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The No Child Left Behind Act turns five this week, but it appears many teachers won’t be celebrating. Among the ways the NCLB Act has changed schools since its enactment, according to an overview by USA Today, is by “driving teachers crazy.” Teachers have been most frustrated by the curricular constraints the law appears to have fostered and by its emphasis on standardized tests. “I am well on my way to becoming an embittered and mediocre teacher who heretofore considered teaching to be a profession, not a job,” one educator is reported to have written on an online petition calling for NCLB’s repeal. While many observers credit the law with bringing greater attention to poor and minority students, even longtime supporters appear to be having doubts about how well NCLB is playing out in schools. In a move that has created a stir in the education policy world, a former Bush administration education official has posted an article conceding that the “NCLB as enacted is fundamentally flawed and probably beyond repair.” Michael Petrilli, a self-described ‘True Believer” who used to wear an NCLB pin on his lapel, now says the law is rife with “nonsensical provisions” and flaws. Chief among them, he writes, are a “rigid rule-based mechanism” for determining highly qualified teachers and an incentives system that appears to have turned many schools into “test-prep factories.”

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The primary purpose and value of the NCLBAct is to bring about a closing of the achievement gap between high and low achieving students. Just to be clear, the achievement gap is the difference in general educational achievement between the children of those with a good amount of money and those just getting by, as well as the difference in achievement between light skinned and dark skinned peoples in American schools. The Act recognizes that there is no genetic, no racial, no inherent reason for this gap. It is determined to allow every child in America an equal chance at a good education. Personally, I think that’s about as good an American idea as there is—worth arguing for, worth fighting for, worth paying for! If we abandon NCLB altogether, don't we play right into the hands of those who very much want to keep the achievement gap in place?

Frankly, one of the big problems with NCLB is that parents, in general, do not want educational equity, the vast majority of parents want their child to have a BETTER education than the other children. Communities echo this attitude. Scarsdale wants to do better than the surrounding communities because better college acceptance rates mean higher real estate values. Wealthier families pour money into private evaluation and tutoring of their children in addition to willingly paying high taxes for excellent school facilities because they want to use their money to give their kids a leg up–and they’d be rather upset if poor children achieved the same results.

The basic idea behind NCLB–closing the achievement gap–is (embarrassingly and yet, understandably) antithetical to the underlying desires of the people of the United States. Each group wants to see those it considers its children having an advantage over the children of another group.

But here's the thing, the majority of teachers I’ve met in 34 years in schools want their students to do better than anyone else, too. Not because they get paid more but because of that same natural desire to see your people flourish. Most teachers in poor-achieving schools have a real desire to provide their students with whatever is needed to allow them to achieve to the full extent to which they are able.

The problem with NCLB testing is that the results are meant to be an advertising tool, not a learning tool—Mississippi wants to beat Alabama, California wants to trounce New York, Rhode Island wants to kick Connecticut’s butt—and that means subordinating learning to test results. Teachers are far from perfect, but they are the ones most interested in having every student in front of them do well. Lets craft NCLB into legislation that helps them do that.

An interesting problem with NCLB, one which is rarely mentioned, is what "being left behind" means. In my experience (38 years HS teaching), not all children are capable of the same outcomes, so some are bound to be "left behind." That doesn't mean thrown away, just that they will achieve less/differently academically than some other students.

To me, being "left behind" means not getting the basic skills that you need to be successful in life. It's hard to specify what these are because, for example, an engineer needs a much more complicated set of math skills than a carpenter. This is not to say that EITHER job is inherently superior to the other, just that they need different skill sets.

Another thing is that there are students who are not at all concerned about being "left behind." If a student does not do his/her part to learn, they select being "left behind," and there may be nothing that can be done about that.

Finally, teaching to the test (test-prep) is only bad when the test is bad. Teaching to the test is what happens in many professions. I'm glad that airplane pilots have their final "test" in mind in every course that they take. When the outcomes are clear and valuable, and the test measures these outcomes, then it's clearly a valuable experience. When the test is trivial, then teaching to it is a waste of time.

