« Classroom Essentials | Main | The Middle Children »

Perspectives on NCLB

| 40 Comments

No Child Left Behind has heroically drawn attention to a broken system and laid a solid foundation for lasting improvement, Dayle Timmons, a special education teacher and Florida's 2004 Teacher of the Year, argues in a recent article. While she regrets the law's potential to stifle teachers' creativity, Timmons praises its goals of directing new resources to low-performing schools and focusing squarely on raising student achievement.

What's your view? Has NCLB helped improve schools? What effect has it had on education and teaching? What changes to the law would you like to see?

40 Comments

Thank you Dayle, thank you! Perhaps it's the special education perspective or just the way I raise the bar for my students, but I am grateful for this beginning. I have to live under a rock these days because every teacher and association is bashing this idea instead of embracing it and making it work. Success is HARD work. We have screamed for decades to improve education and now that the data is in...and data isn't always pretty...we are screaming again to call off the dogs! I applaud this effort, look forward to more hard work, and thank you Dayle again for speaking up so those of us working hard to move our students forward don't always have to be silent in the process.

Thank you for pointing out why we need NCLB. Too often we hear about teachers that don't want to be held accountable for their teaching or that children shouldn't be held accountable for learning and doing their homework. Well,as a parent I want my children challenged, taught and tested. If they are not learning then I want to know why: is it the child or the system? I like the emphasis on the tried and true methods of teaching. Even though those methods are boring and not "sexy", they do work. Keep up the good work and don't let the others get you down.

NCLB has forced public schools, that have been receiving Title One funds since the original Elementary and Secondary School Act (ESEA) in 1965, to focus these dollars on the students it was intended to help.

In far too many cases, Title One dollars were not used to benefit miscellaneous programs that were unrelated to helping underachieving students who came to school crippled by negative social conditions at home.

Now that schools are forced to show Annual Yearly Progress for all classes of students, administrators and teachers are forced to show, shall we say, a return on investment every year for every class.

So, if NCLB hasn't accomplished anything else, it has shaken up a system that had accomodated itself to the extremely low performance of students from less than idea social environments.

And, let's be honest, all of the whining and complaining about unfunded mandates and unfairness is a good indication that the educational establishment has been shaken out of its complacency.

That's a good thing. I hope that the reauthorization of NCLB deals with the farce that we call Supplemental Educational Services and expands its scope to include all grades and all core academic disciplines.

While it is good that we have focused on the underserved, more needs to be done to address some of the core issues and address the major flaws of the act as it stands.


The core issue is poverty and how schools are funded. You all need to read Jonathan Kozol to begin to get a grasp of the impact of this issue.
Two books: "Savage Inequalities," and "The Shame of a Nation" should be on your reading list.

Another issue is that privatizing schools is no solution. It simply avoids the problem. The Department of Education's own study shows that, when equalized for poverty, the data shows that private schools do no better, and in many cases fare much worse than public schools in meeting the needs of students.

We are educating more young people from more diverse backgrounds than ever before and we are graduating a higher percent and a larger number of people than at any time in our history. With this volume comes problems. We need to address individual problems of schools rather than beat them with a one size fits all stick.

You're right, Dayle, in pointing out the change in focus NCLB has wrought. It's easy to forget that. Something else, however, that no one is addressing ominously remains.

In expectations, we're moving toward a 21st-Century model, and that's good. The teacher's workday, though, is still running on the 19th-Century industrial model, and that isn't good. Until we understand that the whole model must move to the 21st Century, public education will groan under the weight of the Hawthorne Effect.

We may say we want this, that, and the other, but those things won't be sustainable if they require untiring extraordinary effort. (At home, teachers occasionally must do laundry, spend time with their children, or sleep.) If the bottom-line rule for teachers is to crank out as many widgets as possible, the rule will inexorably have its way. Teachers will be cranking out widgets. They might work in a little reflection and creativity here and there where feasible, but it's a low priority. Cranking out widgets is job one.

If reflection and creativity are to be working elements of teaching, then time for those things must be protected. The current trend is just the opposite, however. More and more new jobs for teachers to perform continue to arise, and they simply become additions to an already-long list. If a teacher asks when a new job should be done, the response is usually a blank stare or a "not my problem". It's the accepted practice of pass-the-buck, non-management management. Time for reflection and creativity was co-opted long ago.

Has anyone figured out yet how to improve teaching without reflection and creativity? Are we waiting for someone to invent a time machine that will allow teachers to cram 30 hours into a 24-hour day?

Perhaps we'll continue to ignore reality, pretend the problem doesn't exist, and then blame the bad old teachers and principals when we don't get the results we want. That's what's been going on as long as I've been teaching--31 years. It looks like a pattern to me.

Nearly everything can be beneficial when used appropriately. Higher expectations are a good thing, but Reading First is an excellent example of NCLB abused. We should not forget Reading First: A handful of academics and politicos empowered by government who abused that power by forcing schools to spend millions on programs that aren't that effective. Millions of dollars wasted; millions of children abused. The ensuing promotion of NAEP and state reading scores as "greatly improved" has been and continues to be an additional sham. At last, inquiries are under way into the incongruency between flat NAEP reading scores and rising state reading scores.

Reading remediation programs used by hard-working, well-meaning special education teachers have focused on explicit skills instruction for years (explicit instruction in phonics, decoding, vocabularly, fluency, and comprehension). Such instruction has always been hit-and-miss with special ed students -- mostly miss. In this case, higher expectations are NOT the problem. Reading theory is the problem -- the same reading theory now promoted by the federal government and Reading First (favoring explicit skills instruction).

