Why we need meaningful accountability that accurately measures student learning and school success. The goal should be to promote improved student learning, reward success, and provide meaningful assistance to students and schools most in need of help.
"The idea that all children can learn is great. The idea that every child learns at the same rate, at the same time is one that no parent should accept as accurate! Experience with children will tell you that this is not true. In our school system, we are working feverishly to develop pacing guides to regulate what is taught every day. We are setting up our children and our teachers for failure. This law is being used as an excuse to not teach children from where they are; we are discouraged from meeting 'Johnny' on his second-grade level and bringing him forward. Let me show and document progress, and I will be happy to do so. But this law, with its dependency on standardized tests, doesn't accomplish what politicians tell you it does."
Middle School Teacher
Shelby County Schools
"I have seen the number of students enrolled in chemistry drop since the implementation of testing. I have also noticed a drop in the level of student preparedness for chemistry. My anecdotal observations were validated by what I saw on their standards-based exam results. NCLB has set the minimum performance level necessary for students to pass the high school graduation exam but has failed to maintain high standards for all students.
"While I can continue to maintain high standards in my classroom, students who have passed their graduation exam have less incentive to push themselves to excellence. NCLB is creating a generation of students who are meeting standards that were set by political considerations rather than those that are necessary for the United States to maintain its technological and scientific edge in the world. Congress needs to allow teachers to set high standards for all students on an individual basis rather than allow political considerations to set the educational agenda."
High School Teacher
"Standardization of assessment and accountability cause me to use my precious teaching time to conduct student assessments that are far above the ability levels of my students. Even though the assessments do not give me information to drive my instruction, they still must be reported. As a National Board Certified teacher, I am confident that I know my students and can assess their growth and needs in a manner that supports their level of performance."
Special Needs Teacher
"Teaching is not only my profession, but it is also my life! Be it such, I love to see students' eyes light up when they learn new concepts, or when they are engaged in various activities that allow them to be creative. But in recent years, I have seen bright eyes, that had been full of life and ideas, turn dull with boredom and stress. Why? Where has the curiosity gone? Test prep, test prep, and more test prep!
"Most of our school days are filled with test-prep activities. If not test prep, then we are reviewing for the test! It saddens me. It tears my heart apart to have to share this. I can recall days in which we have done so much mandated test prep that my students have begged me to go out for PE. Unfortunately, we couldn't because we needed to get ready for the test!
"Why so much test prep? I am teaching in a district that is considered low performing, and many of our schools are labeled non-performing or program improvement. And being one of the few schools on the border, we want very much -- and will work very hard -- to make sure our students are not stigmatized. The consequence of such a desire has a cost. I'm not sure that the price is worth it. Yet that is the choice NCLB leaves us with."
Elementary School Teacher
Compton Unified School District
Sierra Madre, California
"I spend my days defending our excellent reading and writing programs in an extremely overcrowded school because there might be a blip in the testing results. (Try having 720 kids in a school built for 500, two new administrators, and no materials to teach mandated programs.)
"Standardized state testing is but one measure of a child's progress, not the only measure. It's like judging the quality of a dentist based on how many cavities his patients have. What if they only come to him when they have a problem? He can't control that.
"We must have a shared responsibility to educate our children. Don't penalize us because our kids might come to school unprepared to learn. Let us help make them better."
Elementary School Teacher
St Vrain Valley
"Before the beginning of the last school year, during a summer planning meeting, my principal laid out several new policies for the coming year. The apparent impetus for these new policies was the fact that our school, like most schools in Florida, had never made AYP under NCLB.
"The new policies included a couple that directly affected the students. One was that there would be no more Fun Fridays. While I certainly do not condone teachers taking time at the end of the day on Friday just to goof off, certainly a fun curriculum-related activity as a reward for good behavior seems reasonable. But no.
"The other, more nefarious policy, one that has become common in our district, was to forbid field trips for grades three through five until after FCAT testing (first two weeks of March).
"This policy ignores that field trips might be an integral part of the learning that will be tested by FCAT, and that many opportunities for appropriate field trips will be lost when shows, performances, and volunteers can only be scheduled after FCAT (a performance might only be scheduled during the first semester, for example).
"These are the symptoms that are being felt even in schools with principals who had not previously made concessions to the testing insanity. Eventually, NCLB will force us all into insanity."
Elementary School Teacher