As a teacher of English Language Learners in high school, I am grateful for the focus NCLB has had on the academic achievement of this special population of students as well as the financial support that has come with it. These kids were often overlooked, appeased, or not taken seriously by teachers who thought they were doing them a favor by not holding them accountable to the same standards as the others in the class.NCLB has changed that. I know having ELLs in the classroom takes more work, but holding them accountable (and making sure they comprehend) forces us as teachers to be better at what we do. If we can plan a lesson that is comprehensible for our langauge learners, then we can know it is a lesson that all students can benefit from.
Having greater financial resources through Title III of the NCLB Act has also made a tremendous difference for me through the purchasing of technology and the reducing of class sizes. I know I am better teacher and am able to help more students because of these things.
I do wish testing wasn't always the answer when we are looking for ways to measure outcomes, but I am satisfied that if students can't complete a basic set of predetermined skills, then they shouldn't be graduating from high school anyway.
However, one concern I have that is directly related to NCLB is the lack of one key component in the legislation. Where is the accountability of the student and his parents? Schools can never solve all the social ills or make up for the failures that are occurring in so many homes in this country today. Teachers can not teach students who are not there because parents don't place a priority on attendance. Teachers struggle to teach students who are not held accountable at home for their academic studies, and they try as hard as they can to teach and help students who suffer because of the challenges they face at home such as custody battles, alcoholic or abusive parents, hunger, etc. Until governments or programs recognize that it takes the acountability on all parties involved to help children succeed in school, it will never be totally successful. I for one am personally tired of schools and teachers being the fall guy when so many of the real problems stem from dysfunctional homes and parents who are not doing their job of parenting.

As a teacher of English Language Learners in high school, I am grateful for the focus NCLB has had on the academic achievement of this special population of students as well as the financial support that has come with it. These kids were often overlooked, appeased, or not taken seriously by teachers who thought they were doing them a favor by not holding them accountable to the same standards as the others in the class.NCLB has changed that. I know having ELLs in the classroom takes more work, but holding them accountable (and making sure they comprehend) forces us as teachers to be better at what we do. If we can plan a lesson that is comprehensible for our langauge learners, then we can know it is a lesson that all students can benefit from.
Having greater financial resources through Title III of the NCLB Act has also made a tremendous difference for me through the purchasing of technology and the reducing of class sizes. I know I am better teacher and am able to help more students because of these things.
I do wish testing wasn't always the answer when we are looking for ways to measure outcomes, but I am satisfied that if students can't complete a basic set of predetermined skills, then they shouldn't be graduating from high school anyway.
However, one concern I have that is directly related to NCLB is the lack of one key component in the legislation. Where is the accountability of the student and his parents? Schools can never solve all the social ills or make up for the failures that are occurring in so many homes in this country today. Teachers can not teach students who are not there because parents don't place a priority on attendance. Teachers struggle to teach students who are not held accountable at home for their academic studies, and they try as hard as they can to teach and help students who suffer because of the challenges they face at home such as custody battles, alcoholic or abusive parents, hunger, etc. Until governments or programs recognize that it takes the acountability on all parties involved to help children succeed in school, it will never be totally successful. I for one am personally tired of schools and teachers being the fall guy when so many of the real problems stem from dysfunctional homes and parents who are not doing their job of parenting.

STANDARDIZED TESTING NARROWS THE THINKING


Parents who have concerns about the impact of accountability in their public schools may be wondering how we got to this current position in our schools in the name of improving education. School has become a very test focused environment in order to meet the standards set by the state and the federal government.

Some children are being classified as less than competent because they do not do well on a standardized test. Very young children are being tested, even though experts in early childhood education condemn the practice. To expect standardized results from very young children is like expecting every child to crawl at the same age, to talk at the same age or to walk at the same age.

These tests currently evaluate the school and the teacher. Schools must make Adequate Yearly Progress. If they slip back, sanctions or funding is pending for that school, but under the No Child Left Behind Act all schools must reach 100% proficiency by 2014.
This is an impossible goal.

There is always the argument that we can’t just be soft on students. It’s a competitive world. We need healthy competition. What is healthy competition to a first grader?
It is anxiety and tears. Is that what we want for our children?

The NCLB Act is creating winners and losers. Standardized tests can’t measure initiative, creativity, imagination, conceptual thinking, curiosity, or effort. They do measure isolated skills, specific facts, the least interesting aspects of learning.

Because schools need to see results, there is excessive homework at young ages.
After 6.5 hours absorbing information children need time when they get home to think their own thoughts and process what they have learned. Parents need family time with their children that doesn’t include nagging them to do homework.

The workload isn’t likely to change, as long as the federal NCLB Act requires schools to meet performance goals or face penalties.

Parents know their children. Most children, especially the young are eager to learn, until pressure robs them of their natural inclination. It is not the teachers fault. They are only striving to do their job under the law.