It's time to place the emphasis on implicit procedural learning in reading and all other areas of the curriculum. Only then will No Child be Left Behind. Not so ironically, higher expectations actually contribute positively to implicit procedural learning.

While many of the goals of NCLB are good, the implemenation is horrible. The net result has not been good for education or children.

I loved Dave Millers "Cranking out widgets" expression of children in our schools under the NCLB Act. It calls it like it is.

That is not education. Education involves thinking and questioning and creativity and without that as a priority there is no education. It is just putting children in cages so we can determine where they are. Knowing where they are is not half as important as allowing them to move. The NCLB Act is a major attempt to control how people function in this society.

It ties the hands of teachers and then blames them for not doing a good job. It asks teachers to forget everything known in child development.
It causes much anxiety in children.

The schools have been attacked just like Iraq was attacked.Now we ask the Iraqi people to step up and take over. After we destroyed all their infrastructure. We want our teachers to step up and treat their students like little robots so they have predictable response.

Children are human beings that are going to need much flexibility to function in this world. They are going to need to have a healthy mind, body and spirit to cope with life. We have to prepare them for the 21st Century. So far that has only been war. The NCLB Act gives the military access to students records unless parents speak out against it. Teachers, parents and students must not allow the flaws in the NCLB Act to remain. Call your congressmen. It is too important to ignor.

I loved Dave Millers "Cranking out widgets" expression of children in our schools under the NCLB Act. It calls it like it is.

That is not education. Education involves thinking and questioning and creativity and without that as a priority there is no education. It is just putting children in cages so we can determine where they are. Knowing where they are is not half as important as allowing them to move. The NCLB Act is a major attempt to control how people function in this society.

It ties the hands of teachers and then blames them for not doing a good job. It asks teachers to forget everything known in child development.
It causes much anxiety in children.

The schools have been attacked just like Iraq was attacked.Now we ask the Iraqi people to step up and take over. After we destroyed all their infrastructure. We want our teachers to step up and treat their students like little robots so they have predictable response.

Children are human beings that are going to need much flexibility to function in this world. They are going to need to have a healthy mind, body and spirit to cope with life. We have to prepare them for the 21st Century. So far that has only been war. The NCLB Act gives the military access to students records unless parents speak out against it. Teachers, parents and students must not allow the flaws in the NCLB Act to remain. Call your congressmen. It is too important to ignor.

Dayle, my concern is that so many schools (and states) are teaching to the test due to limited funding and the fear of not making AYP.

My children are not test scores--they are complex, growing beings with strengths and weaknesses. We can use the strengths of NCLB to make explicit what children need to know and do without reducing achievement to a single high-stakes test score.

I'm glad you feel your students and teachers have benefitted, but that's not the case everywhere. In my state, the efforts at developing alternative forms of assessment have ceased, leaving many poor, minority, ELL, or special education students struggling.

Measuring student achievement is a good thing, but the tests that measure must also be good. They must be valid indicators of the learning that children need to learn, and they must provide information to the teachers for instructional improvement. Unless the current instruments do this, I think they should be used with far fewer in the population. A good sample would allow comparisons of school districts and programs. The trained professional, the teacher should be deciding who is retained or passed. School administrators need to be sure the teachers make these decisions in a professional manner.


“No Child Left Behind” is a Great Slogan. Mr. Bush admired it so much he stole it from the Children’s Defense Fund whose mission statement it has been since the early 1990s.
The truth is No Child Left Behind does not correctly describe our current system of education. Closer to the truth would be: “Which Children Will Be Left Behind”? In this modern era of statistical analysis, of testing and rating, education more resembles a battlefield emergency hospital than it does the type of schooling depicted in so many quaint memories. Today’s school house resembles a triage unit. Students are tested and scored. Those rated as having a high probability of success receive services. Those whose outcomes require intensive intervention using up the scarce resources our schools have are left behind.
The scoring categories are Below Basic, Basic, Proficient and Advanced. If a child tests advanced they will receive little extra help to accentuate their abilities, nor expand their curiosities. If a student tests near the upper level of one category, and thus can be targeted for successful transition into a higher category, that child receives supplemental services to help him/her increase their test score. If a child scores near the bottom of a category, and thus is a detriment to enabling a school to reach “Adequate Yearly Progress” (AYP), then that child’s needs are neglected, and that child is left behind.
The goal is to move children from one category to another. The goal is for the child to reach proficiency. Once there the educators’ task is considered complete and it is
up to the child to fend for themselves. The child must seek what interests them and determine how to expand their knowledge base on their own.
Our schools no longer teach to excellence. Our schools no longer teach to the top students challenging them to expand their capabilities. We don’t challenge those putting forth less effort to try harder. Today our schools teach to the test. We teach the minimum required to demonstrate a standard. Grades are irrelevant, only test scores matter. “The American Psychological Association specifically prohibits basing any consequential judgment about an individual student on a single test score.” Yet in Philadelphia, where I live and teach, Terra Nova tests administered each fall determine who attends summer school (money permitting), and one cannot go on to the next grade without successfully completing summer school.
Even more bizarre is how the playing field keeps changing. In order to make Adequate Yearly Progress a school must increase so much on standardized test scores each year. It works like this. A few years ago the New England Patriots won the Super Bowl and got to keep the trophy. The Next Year they won the Super Bowl again, but did not win the game by more points than they had won last years game, therefore, they may be the best, they may have performed in an excellent manner, but they don’t get to keep the trophy because their margin of victory did not meet the required score.
No Child Left Behind in its mandate that all children perform at the same level by 2014 is the equivalent of the NFL demanding that in 2014 all teams will be equal and will play in the Super Bowl.
Can all children by prescription perform at the same academic level? This sounds communist in its direction. Some children like Math, other Language Arts, a good many enjoy science, and some even like Social Studies. But Science and Social Studies aren’t tested yet so they don’t count and as a result many schools have cut back teaching time on those non-valuable subjects. Children have different interests, different strengths, and will never be the same despite Mr. Bush’s mandate.
Can you imagine a law which states all children regardless of ability will be able to run the 100yard dash in under 10 seconds? It should never happen but it has academically. Some people for what ever unfortunate reason have lower IQs than the norm. But Mr. Bush makes no exception for this and expects them to have the same scores as Einstein. Should we encourage them to do their best? Absolutely. Should we do whatever we can to maximize their abilities? Certainly, the same as we should for all children. But since we can’t raise the least capable, we’ll have to lower the most capable so they can all be equal. That is the sad legacy of No Child Left Behind.

