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NCLB Stories: Hawaii


"I am a teacher in a school under restructuring, placed in this status only because the disabled population did not meet AYP in 2004-05. Last year, we made AYP because the state changed the minimum number of students in a subgroup.

So much focus is put on this determination, which seems to me to be absurd. It is the epitome of the senseless obsession with AYP and on how it is achieved. One year, we feel like failures; the next, we cannot honestly take pride in making AYP because making it was due to a  technical alteration. How can we focus on achievement when the premise by which we are measured is so absurd?

"We are so focused on raising test scores and getting (and  staying) out of restructuring that most of our resources are dedicated to raising test scores. We used to have music and PE. We used to have an allocation for a technology position. Now we have coaches assigned to reading and math -- a total of four coaches.

"All children, especially those who struggle with traditional subjects, need a well-rounded education. This is not just a wish; research supports the need for the brain to be developed and stimulated using multiple pathways -- especially by music and movement. When I visit private schools, with their abundant resources, I wonder why public school students can't have half of what these private-school students have available to them.

"Teachers are pressured, and it takes a lot of effort to not pass that on to students. But we are pressured, to prepare for the tests. We are not respected as professionals; the most important thing seems to be that we follow 'the program.'

"The best teachers are those who are creative and make decisions based on the individual needs of their students. Yet, we are discouraged from being creative, from being thoughtful, and from making analytical decisions about our students' needs.

"What will keep me in the profession is being respected for my contributions as a thinking, empathetic, creative professional."

Diane Aoki
Elementary School Teacher
West Hawaii
Kealakekua, Hawaii


"As a college educator, I have been watching and listening with great concern as I hear K-12 educators talk about the detrimental effects of ESEA. As I hear more and more stories of programs, such as band/orchestra/choir, speech/debate, art, PE, photography, and foreign languages being cut to allow more resources and time for teaching to standardized tests, I have been dreading the day, down the road, when those students will enter my classroom at the college level.

 I know that such programs contribute greatly to critical-thinking skills, collaborative-working skills, goal-setting skills, and other essential skills that students need to be successful at the college level.

"Much to my surprise and horror, that day has come much sooner than I anticipated. A colleague recently shared that this is the first year in over 20 years of teaching that not one student in her large lecture section had taken a foreign language in high school.

"Where will our country be in 15 years, as the first complete NCLB generation fills all of our college classrooms?"

Sally Pestana
Kapiolani Community College
Honolulu, Hawaii


By the year 2014, all schools in Hawaii will be in corrective action for not being able to meet AYP. This is due to the fact that we are underfunded and understaffed, with a high percentage of our students living below the poverty level.  

"Every year, Hawaii has to hire 1,700 brand new teachers, mostly from the mainland, because every year 1,700 teachers choose to leave Hawaii due to poor working conditions and low pay. With the high staff turnover, it is difficult to keep continuity in programs, so students may learn and relearn the same material from a new teacher who does not understand the new program, how to teach it, or understand the scope and sequence of the program. Training for new teachers is very limited.   

"I have found that the nationally normed tests that we use are culturally biased for our students in Hawaii. The test designed by the state is too difficult for the students to understand and pass. The fifth-grade state test was given to the governor's staff; they all failed. The governor refused to take the test. 

"Under NCLB, almost all schools will eventually be unable to make AYP. We are punishing our students, and teachers as well, with unrealistic goals. It is time to set aside NCLB, allow teachers the academic freedom to do what they have always done best, fully fund education, and take our place in the world market with well-rounded, fully educated children."

Cynthia Sallee-Brown
Elem./Intermediate Teacher
Pa'auilo, Hawaii


"My high school students often come to the classroom lacking many social skills and moral training. They come from broken homes and foster homes, as a result of drug births or a dad in prison. Many have little self worth, and motivating them to learn takes an extra effort.

"Financial cutbacks have reduced high school counseling services. With NCLB unfunded, many of our youth cannot access education. If more services were funded (like counseling for emotional dysfunction), there would be less acting-out in the special education or general education classrooms, and children could have the rightful benefits of public education. One of my students will end up in the prison system if he cannot access such services. He would otherwise be a productive member of our society.

