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A Message From the President

Bring Back the “Ah-ha” Moments

Barbara Matteson


There are days when all of us miss our work in the public schools. But when I hear stories about working under the deeply flawed mandates of No Child Left Behind (NCLB), I am thankful that my time in the classroom ended when it did.

Some of my favorite teaching memories happened when I set aside my lesson plan if something I hadn't intended to spend time on got my students thinking and talking. I believe I did some of my best work as a teacher when I helped bring the “ah-ha” moments into being.

Our colleagues teaching today can’t often allow themselves to stray from lesson plans, since they must constantly concern themselves with how their students will perform on always looming high-stakes tests. It’s distressing how much the interaction between educators and students suffers in the NCLB environment. I know of teachers who have had to stop reading to students in class so they have more time for teaching to the test.

Now’s the time for educators and their allies to take a stand. The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA)—the current version of which is NCLB—is up for reauthorization this year. NEA’s Positive Agenda for ESEA Reauthorization asks Congress for three fundamental changes to the law: 1) Use more than test scores to measure student learning and school performance; 2) Reduce class size; 3) Increase the number of highly qualified teachers.

We may not be in the schools every day, but we can help improve teaching and learning conditions. Go to NEA’s Web site to read about the Positive Agenda and our ESEA legislative priorities, and send a letter to your members of Congress demanding these common-sense changes to ESEA.

We’ll continue our work for public education at the NEA-Retired meeting June 26-28 in Philadelphia.

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