I can understand why a special ed teacher could think that NCLB is a godsend. For her students, being able to do the tasks of NCLB may be a real achievement. And she's not wrong about one thing: NCLB exists because our educational system was nearly dismantled by fuzzy math,invented spelling and other disreputable fads. But, NCLB a new foundation for our children? Hardly. You mean a Government sanctioned effort to maintain a lowest common denominator education. Stanley Kaplan Middle School for the underclasses... ie those too poor to opt out of public. Surely no one thinks that we're building great minds with education like this? More like let's everyone be below average together.

In my district, fear of loss of central administration jobs and declining property values focuses everyone on NCLB, not what's good for children. How do I know? Because all our students take 2 full dress rehearsal practice tests prior to the real one and spend a few weeks preparing for each practice and then a month preparing for the real one. You do the math.

Here's my litmus test. What would I do with my child. High tail it to private education where they aren't being forced to learn less and test more. Hello vouchers.

In reading, we find that in spite of the $1 billion spent and the long hours of inservice and focus educators have given to this issue, NAEP tests (pretty rigorous government assessment) shows no improvement in scores. ed.gov website cherry picks the best news and reports it for every state. You would think that scores would go up significantly with so much time and money contributed but it hasn't because the research selected was chosen to match the beliefs of the Bush Administration and doesn't represent the general corpus of work by reading theorists and researchers.

The introduction says teacher creativity is hampered but that marginalizes the effectiveness of teacher passion which was proved to be a key component in effective instruction as expressed by the big federal research projects of the late 1970s.

Also teachers can't use research or theory to justify a curriculum unless that research has been sanctified by the federal government and the Knights of the Business Round Table (publishers). The research selected mostly helps school materials publishers sell their materials to schools (the commodification of curriculum).

Among the most damaging research used was the focus on skills work in the early years which, according to early childhood research shows that intensive skill work in early years shows no improvement by 4th grade and compares unfavorably in comprehension according to (Foorman study statistics (not the author's conclusions) and PISA studies).


There is no research to support instruction with the school materials publisher, but there is research against it published by M. Mustafa (CSULA).

A pretty good summary of the positives and negatives can be read at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/No_Child_Left_Behind

In the comments following the first 3 are opinions felt by the majority of educators and parents I know. It is depressing to see so many of my colleagues opting for retirement or another career because they know what good developmental teaching is about and they are no longer allowed to do it. More children are dropping out of school, are becoming disengaged and are not in fact reaching their potential because of the emphasis on high stakes testing. There are many indications that Bush's NCLB is accomplishing what it was intended to do - develop an underclass without education to do his dirty work and fight his wars - and fill the pockets of his buddies who are making lots of money selling tests, test preparation and textbooks to prepare for the tests. Accountability is a good idea - but that's not what it's really about.

Thank you , Dayle, for your attempt to help more children by explaining some of the problems in our schools. I agree that the rigors of NCLB (and the very successful Reading First component) have helped many children enormously. I have personally been witness to this as a reading consultant to both Reading First and non- Reading First schools. Not only are children learning to read well, but the professional development has helped teachers and even the reading specialists become current in terms of the reseach. They tell me that in every Reading First school in which I work.

I have been in the field of education for 36 years as a teacher at levels ranging from pre school to graduate school and as a consultant and school board member. We have issues that are of major concern at all levels (amidst the beneficial effects). In addition, teacher preparation, in terms of reading, (and in general) is seriously flawed, in that it is often incomplete and not current (personal experience, National Council of Teacher Quality, and Levine Report).

In our schools I have seen far too many children "slip through the cracks". The number of high school students and graduates of high school who lack basic reading skills at even the decoding level is staggering. We do know how to teach reading , that is the sad part. "We have the skill, not the will." We let the politics of reading get in the way.

