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NCLB Stories: Arkansas

"My students struggle. They are second-language learners and, in ideal situations, they would have been given opportunities to receive instruction in their native language to build those skills that they need, but that is not always the case.

"They come to us with gaps in their learning, from environments or situations that are not always within our control, and we are expected to make sure that they perform at proficient or advanced levels. Current practice tells us that it takes between five and seven years before second-language learners can become proficient in the second language, and this is only if they have a good foundation in their first language.

"Lots of our kids come to us with gaps like that. So, three years after coming to the United States, our students are asked to sit down beside their peers and are handed a pencil-and-paper test to take-just like their friends, just like the students who have been with us since day one. They are told, 'Here is the test. If you would like to go to the next grade, I need you to score [X] on the test. I need you to be proficient or advanced. That's what we consider acceptable.' 

"And for students who really want to perform well, for students who are working at their highest ability level, these are unacceptable standards to place on them at that early stage. It causes undue stress on those children.

"I have seen children sick. I have seen children who have had to leave testing situations because they cannot handle the stress, either physically or emotionally. Our special ed students, even though they are given time accommodations, are still handed a pencil-and-paper test, just like their peers, and expected to perform at the same level, so that we can continue to make adequate yearly progress."

Sarah Barton
Elementary School Teacher
Rogers Public School District
Fayetteville, Arkansas


"My experience with NCLB has been quite negative. One of the most important things that I've noticed is that our students are almost tested to death, which over a period of years has caused them to shut down in different ways.

"When we give them these practice tests, when they score basic and below basic repeatedly, after they have put so much effort toward attempting to become proficient or advanced, it gives them much stress.

"The test was something that they worried about all year long. When testing time came around, in one session, on one day, I witnessed two students who had to leave the testing room. They were literally sick and vomiting over the stress from the test. That broke my heart. It took everything I had to maintain my composure and help them.

"And, the test prep situation -- when they repeatedly fail and fail, as far as the standards go -- it's almost like we have set them up to fail.

"When you teach students who are already struggling with other issues and attempting to do the best that they can do, this kind of testing is very detrimental to the learning process."

Denise Halliburton
High School Teacher
North Little Rock HS District
Little Rock, Arkansas