any longer.
Teachers are overworked, and they will always be underpaid. NCLB places greater pressure on teachers by requiring them to complete extra training on their own time. I think that a system of accountability is a necessity. However, where is the accountability for administrators, or district officials? It is essential for all Americans to become educated voters, to find out about the issues and the education system, and to demand that accountability for our elected officials.
Until the day arrives when we see every child as a child, without labels or subgroups, no education reform will be effective.

Certainly NCLB need reform. Any time Congress does anything quickly, it usually gets it wrong. One thing I don't think they got wrong is the idea of accountability. How we got to this version of accountability has ill-informed policy-making. The problem is not with tests, it is with their improper usage. States are being forced to show "growth" to keep their money. This is unrealistic due to differences made by people above (maturational differences, instructional needs, etc.). However, the truly important change that I hope a revamp of NCLB would include is better method. The instantaneous implementation of high-stakes tests with no real understanding of what kind of growth was expected without an "intervention" set up the system to be gamed. Using scientific methodology instead of tough but ungrounded and unresearched policy would seem to be a better route.

Where is the cry for the bright and gifted children that NCLB is leaving behind? Most of my students could pass the state exam on the first day of school, yet they continue to work on "skills" they already have daily. Even in a district such as mine who has a highly-rated gifted and talented program requiring all teachers to have 30 hours of gifted and talented training has children doing the same thing over and over. There is pressure to get these kids to have "perfect" or "near perfect" scores telling them that their intelligence only matters on how well they take a test on one day (forget that they read too much into every question, therefore thinking on a higher level...). Bright children who do not receive gifted services fair even worse. The idea that these children turn out okay in the long run is contrary to research findings. So who is left behind? Instead of schools or districts making AYP, why not do this for individual students? Test growth from September to June? If a child who reads at a primer level at the beginning of 3rd grade comes up to a 2nd grade reading level...that IS more than a year's progress. Yet, the teacher and student feel like failures for their hard work. Bright children deserve to grow at least one year as well, but research shows these children are the very ones who make the least progress. The comment that says if you teach the Core Curriculum Standards they should be fine...well, yes and no. Teaching methods that are best for long-term learning DO TAKE MORE TIME. Do teachers teach the curriculum and take short cuts to ensure passing the test rather than true understanding? You bet! We have to. So we are teaching a curriculum that is a mile wide and an inch deep. Something that won't get them very far in the real world.

Dismantle NCLB, and dismantle the schools'
exemption from age nondiscrimination laws!
Not all children develop at the same rate and the same time. One age per grade messes up kids who need to start later and go slower, as well as kids who are ready earlier and need greater challenge. ONE SIZE DOES ***NOT*** FIT ALL!!!!!
Equality of experience is an inadequate substitute for equality of opportunity. Imagine that kids who need more time get more time, and kids who need more challenge get more challenge, and that this is done on a regular basis as part of the business of getting kids what THEY need. Then as a society we replace the self-imposed 'shame' of being held back with the *confidence* of getting what they need, and knowing that adults care enough to make that happen for them. In the process, teachers may have mixed age classes, but more homogeneous readiness within each class, and can spend more energy teaching the subject in depth rather than differentiating every lesson plan a dozen times over. I am not talking about *ability* grouping, I'm talking about *readiness* grouping. And I can promise you that kids who are ready for algebra at 7 years old suffer every bit as much for having to wait as kids who are ready for algebra at 17 for having to regurgitate what they don't the background to comprehend. END AGE DISCRIMINATION IN SCHOOLS!!!!!

Too add to the inequalities supported by NCLB- don't forget that NCLB requires that schools hand student information over to the military or risk losing funding. In practice, the military recruiters concentrate on schools in which the students feel they have fewer options, thereby setting up another tier in the invigorated class system.
The collaboration between Rod Paige and Donald Rumsfeld in 2002 shows the underlying nature of NCLB and the dishonesty interpretation of accountability.