Now, with the emphasis on formative assessment which informs our instruction, we don't have to wait until the end of the year to say, "Well, maybe next year, he will do better."
The emphasis on fleixble grouping and differentiated instruction based on real data about what the child actually knows in terms of alphabet letters, phonemic awareness, etc. is having a profound influence on our Reading First classrooms in this country. Teachers are not teaching "down the middle" and kids are being taught "where they are", so that we don't commit "assumicide" (Anita Archer) and think that just because a child is in third grade, he or she has third grade (or any grade) level reading skills. Teachers I meet with almost daily , who were at first hostile to NCLB and RF, now are effusive in their praise and grateful

If people followed me around and heard even the reading specialists tell me in private that they really didn't know what to do about certain kids' reading needs or, if the general public could see how many well meaning , hard working teachers are lacking in even rudimentary pedagogy with regard to reading, they would be shocked.

Congratulations to you, Dayle. Even those who disagree with you have , at least, been exposed to an outstanding teacher's truth.
"Providing truth to power" as Frederick Douglas said, is critical, even if the powerful don't always listen.

I submitted a lengthly commentary but have not seen it posted. So, what happens to a comment when it is submitted? Mary Ward would like to know.

I am a Science/Math teacher in a middle school. I am wondering if there is a National math or science test? If there is where can I find information on it?

I would like to see Educators thoughts on how the NCLB has been affecting the "Arts" programs in the school systems.

I thank Dayle for risking so much to open this conversation. It will be conversations like these that help us sift through it all.

I agree that certain aspects of NCLB has strengthened most schools I know. It has shown a spotlight on sub-group populations. Sometimes these populations' poor performances were hidden by the broadstroke look at the entire school or grade level. NCLB has required us to refine our data analysis and take a closer look. For that I am grateful.

I also think NCLB has forced everyone to become more data-driven in their teaching practice. Those time honored, "fun" units have come under scrunity and been vanquished in favor of more focused efforts on the curriculum. This is not to say that things can't be fun...but NCLB has forced them to find that fun in the context of the curriculum.

Those positives, for me, are outweighed by the negatives. One of the previous commenters talked about the top-end students. Those are the students who are much more obscured on our radar now....they are proficient or exemplar, so it hard to find resources to serve their needs. Frankly, every teacher I know has a finite set of minutes to teach and to plan. Since the implementation of NCLB, the utlization focus has been on bringing the lower achieving students up. That energy/time/money had to come from somewhere and sadly, I think it often comes from the best and brightest students we have. Since the "system" has not increased time, common sense would tell you it was obtained from another place...and that is often our strongest students.

I also hear tell that many teachers just don't have time to teach science and social studies. The bright light of NCLB is so heavily on reading and math, they don't dare to linger in other realms. Again, I think this shouldn't be unexpected because there are only a set number of minutes in any school day....you simply can't remediate math and reading and still have time to do science and social studies without asking students to stay at school longer. I can't imagine what our world will be like without the hope that these disciplines inspire in our students...and the citizenship it created. I groan to think about the minute factoids that eventually they will have to memorize for those subject area tests. Hopefully NCLB will be changed before it extends to those areas.

So I agree and disagree with Dayle. I thank her for opening a conversation.

In one of the letters, a parent who is wildly in favor of NCLB says "children that," and places final quotation marks inside a period.

The parent who wrote the letter would have lost points on an elementary-level test for using "that" in reference to a person, and would have lost points for placing final quotation marks inside a period.

Chances are the parent would have failed to show proficiency on a mid-level language arts test.

Evidently, children aren't the only folks in need of standardized tests. What can we expect from children who come from homes where sub-standard English is used? And, while we're at it, let's look at parents' command of fundamental math, algebra, and geometry. Parents AND children ought to demonstrate a command of fundamentals across the curriculum before public educators are forced to accept the youngsters in classrooms.

I noted that your teaching experience is within a suburban setting. It is no wonder that you have little problem with NBLB. For those of us who teach in more diverse populations, we see little gains. At my own school, we have far less teachers involved with professional development; far less children scoring at advanced levels; far fewer ELL children scoring at basic or proficient levels; and far, far lower teacher morale. Our declining student population has more of our middle class parents turning to private schools or moving out to more suburban schools where there is more teacher choice and less scrutiny (allowing for a quality curriculum). Our best and brightest leave us in ever increasing numbers every year. Why would their parents want them to stay?
With most science, art, and social studies eliminated to allow more time for reading and math, we see children who cannot think creatively, powerfully and most importantly, with curiosity. These will not make good citizens for our future. Moreover, this kind of curriculum will not produce the kind of students who will later be able to do higher-order thinking or possess the skills necessary to do well in the global market.
NCLB has greatly enhanced the coffers of the major textbook companies, but has done little to enhance the education of our children. When curriculum decisions are based on flawed research that is subsidized by those same companies, could we really expect anything else?
You are correct however about one thing. There are fewer children graduating who can’t read and write. What you fail to recognize is that there are MORE children who are dropping out of school, never making it to graduation.
There are statistically very few Title 1 schools that do well academically, unless their demographics also include children of the educated middle class. The issue is not throwing one-size-fits all scripted programs at students, but rather changing the situation where there are fewer children growing up in poverty. That (more than anything else) will change the results of how well educated our children are.
I urge everyone who cares about the future of our children to sign the petition to dismantle NCLB. Our future depends on it.
http://www.petitiononline.com/1teacher/petition.html

I am curently taking a class on the NCLB act from our Chairman of the State Board of education. THe core of the class will be recommendations for tweaking the law.
I have just finished reading the history of the ESEA and the Nation at Risk report back to back. What I see in these two documents is a focus on improving teaching. I know that teacher improvement is a part of NCLB but, at the local level I have seen little or none of that part of the bill. In fact our prinicipal has barely addressed the law because as far as we are concerned as teachers, she wants us to concentrate on teaching and the quarterly tests leading up to the end of the Standards of LEarning test.

