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NCLB's Impact on Teachers


A new national study finds that the No Child Left Behind Act has had a significant impact on teaching.

According to the study, schools have more closely aligned instruction with state standards and assessments, and teachers are making greater use of test data to address students' needs. Some schools are also becomings "more prescriptive about what and how teachers are supposed to teach."

What's your view? How has NCLB affected your work? Have the changes been beneficial or negative? Or both.


Yes, NCLB has most definetely changed how I do my job.

Since becoming a teacher, everything I do relates to the standardized exams North Carolina adminsisters to measure achievement and growth. Actually, North Carolina's own accountablility model, the ABCs of education, was enacted in 1996 and preempted NCLB. However, both laws have changed how I teach in that everything I do must prepare students for the exam. I have lost much of my creativity.

Teachers did not rise in open rebellion against NCLB because they did not have a good alterantive to offer. All top-down summit reforms of the last 20 years are based on the same cultural mind-set: Student achievement in curriculum is the main goal and purpose of public education. This makes teachers robotic slaves to a government imposed curriculum. They are not trusted to make decisions about what curriculum is best for each student.

Now there is a viable alternative to NCLB that produces much greater student learning and achievement. It is called "Educating for Human Greatness." Curriculum is used as a tool, rather than goal, to help students grow in three dimensions of greatness, Identity, Inquiry and Interaction.

Changing curriculum from "goal" to "tool" changes the role of teachers. They change from submissive servants to professionals whose knowledge, skills and creativity are honored and valued.

Changing the goal and main purpose of education also changes the educational role of parents and students, who join hands with teachers in full partnership to help one another grow in greatness.

Lynn Stoddard, A veteran educator and author of EDUCATING FOR HUMAN GREATNESS.

The NCLB has changed the course of teaching drastically, on the negative spectrum as well as the positive. On the positive side of the coin, teachers and adminstration have geared thier test prep, classwork, etc around the format of the SOL. Therefore the students are familiar with the testing format. Instruction is soley SOL geared. Yes, we are all looking at priliminary test scores and diagnosing the areas of weaknesses.
Now on the negative spectrum,we as teachers and administrators are so hung up on teaching skills that are SOL driven that other vital skills are not being addressed and therefore we are not producing well rounded students. They only know the objectives that are on the SOL.

I retired from 36 years of teaching last year because of the focus on "RIGOR" in the classroom and in the curriculum. Over the years my students had done well on standardized tests when I used "VIGOR" in the classroom.

Teaching is a vigorous career which requires high amounts of mental and physical energy.

The only purpose I see for "RIGOR" in education is as a precursor to rigormortis which unfortunately is what is resulting from NCLB. NCLB has given proponents of strict unyielding guidelines much too much power. Look up "RIGOR" and "VIGOR" in the dictionary and decide which one you want in a classroom.

NCLB has been the source of much frustration! How are you supposed to connect with students when the pressure to meet these standards are constant? Nothing is going to change unless teachers have a greater voice in the policy-making process. Who knows best about what works and what doesn't work in the classroom? Teachers in Virginia have started a movement that we hope will extend beyond our state. We know that there are many teachers who have the same concerns. For more information go to our website: www.epicreform.org.

I have worked with a number of states in the implementation of Reading First and as I see it, the introduction of NCLB is greatly needed in education. The focus that NCLB brings gives administrator direction to address the vision of improved student learning. For the teacher, it gives direction, structure, improved materials,and coaching assistance to address learning for all students. NCLB provides a cohesive approach to academic learning for students who otherwise would fail.

Students that do not need the basic skills of learning do not have to adhere to the precribed curriculum and instruction. Those students need to learn beyond the boundaries of the basics, they can and they do. Those students can enroll in college classes or take advance courses in their AP program.

It is really time that we look at improving learning for all students so that we do not burden society with ill educated children and adults.

If all students were to acquire their basics early in their academic lives, they would not need basics instruction beyond the second or third grade.

I just visited a prison and the frustration by the staff is that many adult inmates have not grasped the basic foundation of reading. So why delay the basics? Ensure that basics are learned early (Kindergarten- third grade) and we would not have to bother with basics in the middle, high schools, colleges, and prisons.

We are supposed to be teaching to the "whole" child, but with the pressure to teach to the standards ,there is too much structure to what we teach. With the language arts, many programs have the teaching scripted for you--no creativity. In some districts, if you are not on the page you should be on in the teacher's manual, watch out!! We don't want children to fall between the cracks!! But also there are so many different learning styles that we are doing a disservice to students when we think about teaching to the test. Where has the imagination, the creativity, the fun gone?? I do believe we need to be held accountable for what the students learn but also celebrate students creativity and not just what they can regurgitate on a written exam.