As a mother of five with widely varying differences in their academic strengths and weaknesses, it has been quite obvious to me for a long time that students cannot learn if not given the tools and environment that is right for them. The NCLB hijacked our good but tough state standards test. I had supported the state test, because the business community, parents and education professionals had come together to create a test that reflected the higher expectations necessary for our students to succeed in the global economy. However, it was NEVER meant to be passed by everyone. The idea that students with limited English skills or severe disabilities must pass this test has created a nightmare for teachers and students. Try reading a test question to a student who can't understand it. You aren't allowed to help them understand, but just helplessly see their frustration and sense of failure. All children should have a chance at a good education, and both parents and children should be given the tools to help make them successful, but the NCLB must be changed and COMMON SENSE laws enacted to make true education possible.

When will anyone really involve various groups of Parents from the different segments of the demographic Populations? It seems that some real " Common-sense" approaches are being severely missed. For example: In an area of Georgia, the school system in Richmond County uses a Home-Work Policy whereby students begin each semester with 100% then lose points daily for Assignments not completed.The major problem: Home Work assignments don't correlate to the Georgia Performance Code, Homework isn't corrected but only checked for the Students, name.Parents can't get homework assignements in advance by seven or more days. The Homework policy is more for the convenience of the Teachers not benefit of Students. Teachers march up the isles to look @ previous homework assignment for student names, then choose problems that most Students seemed to miss. I fail to understand how Teachers can seriously understand the Mind of each student using that System. Years ago, homework errors were corrected on the your papers, nightly. Answers had to be written with your reasoning. You couldn't just choose the corresponding letter that matched the Answer.

It is obvious from all the previous responses that NCLB law needs an overhaul. Which then leads to the question of the involvment of the largest union,the teachers union, playing a role in the rewriting of the law. Teachers are represented by their union. The unions work with districts and states to keep funding in the classroom where students will benefit from it. The unions know what teachers need to effectivly instruct their students, they hear the wishes of teachers all year long, and work to keep conditions workable. If teachers are not being involved in the creation of laws that affect them, then we are going to find ourselves with an even larger problem 10 years down the road, not enough teachers at all. With an increasing student population, teachers voice must be heard, and the union is an excellent way of projecting it.

Sadly, my union(I'm a "lifer" in the NEA) calls for reforming the definition of "highly qualified" in NCLB. The "usual" calls for more money for ed and smaller class sizes justify NEA's representation of the membership. Well and good. But, I worry about more "watering" of "highly qualified". A teacher should not be placed, by admin, in a class for which preparation is minimal. I didn't expect all of my colleagues to earn a BS-through-terminal-research degree in their subject, at state universities plus refereed publications(I did, BEFORE embarking on several decades of teaching/chairing public middle school science), but I'd expect, at the very least, an undergrad major in one's teaching field, followed by summers of research participation or additional coursework to "steep" one in the subject to the extent that their classroom personnas are close to being "models of field professionals" for their students. My science department(in a 1000+ enrollment school) had most of its members with MS+ in subject taught, and several right out of undergrad science majors/equivs. As dept chair, I consulted with admin in hiring half of these. Our goal was subject matter rigor. It was possible. Turnover of admin and retirements brought with it dillution of the "rigor goal" and non-majors teaching science, but, for 20 years we were able to maintain "highly qualified" across the dept., and for all that time there was NO NCLB. We did it because it was the correct thing to do. It all depends on what is important to admin.: filling openings before Labor Day with minimally certified people OR making an extra special effort to have the very best candidates on board. A bit of luck is also a help! Sure, there are forces mitigating against "highly qualified", but they CAN be overcome.

Forgive me, but by middle school, special education students are already left behind. NCLB does nothing to address their real-life needs. AYP should not be judged on whether or not sped students pass a yearly achievement test that oftentimes their curriculum, vocabulary development, and cognitive abilities do not address. NCLB was derived on fraud and it should not be used to assess special ed kids.

As a private tutor, I have the liberty to work without the constraints of NCLB and all the red tape and bureacracy that taints learning in the schools. With one on one non pressure situations, I am rid of the crowd mentality of the classroom. Some of my students are achieving A's from F's in as little as three weeks. I never thought anything of lectures or lesson prep and I give free math review for all comers in the summer to boot.