THe key to this law making an impact will be what Spellings has hinted at: making the accountability real. I believe if the law were changed to include tracking sub-groups' progress over time then real changes could occur. SChools would begin to change practices to meet sub-groups needs as the sub-groups progress through thier educational career.

There have been many hints at national testing.
I don't have a problem with national standards if those standareds include the 21st centruy skills of innovation and creativity.

Sadly these standards will never make it into the curriculum because ... they are next to impossible to test. only with the accountability model that is flexible and addresses what will be important not just what has been important in the past (widgets) will teacehrs begin to be truly empowered.

No Child Left Behind has been a benefit in some ways. Making sure that low socio economic schools are provided with experienced teachers. Making sure districts are providing financial support for programs needed for those schools. Also, it has helped make districts more accountable in helping our students with disabilities.

Where it has not helped our schools is the funding. The districts are not allocating the funds to these schools fairly. They are taking the funding and dividing the funds evenly without any consideration for those schools with the most need.

When letters go out to tell parents this is a low performing school and we get a large influx of parents leaving, our funding is also taken away. Attendance or the number of students enrolled creates a disasterous situation for schools with low performance. Our district does not look to compensate those schools who lose funding due to enrollment. It is a no win situation that creates more stress on low performing schools.

Teachers are also frustrated because the district has a very different way of looking at No Child Left Behind. The sense I get is this is the fault of the teachers. Even though we have all of these situations that are out of our control, we are still expected to raise those scores (no matter what the situation is in our student's life). This is very unrealistic. I don't see these children getting the same education as Donald Trump nor do I think I can achieve the same quality of education that Donald Trump provided for his children. I work with children who go home hungry and without any support. I can only give them the support and encouragement that come from 6 hours of being with them. The rest depends on their environment.

The discussion has been wonderful as each school division struggles with increased population and a new era of diversity. As a special education coordinator, I think NCLB started out as a positive for students with disabilities but it has challenged all parents, teachers, and administrators. Higher performance standards and expectations for all children is the key. Special Ed./Gifted/ESL students should have FAPE, a free, appropriate public education when funding and leadership is in place. I believe in the certification requirements for new teachers. We have many career switchers starting at top level entry salaries with no experience now getting into education. Have we forgotten about what is essential for children? All children should have high achievement standards to raise the bar and all teachers should be accountable to the blueprints of standardized tests. We are pushing students and teachers but some special needs children are doing well and others are not, but we will find a "grey area test" to help them achieve.The main key to leadership is to recognize the teachers and reward them weekly for all their efforts to helping children.

No Child Left Behind is another attempt of "educators" steeped in the politized business of education to exercise their egos over the body politic. I've ridden horses on the academic side of the equation as a PhD. Candidate, the educator side as a special and general ed teacher for 25 years, and the parental side for sixteen years now. I was also a student in the biggest Federal educational program, Special Education, the very first time it was instituted in the Seattle Public Schools because I was an underachiever who decided study hall was a good place to take a nap. Never mind difficult family life.

I've seen, managed and implemented scores of government "funded" programs and "sexy" curriculum over the years as "the system" spasmotically attempts to improve education for "widigets," to fit into "jobs" or economic slots in our capitalistic machine of an economy. Many of these students came from disfunctional homes or no home at all, wards of the state. They were fitting into these environments just as predicted.

Fine, but I never use jobs to "motivate" students. I want them to consider challenges in life that will satisify them as they contribute. The extent to which all these programs succeed is limited by the one thing they have held in common over all these years: a mechanistic conception of human growth and development that permeates not only NCLB but the attitudes teachers and parents carry within which is the truest and deepest influence brought to bear on children. The root of the problems we face in raising and educating our youth lies in the very materialism at the root of our society and the overbearing influence of its chief purveyor, the media. Dave Miller approached this issue from the position of creativity and inspiration engendering social and institutional habit. This is the correct direction to consider whether considering the poor as Edward Stewart does, or students who's interests lie in non-NCLB subject areas. We need to answer and question and answer and question: What is a child? How do human beings develop? Then we can begin to build a better way to school and civilize ourselves. NCLB is just the latest and most pervasive means to perpetuate a twisted, partial and inedaquate perception of what it is to be human.

In response to Praise for NCLB, I agree, we needed to take drastic steps to change the abysmal path education in America was taking, but I would feel better about the federal legislation had teachers been given the opportunity to draft, critique, and tweak it before passing it.

At best, NCLB turns the mirror on school systems; at worst, it creates unrealistic deadlines with little regard to what our nation has done that has our educational system in the mess we are in.

Long before Brown vs. Board of Education, Civil Rights Acts, Affirmative Action, EEOC, PL-94-142, IDEA, ADA, etc. we have supported the reality that children born within a certain economic bracket (poor) should be grateful for the lack of resources, especially financial resources, needed to bring the systems up to stadard with surburban middle class education. As a nation, this gross inequity was and to some extent continues to be ignored.

The ashes did not bother us as much say ten to 15 years ago, but now we have a law that say everybody has to perform within a short amount of time or we will penalize your school system? Where is the fairness in the law? It is fair to expect that if you say you are a teacher, you should have the necessary skills to do a professional job? Yes it is. Is it fair to totally ignore the decades of unequitable formulas, deprivation, and separation but not equal ways our government has allowed systems to operate in this country but now creates a federal law hat calls for equality? Was it fair for the state of Texas to exclude many hispanic children from being tested so that they could meet their NCLB mandate? Has NCLB created such unrealistic objectives that school systems are resorting to cheating just to meet a quota or deadline?