World History is one of the classes I teach. I love the subject matter. The standards subject us to time constraints. Many of the interesting stories are eliminated from my lesson plans because the stories do not jibe with the standards and we not have a time.

NCLB has certainly changed how teachers teach.

As a parent who spent time in my child's classroom, I have seen teachers change from caring, creative professional educators who took the time to work with students individually when a child needed the extra attention to teaching to the test, targeting the the children who will produce the coveted AYP.

I see my child being left behind because he is in the proficient group and will already produce 'good' numbers. I see those who are at the very bottom of the class being left behind because they are incapable of producing better numbers. I see subjects such as social studies and science being left behind until they are tested because its reading and math that counts. I see creativity and experimentation left behind because its mandatory (and safer) to teach the curriculm as is.

NCLB has produced a robotic, cynical approach to teaching for my child and thousands (if not millions) of others. NCLB is doing to education what happened to our health care system - instead of non-medical personnel in insurance companies micro-managing what happens in the exam room with our doctor, we have non-educators in Washington or our state capitols micro-managing what happens in the classroom.

It seems to me that the root of most teacher's objections to NCLB is the Progressive philosophy they learned in college (and their professors learned in college) and which has been dumbing down education in the U.S. for almost 5 decades.

Teachers complain of stifled creativity, inability to address the "whole child," excessive testing, curriculum requirements, and standards.

I fail to see how teacher creativity is a goal of education. In the past it has been necessary for teachers to be creative because we didn't know how to effectively teach all of our children. Every teacher was expected to experiment. With the research foundation revealed by the National Reading Panel we now have the equivalent of instructional protocols which, if followed with fidelity, result in children who become literate no later than age 9.

The "teaching the whole child," standards, detailed curricula, and testing require considerable more accountability than Progressivists are used to. But to fault teachers would be a mistake since most teachers have not been taught either the foundations of contemporary instructional methods or the practical applications of the protocols that ensure that every child learns to read by the end of second grade.

The objection of administrators and politicians that NCLB is an "unfunded mandate" (Actually, the funding has been enormous in certain areas.)also appears to be related to the ineffective practices of Progressivism. For four or more decades it has been assumed that there will always be a very large percentage of students who require remedial instruction--a very expensive proposition. But following the reading "protocols" of Reading First guarantees that nearly all children, including those in poverty, those with learning disabilities, and those for whom English is a second language, will learn to read by the end of second grade. The need for huge amounts of funding for remediation can and should diminish drastically in the area of reading. The assumption of success should replace the assumption of failure.

I have a great deal of sympathy for teachers who are struggling with change. We need to support them with substantive professional development that will enable them with, the "tools" needed, to teach effectively today.

I recently defended my dissertation, which precisely looked into the effect that high stakes tests are having upon fifth grade teachers' instructional practices within a science classroom. There were several findings that emerged, some positive and some quite disturbing. For example, in Texas, the science standards have been in place for many years but only the grades in which a state mandated, high stakes test occurs are teaching science. The remaining grades are teaching non-tested subjects only if there remains time. In addition, the teachers (having been trained in the benefits of inquiry-based learning and seeing the results of utilizing it) fall back on test prep materials (ditto sheets, multiple choice items) as the test draws closer, and the curriculum becomes narrowed so as to include the coverage required to prepare the students for the test.
So, while NCLB has helped in addressing issues surrounding standards and the fact that all children should receive a quality education, it remains to be seen the ultimate results of such a bill. What good does it do to prepare a generation for a high stakes test, if we fail to prepare them for life...to think and reason, and problem solve, to be creative, and to question? What condition will our nation be in without individuals capable of doing these things?

Regarding NCLB, the validity of any study that finds schools, and teachers, in closer concert with state educational standards presupposes that the source of these standards is itself valid. However, given the inherently political, rather than pedagogical, genesis of NCLB, this is a supposition of which all should be suspicious.

This is not to say that previous decades of local control contributing to poor student performance could -- or should -- have been ignored. The substance and form of public education has always been a political issue, and the hobgoblins of parochialism have often inhibited, rather than enhanced, learning, particularly for those at the bottom of the socioeconomic pyramid. However, with NCLB we seem now to have chosen a wrecking ball to smash not only a gnat but the building on which the gnat was resting.