"Between the budget cutbacks that our schools face and the state and federal mandates, not only are special education teachers overworked to the point of having to complete school reports at home in the wee hours of the morning, but also many students cannot receive the counseling they deserve from specially trained advocates, thereby limiting their access to opportunities to set and realize their educational goals." 

Edwina Shazar
Special Ed Teacher
Holualoa, Hawaii


"As an ESL teacher, I can tell you that NCLB has had a profound effect on my students. For starters, we lose about six weeks of instructional time every year just to administer the Hawaii State Assessment (HSA).

Furthermore, there is talk that soon this test will become a graduation requirement. Immigrant students will be required to either pass this test to graduate, regardless of their grades or time in the United States.

"Because of NCLB, all we do is practice for the tests, and then take them. We need to educate the whole child, but we are all being robbed of that opportunity. Please help us."

Jamie Stidger
High School Teacher
Kaaawa, Hawaii


"I teach ninth and tenth grade at-promise students. These students have been rejected and demoralized throughout their academic tenure. When I get them, they have low self-esteem, low attendance rates, and poor academic achievement.

"By the time they leave our academy program, they have raised their achievement levels, raised their attendance rates, and they feel good about themselves. However, when it comes to reaching NCLB-mandated test requirement percentages, the students do not meet them.

"It is a slap in the face for my students to learn that after all they have accomplished, they will still be listed as failing under the current NCLB law. This does not help my school, my credibility, and most importantly, my students. Please help me to help my students understand that any achievement is a good thing."

Laynie Sueyasu
High School Teacher
Honolulu, Hawaii


"As a reading resource teacher, I was quite concerned when NCLB came into being, so I volunteered for the Hawaii State Teacher Association ESEA Task Force. I have been part of this group since 2002.

"I have visited numerous schools and heard so many stories about the woes of classroom teachers trying to implement this unfunded mandate, and the story of my own workplace always weighs heavily on my mind.

"My school was in the status of 'planning for restructuring,' and the ominous unknown ahead of us drove teachers into stress leaves and created an atmosphere of melancholy that still persists today (we got out of status in school year 2004-05).

"NCLB creates an unrealistic expectation for teachers that cannot be met, even if you jump through all the hoops. The teachers with whom I work are now going through what I can only label as NCLB-PTSD (NCLB-post traumatic stress disorder), and there's no treatment or cure.

"I am afraid that as the years go on, my school will again fall into 'status' and I just don't know how much more my teachers can take. NCLB is going to cause many of my excellent teachers to leave the profession! Our community cannot afford this kind of exodus because it means even fewer highly qualified teachers in classrooms (an indicator that puts schools into NCLB status).

"All teachers deserve more respect for what we do. All NCLB does is create a hostile work environment!"

Evette Tampos
Title I coordinator/SFA facilitator/Reading First Coach
Hilo, Hawaii


"In Windward, we call NCLB the No School Left Standing law. Teachers aren't teaching children to love learning anymore; they're told to prepare the students to pass the NCLB tests to show that the schools are improving. Hmmm, teach Shakespeare …or how to write an answer that will make the test-graders happy?

"Teachers are told to show that they don't need the money to improve student achievement, then they'll get the money. If teachers need the money, they must pull it out of their already skinny wallets.

"What do they need money for? Well, since the schools don't have enough money to buy both school furniture and textbooks, they have to make decisions: do the students have material or sit on the floor? Teachers provide resources like worksheets, videos, raw materials for projects, and other items to help students learn and enjoy learning.

"Teachers are also asked to develop unit plans and curricula to match the state's standards, which are supposed to bring Hawaii in line with the rest of the nation. Well, when are we supposed to do it? If the state develops the standards, shouldn't they develop the curricula to meet them?

"And, while teachers shoulder the burden of responsibility for preparing the students, where is student responsibility? Where is parent responsibility?

"Please either kill the No School Left Standing law, or make it more realistic. Let the teachers focus on what they love to do and do best: teach."

Roberta Yamamoto
High School Teacher
Pearl City, Hawaii