How can we as a nation say that we have compassion and understanding for children born with special needs but use the same yard stick to measure their performance when they are cognitively incapable of measuring up? NCLB as it stands, continues to leave children behind because a nation that knowingly withheld millions of dollars in funding from educational systems now threatens those same systems with "Perform or lose federal dollars."

Yes, accountablility is needed, but you can't fix a broken system on the backs of the children who were broken because of the system and that is what this law purports to do. Textbook publishers are to gain millions of dollars in profits for creating a plethora of literacy books designed to address the various learning deficits that exist? Where were they before this law which is so complex that it takes hundreds of lawyers to attempt to perceive and understand it?

From ashes to a foundation? What is the foundation built on? This law does not address the reality of what it will literally take to insure a great education for every child. I work in one of those failing school systems and we have not had those rich, meaningful staff developments the writer alludes to; but it could be that NCBL works best in school systems that have a preponderance of rich resources and a strong tax base from industry. We have very little of either and have difficulty attracting licensed teachers to our district because it is rural, blighted, and deprived of industries or entrepreneurial resources. So, as a National Board Certified Teacher who stares poverty in the face every day, I am not ready to sing praises to this law?

Why does it take a law to address what has been ignored for decades when this is the home of the brave and the land of the free?

I am grateful to the teacher who stood up to point out that NCLB has shown some needed light on inequities, especially those of students with disabilities.

Sometimes I wonder how long it SHOULD take a country like the United States to figure out how to teach everyone to read. I gotta wonder why my son's low levels of achievement are not surprising to his teachers. He has a well educated, employed parent and lots of stability in his life, not to mention books, cultural exposure, etc. etc. On the other hand, he is African American, attends an urban school and has an IEP.

Like the teachers who believe that focusing on achievement means that they are not allowed to be creative, I am frustrated by attempts to bypass the need for good solid education in favor of test prep. But, I am exceedingly grateful for both the tests and the expectation that schools be accountable for the learning that they measure. Before NCLB, there were tests--sometimes my son took them, sometimes not. Until NCLB, I had no way of knowing how well or poorly any of the "special" programs that were recommended for my son were doing(and now I know that most weren't doing very well at all).

Creativity in education doesn't mean everyone doing their own thing, or sticking to the topics that they are most comfortable with. It does mean thinking outside the box to figure out the several different ways to present each topic to meet the needs of various learners. It does mean considering evidence of learning/not learning to consider what steps to take next with a class or a student. It does mean taking material to an ever higher level in terms of cognitive ability to stretch students' ability.

And yes, it means that that there has to be some collaboration and some mentoring and some planning together because no one teacher can be all things. And some of that collaboration has to be with parents. When parents leave a school, they have probably been brewing discontent for some time. Some have been actively pushed and some just ignored. The same-old same-old ain't gonna cut it anymore. Sounds like a need for creativity to me.

I never believed, and still don't, that NCLB was about student achievement. It is about teachers and teaching. I have noticed a remarkable improvement in teacher training and professional development since its inception. Teachers are throwig away those decades-old lesson plans and honing their teaching skill and this has increased student achievement. If teachers are still not experiencing rising scores on tests, they need to examine their approach, method and design for instruction. I worked in remedial reading and writing at the college level in the late 80s and early 90s. I was appalled at the number of college Freshmen and Sophmores who could neither read nor write. Twenty plus years of teachers who thought we only had to read literature did those students a diservice.

To Margo/Mom:

I appreciate your concerns, and I agree with what you say. Please consider this, though:

Thinking outside the box, examining and analyzing evidence, innovating and creating new material, collaborating with colleagues, and mentoring are not pieces of paper that can be pulled off a shelf. These things take time, and nobody wants to address that issue.

Time for those things has never been built into the teacher's day, and even less time is available these days. My entire day save for one hour is spent in the classroom. I skip lunch so that I can gain another 25 minutes. What did I do with that time today?

I prepared assignments for absent students. That takes time, because my lessons are authentic and based on the student's presence. There is no simple worksheet to pull from a shelf. The same is true of assignments for suspended students--both in-school and out-of-school, which I also prepared today. In addition, I filled out 15 504 monitoring reports, and I processed a pile of email. Lastly, I took about 10-15 minutes to write this response.

Most of those tasks, as well as a plethora of others, simply didn't exist when I began teaching. (You'll notice that paper-grading and lesson-planning was not in the list.) I have to do them, though, and I don't disagree that they need to be done. Funny thing, though--my workday has not changed the least little bit since I began teaching 31 years ago.

Cast this kind of situation out into the world of business. What manager or executive, who wants to be certain that a job gets done and done right, would keep piling other jobs in front of it? Wouldn't he or she make sure that time is available for that critical function? Standard operating procedure in public education, however, is to simply add new tasks to the already-existing list and to make no modifications in the workday.

Here is a fundamental rule in public education. It operates full-bore daily and hourly:

ANYTHING is more important than planning and follow-up. EVERYTHING comes before making lesson plans and grading papers. That's the truth. Period. Come on. Somebody out there in the education business prove to me that it isn't true. Please!

NCLB: Gunnar Myrdal, Nobel Laureate said it well: " Eventually, the facts will kick."