NCLB is someways a big fat lie, I work in an inner city elementary school where more than half the enrollment is minority students with an unbelieveable load of ill begotten baggage. The system expects us to wear many hats; teacher, mother, father, disciplinarian, police officer,and mental health counselor. Don't get me wrong, we are willing to take on this task as best as we can. However we are urged to teach the TAK test, well what about the basics ? It is sad when a child can get to the fourth grade and then it is realized that this child can't read. This is not acceptable!!There is not enough room on this comment form to tell you of all the horrors that we experience from verbal abuse to physical abuse. Let's get back to the grass roots of teaching.

NCLB is someways a big fat lie, I work in an inner city elementary school where more than half the enrollment is minority students with an unbelieveable load of ill begotten baggage. The system expects us to wear many hats; teacher, mother, father, disciplinarian, police officer,and mental health counselor. Don't get me wrong, we are willing to take on this task as best as we can. However we are urged to teach the TAK test, well what about the basics ? It is sad when a child can get to the fourth grade and then it is realized that this child can't read. This is not acceptable!!There is not enough room on this comment form to tell you of all the horrors that we experience from verbal abuse to physical abuse. Let's get back to the grass roots of teaching.

I am so glad to read another teacher's comments that mirror my own! I received looks from my colleagues (all teachers working on our Masters' degrees in Reading) that said I was a divergent radical when I expressed that NCLB treated students as if they were bowling balls honed to precise specifications that could all perform exactly the same. Even worse, NCLB requires me to be an expert in my field, but then my District and State tell me how and what I have to teach. Rubbish! I was able to tease incredible results from my students (lowest 25%) with astoundingincreases in their developmental scale scores by applying the best practices to which I was exposed during my classes, which (by the way) were NOT the methodologies mandated by my "superiors"!
How can teachers be held accountable for student performance on one moment in time, when we have no control over the circumstances of their lives and cannot force them to perform their best? I have seen many capable students purposely jeopardize their success on standaradized tests because they are voicing their disgust with this "high stakes" method of analysis. Making teachers accountable for student performance in this manner is akin to holding us hostage. I am all for reform of the NCLB, with input from the real experts -- US!

Just published in April. This book is for middle grade students, teachers and parents. It is the child's VOICE, in this mess caused by the NCLB Act.

NCLB was ill-concieved and poorly implemented. It is difficult to find the problems with this "law" because it is really a mass of rhetoric. The purpose is supposed to be that of improving schools and education in general, but what has happened is schools, districts and states have become bogged down in trying to comply with the "mandates" of the "law".
A major stumbling block is the manadating of standards. The U.S. Department of Education sets no standards at all,but calls on the states to set the standards and then submit them to the ED for approval. The states are required also to create or find adequate standardized tests to allign with their standards and then get ED approval of the tests. The result is an extremely costly burden of plain old paperwork. Schools and states are trying to meet federal standards and no one even knows what the federal standards are. It is like posting a question mark on a highway speed limit sign and expecting the drivers passin by to decide what speedis required and punishing those that quess wrong.
The "law" quite simply does not work. NCLB is a waste of taxpayers money that has done absolutely nothing to improve education.

I cannot agree more with all your comments on NCLB and what it is doing to our schools, children, parents, teachers and administrators, but what else can be done other that state a complain. There will never be any changes with voices of only concerns. We need to become stronger than this some how. Again I agree with all of you and I am in a state that will not even be part of the law suit against NCLB, so all I can say is keep your thoughts coming and something just might change. Kosha:)

I am resubmitting my concern because I would like for readers to not feel like I just read complains, but I view them as concerns and I agree with all of them.
I cannot agree more because with all your comments on NCLB and what it is doing to our schools, children, parents, teachers and administrators, but what else can be done other than just voice a student, classroom, and educators concern. There will never be any changes with voices from just concerns. We need to become stronger than this some how. Again, I agree with all of you and I am in a State that will not even be part of the law suit against NCLB, so all I can say is keep your thoughts coming and something just might change. I am also a tutor and I have worked with children outside the NCLB red tape. I know that all of you are making your difference slowly but surly with children and for right know this is all we can do as individuals in different schools and in different settigngs working with different learning abilities and many very loving hearts- our children Kosha:)

Because of the NCLB Act
Good educator must not keep silent.
Preoccupation with results can interfere with learning.
Try to educate those above you whenever it seems possible to do so, but cushion those below you every day.
Educators and parents must come together to change this law.

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