The NCLB Act is being reviewed this year in Congress 2007. All parents should make their voices heard to their legislators. Your children are being robbed of a precious part of their childhood by expectations beyond their years.

Deanna Enos, Author - Nobody Left Behind – One Child’s Story About Testing

No Child Left Behind (NCLB) testing has helped to expose special education services and programs that are inadequate and inappropriate. Year after year parents are told based on teacher beliefs the child’s program being provided is a free appropriate public education (FAPE). When a parent changes school staff they lose about 99% of the time in due process hearings because school staff word is always considered the truth. Now comes NCLB testing that can’t be altered or made up. So what do school districts do now? With hold the test results from the parent to justify denying services to the child and conceal the child is not on grade level.
I am an advocate who went through a due process hearing with a parent in Glens Falls N.Y. One of the issues was the demand to obtain the child’s 8th grade NCLB test results. The hearing officer Jerome Schad’s decision is: “Failure to take required eighth-grade State assessment, in and of itself, is not an IEP violation. The Parent has the right to review the report of the assessment under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act and its implementing regulations.[365] I do not have jurisdiction to determine a records request nor to order the relief requested.[366] The Parent’s Claim # 13 is not sustained.”
Parent made repeated request to obtain the test results and obtained them. Now is the fight for the services her child is entitled to under NCLB and IDEA to attempt to keep her child from being left behind. The following is part of a letter the parent had to write to now fight for services. CHILD has been inserted to conceal the child’s identity.
January 10, 2007
Becky Wood, CSE Chairperson
Glens Falls City School District
Office of Special Education
10 Quade Street
Glens Falls, NY 12801