Focusing alone on reading and math is simplistic to a comprehensive, age appropriate education at any level. Some time later,we are told, schools are to engage in " science" as an extension. Wonderful. But as Peggy Lee sang: "Is that all there is?" Creativity is cited as one of the losses simply because of the pressure of "testing" in limited core areas of curriculum with the carrot and stick approach. Why is this important? Why is the frequently cited current call, i.e., only mentioning the "S&M" of STEM? At the same time, other calls,forums,caucases ( NAS, AAAS, ITEA,NAE, PTC-MIT-EDC,Mott,Bayer) are attempting to address a more comprehensive education K-12? A definite stretch here between perceived goals.

Suppose we do come to a point in time when we have a nation of excellent readers and excellent math students and in large numbers to include all " underserved" and "disadvantaged", But even then, millions are still " left behind." What then? A new law? Different funding priorities?

We have several important groups now working to advance STEM education across academia K-Grad School. AAAS Project 2061 Benchmarks says it well:
"...the ideas and practice of science, mathematics, and technology are so closely intertwined that we do not see how education in any one of them can be undertaken well in isolation from the others."

When in the "education literature" the term 'technology' appears, ask yourself what the writer has in mind as reference point. 99.9 out of 100, it is 'educational or instructional technology' not technology education and technological literacy. Assessing this literacy is a focus of the 2006 NAE Tech Tally. It needs wide circulation, wide discussion and wider understanding, if NCLB revisions are to have significance in 2007 and beyond.

Anthony Cody's "credo" is not a bad idea! It would give caring teachers a reminder of why they teach. I'm sure many excellent teachers are now struggling to keep their values about teaching alive with all the pressures placed upon them. Maybe all people should take oaths. Parents when they have children should surely take an oath of some kind. Even children could take them. Oaths would surely be broken, but heck we need to try something. The speed at which we live doesn't allow us to think much and if we had that oath renewed often we might have direction. Go Mr. Cody.

I couldn't help but notice that many of the people who are still in favor of NCLB identified themselves as "coaches". It is interesting that coaches didn't even exist before this law. My experince, I have worked with at least a dozen "coaches". Unfortunately, I have found that these are usually teachers that weren't very effective in the classroom and didn't like working with children. Now that they aren't in the classroom they have done nothng to help me or my students. They are all lovely people and I have nothing against them personally, but if they don't want to work with kids they should get out of education and stop posing as experts. I hope the people out there that are good coaches and do help teachers and students are not offended by my comments (there have to be a few good ones out there). I don't intend to offend, but rather to shed light on just another poorly excuted plan of NCLB that no one ever talks about, probably so no one is offended. Well if you are a good coach, ask the teachers and students you are assigned to what they really think of what you do. Let them tell you anonymously. My guess is most would tell you that they would rather see your salary be used to pay for another classroom teacher to help lower their class size. Now that would be helpful!

I guess I do not understand why there are so many complaints. What is the purpose of complaining about something that cannot be changed? While I do not buy into the notion that if a school is failing, it has to be the fault of the teacher, I am thankful for NCLB in the fact that my state was forced to look at the pages and pages of standards they had for their teachers. Those standards have been reworded, reduced, and specialized.
When I first started teaching in this school, I asked my principal where I could go to find out what I was supposed to be teaching my students. She told me to look at the state standards. Those standards covered 9-12 grade with no separation. Those standards filled 15 pages of Microsoft Word. There was no solid curriculum in my school.
3 years later, I had a curriculum in place, and I know what my students should be able to do before they graduate. If anything, NCLB has made me more creative and effective. I know where I am starting at the beginning of the school year, and I know where I have to end up. How I accomplish that is completely up to me. My creativity is still in tact and enhanced.
Now please don't think that I am completely for NCLB. I think there are many problems with it that need to be addressed, especially with our special needs students. I also think there needs to be some accountability with the students themselves. There is no ownership with the state tests. Students now are so busy with school, work, chores at home and extra-curricular activities that they do not have the time nor the desire to perform without some sort of recompense.
I guess I am just a firm believer in not wasting my breath complaining about something that will not be going away in the near future.

In 1938, Harold Fawcett wrote that there has never been a time in American education that teaching pupils to think and reason logically has not be one of our goals. Had he lived to now, he would have found the era in which "thinking" has given way to "knowing facts." Shakesphere wrote it when Ceasar says, "Cassius is dangerous, he thinks too much." Time magazine recently had an article discussing the "10 worst presidents." Is it better for students to know who was listed, or is it better for them to understand such a list is primarily the judgement of some historians and to understand the criteria they used in making their determinations?
In my field, mathematics, we emphasize the skills of arithmetic, but give almost no credence to a world that can be opened to kids through the use of technology. The irony is that the most talented not only take advantage of technology, but are required to use it. You must have a graphing calculator for an AP calculus exam. However, if used in 6th grade, everyone believes kids will use it to multiply 6 times 7. Why not explore topics that are rich in mathematical understanding, and which go far beyond trivial arithmetic? What interests kids? My son liked baseball statistics. How do you calculate batting averages, and how many hits must Smith have to catch Brown for the batting title? Done easily with a calculator, and all sort of hypotheses can be thrown in. How many games means how many at-bats? What about global warming? Can we select about 100 cities around the world and get a better perspective than basing our opinions on what is happening only our own cities? The world can be much richer if we didn't spend most of our time getting kids to memorize their tables.
Personally, I think I could support NCLB if we could find a way of measuring the quality of kids thinking, but as long as the emphasis seems to be on measuring against some standardized test, we are wasting a great opportunity to truly educate our youth.

