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Reader Voices

NCLB Matters to Us

The article “Bring Back the Ah-ha Moments” (Message from the President, May 2007) struck a cord with readers.

We received a number of heart-felt responses from retired educators and others lamenting how the No Child Left Behind environment has taken freedom away from teachers and leeched spontaneity out of the classroom experience.

As this issue goes to press, Congress was headed for a showdown on renewing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, the so-called No Child Left Behind law. Watch the NEA Web site for the latest developments, and make sure to tell your members of Congress where you stand.

Here’s a sampling of what you had to say:

Don Morgan, Virginia : After earning an engineering degree and spending 20 years in the Air Force, I taught algebra to eighth-graders for 20 years in Manassas, Virginia.

In the era before all these mandated tests, I was able to teach some astronomy, simple engineering concepts, Einstein’s speed of light and time relationship, the measurements used in the Great Survey of India, and even the correct international phonetic alphabet.

The kids enjoyed the occasional break from grind-it-out algebra lessons as much as I enjoyed giving them different views of the world of mathematics.

However, when the Age of Testing began in my 17th year of teaching, I had to cover the test material and the fun parts of my curriculum faded from my lessons. I was saddened and felt powerless to change what was happening because my kids had to do well on the standardized tests.

My problem with such tests is that instead of teaching concepts and ideas that should be carried through life as an educated person, the tests seem to reflect somebody’s idea of a midterm exam with all the little nuances of the subject incorporated.

DON Heinrichs, Oklahoma : I retired in 1995 after 38 years in the classroom at USD 457, Garden City, Kansas. It was a great place to teach. I was encouraged to forge ahead and use my ability to stimulate thinking and informed expression. This was before NCLB. Everything I hear and read about NCLB may have driven me from the classroom.

M. Burton Hopkins, Jr., Delaware : I believe we retirees are in a unique position to change education in America. It is simply not enough to go to the NEA Web site and send letters to our congresspeople demanding common-sense changes to the  Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

We, the retired teachers, ought to be at the forefront, speaking up and out at local school board meetings, running for seats on those boards, and letting today’s classroom teachers know that they are in charge, that when good things happen in classrooms, they have made them happen, that when teachable moments come along, they must seize them and bring a richness to their students that no high-stakes test can approach.

Isobel White on behalf of the Coalition of Essential Schools: When I read the column on bringing back the “ah-ha moments,” I have to tell you that I got choked up! I work with the Coalition of Essential Schools (CES), which promotes exhibits as a better way of assessing student learning. If you get what you test for, how much better to test for the ability to research deeply and think critically!

Gayle Hurt, California : It breaks my heart that teachers these days cannot use their creativity to teach, but must use scripted texts. How insulting! Teachers today have little or no time for music, art, social studies, science, health, or P.E., but spend most of the day teaching reading and math and practicing for tests.

I have heard from several teachers in our district that their Gifted and Talented Education students have fallen to “Proficient” because of their boredom with the scripted teaching and test practice.

As a staff development specialist, I encouraged teachers to teach to the higher level and make sure that their underperforming students knew that they expected them to reach that level and believed that they could—and they did!

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