Dear Ms. Wood:
I am in receipt of your letter dated January 8, 2007 and received on January 10, 2007.
Thank you for providing a copy of CHILD’s 8th grade No Child Left Behind test results. I asked about state testing in a CSE meeting 6/20/06 and it is documented in:
Exhibit SD-5B 6/20/06 CSE minutes: “The parent requested information about any state assessments that had been administered. The chairperson will check on this.”The response I received from Laurie Parker, CSE chairperson was: Exhibit P-38, page 1 “To date, CHILD has not taken any state or local assessments”
At the August 25, 2006 resolution/CSE meeting Linda asked about the No Child Left Behind testing results and Barbara Sealy said CHILD had taken it and gotten less then a 3. Linda asked for a copy be provided to us and we never received a copy from Barbara Sealy, Laurie Parker or anyone from the school until today when I received your letter. During the hearing Laurie Parker testified:
September 28, 2006 Page 328-329 lines 24, 1-13 Laurie Parker CPSE, CSE chairperson: “Q Did you attend a CSE meeting in September where a discussion was made -- MR. AUFFREDOU: Objection. What year? MS. MONTALBANO: 2006. Q Where a discussion was made about the New York State No Child Left Behind testing? A This September? Q Yes. A No. Q Do you know Barbara Sealy? A Yes. Q Okay. Did she attend the CSE meeting for CHILD in September of 2006? A I don't know.”
I asked in mediation first and issue 13 of the due process hearing was about school staff not knowing if CHILD took the test or providing me with CHILD’s test results on the No Child Left Behind testing. In the hearing Laurie Parker testified:
September 28, 2006 Page 323-324 lines 24, 1-21 Laurie Parker CPSE, CSE chairperson: “Q Do you know if CHILD ever took State required testing? A CHILD has not yet had to take any State required testing. Q Is No Child Left Behind testing State required testing in New York State? A Yes. Q Is CHILD exempt from the No Child Left Behind testing? A No. Q Has the Parent asked you if CHILD has ever taken any State required testing? A Yes. Q And what was your answer? A That CHILD has not taken any State required testing yet, because there were no Regent's tests for ninth grade. Q Okay. Were there any No Child Left Behind testing that CHILD should have been taking? A No. Q Is there an eighth grade No Child Left Behind testing in the State of New York? A Yes. Yes. I'm sorry. CHILD would have taken the eighth grade testing.” Page 235-236, 238 lines 20-24, 1-15, 1-23 “Q I mean 2005. A Eighth grade, I believe. Q Okay. So by August 16 of 2005, CHILD would have taken the No Child Left Behind testing? A I believe so. Q Okay. Can you look into the letter and see if you're responding to a parent's request about testing. A I responded to what was in -- I was responding to the letters dated 8/4 and 8/8. Q Okay. So, by August 16th, 2005, you didn't know if CHILD took the No Child Left Behind testing at the end of the eighth grade? A I don't understand the question. Q August 16, 2005, would you have known if CHILD had taken any No Child Left Behind testing? A Yes. Q Okay. If you look and review this letter, are you responding to the Parent -- responding to her about whether her CHILD had taken any State testing? Q Okay. All right. Had the Parent, several times, asked you about testing regarding No Child Left Behind, or State testing? A Yes. Q And did there come a time when you told her whether CHILD took the testing for No Child Left Behind? A What – Q The No Child Left Behind testing for the eighth grade. A Yes. She asked me about that. Q All right. And did you respond to her and inform her if CHILD had taken that testing? A Yes. All students take that test, unless they have alternative assessment, which CHILD does not. Q And was the Parent provided the test results? A I don't know. Q In New York State, does the parent get something home saying this is what your child did on the No Child Left Behind testing? A Yes. From the State. Q Should CHILD be getting something home if CHILD took the testing? A I believe so.”
No where in any of the districts response to my request for this testing or in their testimony does any school staff state I was already provided the No Child Left Behind test results. This is just another one of the constant distortions of the truth to cover up what has been done and to withhold the results of CHILD testing from the CSE team and myself. Regardless, CHILD failed and was given no supports and promoted to the 9th grade. At the resolution/CSE meeting on August 25, 2006 after Barbara Sealy admitted Robert scored below 3 (I know now a 1 in Math and a 2 reading, writing) Linda asked what services CHILD received and Barbara Sealy said CHILD special education was CHILD services. That is not what CHILD is supposed to receive if CHILD scored below 3. CHILD is entitled to services to help bring up CHILD academic levels which we know are well below 8th grade based on CSE testing reported on CHILD IEP’s. Dr. Curley’s report identified CHILD is not on grade level:
Exhibit SD-2 dated 11/16/05 from Dr. Curley’s report: “CHILD academic skills were all depressed and ranged from an elementary school level of mastery in written language, sight vocabulary, spelling and decoding to a middle school mastery in reading comprehension and math reasoning.” “CHILD academic difficulties are at a level where one would ordinarily begin to consider the presence of learning disabilities, but in light of CHILD prior difficulties engaging in the typical educational setting, I cannot rule out that CHILD difficulties are secondary to limited educational instruction. In light of CHILD age and the degree of educational impairment CHILD shows, I would provide intensive educational remediation to try to close the gap in skill level between CHILD and CHILD peers.”
It is clear CHILD needs more then an aide and the hearing officer found the aide was providing CHILD with services CHILD needs. From the hearing officer’s decision:
“The Student testified that CHILD aide “helps me with my academics,”[372] helps with “my homework,”[373] “follows me around all day,”[374] “writes up behavioral infractions,”[375] and gives instructions to CHILD regarding CHILD conduct to ‘apologize’ in situation where CHILD has been inappropriate.[376] CHILD said that the aide does not help CHILD with CHILD math,[377] but clarified later that CHILD meant that she does not help CHILD in math class “But, after she figures out how to do the problems, she helps me out after that.”[378] CHILD further testified that the aide does help CHILD with CHILD English and other academics.[379] CHILD indicated further that CHILD does not think, at least this school year, that CHILD needs assistance in CHILD global studies class,[380] but indicates “she helps me with the global work and all that”[381] and “just help[s] me study for the tests that are coming up.”[382] Regarding CHILD gym class, the Student said that the aide waits outside the dressing room door to make sure that nobody goes in while CHILD is there.[383] The Student’s 2005-2006 biology teacher testified that the aide would “assist CHILD [the Student] with whatever CHILD needed,”[384] was always within about five feet of CHILD and “so to speak, nudges to get CHILD to keep CHILD work going. . . She was there to help with anything needed, and she was great.”[385]
In somewhat of a contrast, the CSE Chairman’s answers to the Parent’s Advocate’s questions about the aide’s duties described those duties as “To help [the Student] navigate through the building, make sure CHILD gets to classes on time, redirect CHID”[386] whereas the service coordinator, and the Student’s coordinator during the 2005-2006 school year, testified that: “She [the aide] would help CHILD [the Student] with any work that CHILD needed help with throughout the day.”[387]
The Commissioner’s regulations identify a teacher aide as a person assigned to non teaching duties such as managing, records, materials and equipment, attending to the physical needs of children, and supervising students and performing such other services as support teaching duties when such services are determined and supervised by a teacher. [388] The regulations also provide that a teaching assistant, “under the general supervision of a licensed or certified teacher, direct instructional service to students”[389] such as “working with individual pupils . . . on special instructional projects”[390] or “assisting pupils in the use of available instructional resources”[391] or “assisting in related instructional work”[392] or “working with small groups of children so the teacher can work with a large group or individual children.”[393]
In light of the undisputed testimony about the scope and nature of the teacher aide’s duties, I find that the services performed and clearly appropriate to be performed with the Student are those of a teaching assistant as defined by the Commissioner of Education regulations. While I have also found that the aide is adequately trained and did perform the activities appropriate to meet the Student’s needs in the areas wherein the aide provided support to the Student, the fact remains that many of the services, which the aide provides, are those which the Commissioner of Education regulations require be performed by a teaching assistant who meets the licensure and certification requirements of the Commissioner’s regulation at 8 N.Y.C.R.R. §80-5.6(b). It is clear, I think, that a person hired to perform the services of a teacher aide, regardless of the number of underlying credentials, may perform the duties of a teacher aide only and that expansion of those duties to other areas requires assignment of the appropriately licensed or credentialed person.[394]
Under the factual situation presented here, I find, that to the extent that the supplementary school personnel support to the Student includes, in many instances, services required to be provided by a teaching assistant, that the Parent’s claim # 14 is sustained to that extent. This finding does not include a finding that aide services recommended for the 2006-2007 school year is, in and of itself, inappropriate. A school may assign a teaching assistant to deliver supplemental support services to a student, described as the services of an aide, but, as I read the applicable regulations may not properly do the reverse.
Because I cannot determine from the evidence the extent to which the delineation of services was considered and while a CSE may designate that a Student be provided services of a teacher aide, but then deliver those services by a teaching assistant, I will remand this issue back to the CSE for further consideration.
The Parent’s Claim # 14 regarding whether an aide or teaching assistant should be providing support services to the Student is sustained to the extent indicated above.”
While CHILD is failing the 10th grade you made a decision not to provide CHILD with a teaching assistant but only an aide. CHILD needs a teaching assistant now and CHILD needs the services CHILD is entitled to under No Child Left Behind for students in the school who score below a 3. At the next CSE meeting we need to discuses what services you will be providing CHILD since CHILD has scored below a 3 on the No Child Left Behind 8th grade test and for the past 3 years the CSE never knew this information and they should have before them made decisions to deny CHILD a teaching assistant and denied CHILD ESY last summer in academics of math and writing. CHILD only received the Orton-Wilson Reading Approach and individual speech therapy because of the 2004 settlement agreement. I understand you’re promoting CHILD to stay for extra help after school and during study hall is your replacement for a teaching assistant. I do not agree with this since CHILD is 4 to 7 grades behind CHILD current grade and these after school programs are not special education. I have requested appropriate prior written notice as to why the CSE is refusing a teaching assistant and so far you have refused to provide it to me. I will need one now so I can request a due process hearing on this issue. Because of restricts on appeals to 20 pages I need to do more due process hearings on one or two issues instead of 20 as my last hearing was on.