I am an ESOL teacher finishing my doctorate. My dissertation is on increased reading comprehension of ESOL students. In my state, and I do not know if this is in all states, my students are given one year of public school before they are supposed to be on grade level and take all standardized tests.
If you have read any of Jim Cummins'(1980a) work, you will see that research shows it takes an nonEnglish speaker between 5-7 years to be fluent in listening, speaking, reading and writing. Mr. Cummins also reveals that standardized testing is patently unfair to ESOL students. The tests have been created with no thought to second language learners. Therefore, all accommodations are ineffective. Moreover, the state can't tell if the ESOL student is achieving on the standardized tests. If the student could take the test in his own native language after one year, then we might have an accurate accounting.
My fantasy is to take someone, perhaps Dr. Spelling to China and drop her in a random town there. I will give her 45 minutes of help with Mandarin Chinese 5 days a week. The rest of the school day will be spent in the classroom with a teacher who does not speak English. At the end of the year, Dr. Spelling will take a standardized test on her "adult" level and she must pass it. What results do you think Dr. Spelling will have?

I completely believe that all students should succeed. The question is: a)Should a student's education be judged a success on a multiple choice test? or b) Should a student's education be judged a success on being able to think critically, write, read, summarize, problem solve, deductively reason, inductively reason and ability to use inferrance?

I have had good results in my treatment for increasing reading comprehension of my ESOL students. Yes, there are many ways to improve our teaching. As teachers, we must actively seek new ways to teach. But we are teaching students not computers. The idea that everyone will have the same information on the same day for the standardized test is folly on the government's part.

No teacher has ever wanted to “leave a child behind.” Local schools have different needs and the government throwing out one solution to cover them all is unrealistic and, worse, damaging.

So tired of people teacher bashing. I think it should be a requirement that anyone who wants to change the education system must spend a year teaching first. Ideally, they should teach every grade for a year in every kind of community. Not realistic? Exactly. People who don’t know what they’re talking about try to “correct” a system about which they know nothing.

Do we need to hold teachers accountable? Absolutely. Do we need to factor in demographics? Changes won’t work unless we do. Pay more for our children’s education but monitor the spending of individual districts? You bet. But a blanket government “fix” is a slap in the face to educators who have dedicated their lives to improving the lives of others.

Don't think a side effect when you first start is going to be a permanent effect. I have one med I didn't sleep for more than 35 hours after two days of partial doses of it. WBR LeoP

NCLB has finally forced educators to rethink the way public education is delivered. For the first time in recent decades the law 'imposed' evaluative measures for instructional programs. Schools can no longer practice social promotion of ill-prepared students without being in the spot light. Teacher preference is no longer the sole determinant factor of what children learn or don't learn. Schools can no longer blame the 'victims' of poverty and relinquish responsibility for implementing effective instructional programs. NCLB has mobolized the sleeping dragon, a prehistoric but friendly creature that had been sleeping for nearly two centuries unaware of the changing times. Change is not easy but change is good.NCLB

I have strong feelings about standardization in schools, which is a very prevalent issue in elementary school education due to high stakes testing and the movement towards more scripted curricula. I would like to clarify though that I think standards are necessary, and there should be direct goals and skills that all students should be pushed towards and be able to achieve. My distinction here is on the difference between standards, and standardization in teaching. I definitely think that standardization from this perspective is insulting to elementary school teachers, because it is supposed to be a valid “check” on whether or not we are doing are jobs. Are the students learning, and can they demonstrate on a decontextualized test that they are proficient in the standards? There are a variety of different means for students to demonstrate that they are competent in grade level standards, and high stakes testing is not a way in which all students can display their competencies, but there are rarely other options offered to them.
In order for students improve their test results, educators are being forced to teach “to the test” through standardized curriculum. A standardized curriculum carries with it the idea that all students learn the same, so everyone should receive the same curriculum. This thought makes teaching seem similar to the work of physicians. Doctors go to medical school, learn everything there is to know about a bone fracture, so that when a patient comes in, they know the way to fix it. In this analogy, there is one way it is done, and each doctor knows it. Standardization demonstrates that teaching should be the same way; teachers should go to school and learn to teach children to read, for example. Then, when it’s time to teach reading, each teacher knows the way to do it, and systematically the student is “fixed” and can read, simple as that. This analogy would be comprehensive if all students were alike, as bones are, and can be dealt with identically. Unfortunately this is not the case, and students are much more dynamic than bones. Each student is unique, as is their personal learning style and needs. One way to teach reading may be effective for a particular student, but an entire different strategy may be needed for the person sitting next to them. Teaching takes a lot more than applying a standardized curriculum to all students and expecting that this is enough for them to develop the essential skills that are expected of them. Teaching is much more dynamic, and teachers deserve more credit than that.

Comments are now closed for this post.

Advertisement

Recent Comments

  • V: I have strong feelings about standardization in schools, which is read more
  • Dr. Liliana Heller-Mafrica, Educational Consultant: NCLB has finally forced educators to rethink the way public read more
  • John Medicine: Don't think a side effect when you first start is read more
  • Donna, former public school teacher: No teacher has ever wanted to “leave a child behind.” read more
  • em crosby: I am an ESOL teacher finishing my doctorate. My dissertation read more

Archives

Categories

Technorati

Technorati search

» Blogs that link here

Tags

Pages