And what a lot of ball it is! We can start with the dubious legitimacy of NCLB's birth (the Houston "miracle," in which potentially poor test scores were pre-filtered from the pool of "good news" statistics). Once born, NCLB was ready to swing away at "failing" schools (i.e., those forced to do their district's toughest teaching jobs but without the guile, or power, to disguise thier disagreeable outcomes). It did so in the best CEO tradition: by blaming its least valued laborers and threatening reduction or withdrawal of funds (which of course would then challenge the survival of schools already challenged more than most).

This, then, led to the option (for those families able to afford the transportation, if not an entire relocation) of sending their children to a better-performing (and so better-funded, often far less "diverse") school, thereby creating a de facto voucher (and resegregation) system. One would like to ascribe this outcome to the law of unforeseen consequences, but one can wonder.

This, in turn, leads us back to the depthless lack of pedagogical planning (e.g., no initial consideration of the statistical impact of special ed. and ESOL learners on purportedly objective measures of school success) and the incomprehensible absence of intellectual principle (e.g., demanding the highest academic standards and expectations -- including, in time, mainstream performance by all LD students -- while simultaneously mandating as its ultimate goal no failures or drop-outs).

Such has been the Lewis Carroll character of NCLB since its inception, and hence my skepticism when a new "study" (funded by whom, based on what assumptions, and following what protocol?) proclaims that -- SURPRISE -- things are better than ever under NCLB! Put a pig in a catapult, and it will fly, but it's still only headed to hog heaven.

Yes NCLB has impacted my teaching plans in general. I like having the state standards as a guide to what needs to be accomplished in one year. It also keeps teachers from wandering off into the ozone such as some teachers have done recently with political diatribe in several states and some schools have done with forced attendance of speakers who are radicals.
It has not limited my teaching style but forced me to be more creative with the materials to help students learn. The data driven basis has been of help also, I can now more than ever be sure that I am helping the students in areas where they are weak.
In contrast I see it eventually leading to a presidential order that circumvents the constitituion and we end up with a national curriculum and national liscensing. In reflection maybe that is not so bad. Teachers could afford to go to other states were the cost of living is lower and find jobs with out all the protectionist nonsense. States where cost of living is ridiculous like California will lose good teachers and be forced to rethink the value of teachers.
I know this will raise a lot of ire among the stodgy old teachers that are infexible and say we have always done it this way but hey maybe if they jump up and down about this they will get fresh blood to their brains and then what could happen?


While I absolutely agree that standards help hold teachers accountable for teaching certain basic concepts, and accountability is a good and necessary thing, I do feel stifled by the fact that "testing, testing, testing" is our mantra (especially at this time of year). After all, we need to factor in the SCOPE of what we teach, not just the breadth. I consider myself lucky to teach at a school and in a district where I have the freedom to actually teach things besides reading and math, such as science, social studies, and environmental stewardship. I am shocked to hear from some of my colleagues in other districts that they are actually forbidden to teach such 'extras' due to Reading First/Title I mandates.
Even though I have the luxury of my district's support when it comes to things like teaching those 'extra' subjects and supplementing my curriculum with in-depth literature focus units and other enrichment projects, I too feel the pressure at this time of year when we are forced to basically drop everything and communicate to the students, "Look, although I am usually more interested in the strategies you use and how you arrived at the answer, rather than just that you answer the question 'right', for the next two weeks I need you to forget all that and just fill in the bubbles." This feels counterproductive to the work we have done all year.
I am not arguing that test data shouldn't drive schools in some ways or shape our teaching at all, but these types of standardized tests shouldn't serve as the be all, end all in measuring the success of students or teachers.

As an ESL teacher, I find tht NCLB testing requirements have placed inordinate pressures on schools, teachers, and students that have considerable negative impact on the teching and learning that takes place with English Language Learners. The testing requirements for these students are based on inappropriate amounts of time in the system or proficiency levels that indicate social language development and not cognitive development. The standardized testing that is required does not yield an accurate assessment of English Language Learners. Time taken from teaching to prepare and test is counterproductive and harmful to the progress of the learners.

I am a junior majoring in special education. Having read all the response comments, I am discouraged at my future prospects. Even at the University I attend the professors seem anti-NCLB. It makes me wonder, Am I going into a field is completely in disagreement as to what learning is and should be?

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Recent Comments

  • elizabeth sanchez/education major: I am a junior majoring in special education. Having read read more
  • Marilyn McKnight ESL Teacher: As an ESL teacher, I find tht NCLB testing requirements read more
  • Bridgette Jakubowicz/3rd grade, Fallon School: While I absolutely agree that standards help hold teachers accountable read more
  • Mr. James Turner: Yes NCLB has impacted my teaching plans in general. I read more
  • Roland Caissie, MS Language Arts/ESOL: Regarding NCLB, the validity of any study that finds schools, read more




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