Special education students who have some difficulty with strict accountability to the standards of achievement in yearly progress that is required of their school are in a position to penalize the whole school for their difficulties. As schools try to meet the standards, it is impossible to do so with some children. Until we face the fact, that not all children will be capable of meeting the high standards sometimes set, we are failing to look at the problem that standards can cause. We may equate this with economic standards, and that may be true, but to expect the schools to solve that difference is poisoning the water.

Of course we need guidelines for learning and for teachers, but strict standards are only a tool for destroying public schools. Parents must know their own children and help them achieve according to their abilities. Blaming schools is not an answer for students. There is an open assault on schools and teachers in order to further some other agenda.
The NCLB Act needs work. Write your Congressmen.

To K. Means
I am happy to read that the NCLB Act has helped you in your program, but I suggest that it has much influence on how you teach because of the testing component, which cannot be ignored under the NCLB Act. Perhaps that is a motivator for you, but from your other writing I suggest that you are already an excellent teacher who would not ignor any of your students, without that accountability or sanctions on the school. Doesn't it offend you that even though you may personally be achieving well with your students, if the teacher next door isn't doing so well, your school can loose funding?
Public schools need to remain public schools. The NCLB Act is not so much for students and parents to be accountable, it is for schools and teachers to be accountable. If the standards are not met, it is not the parents and the students that fail under the NCLB Act. It is the Schools and the teachers that fail. This law condemns public schools. Write your Congressmen!

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