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NCLB Stories: Indiana

 

"We are testing kids to death, and no matter what number you put in a document, it is not going to make children successful. No one wants students to be successful more than teachers, but putting students under so much pressure to succeed for teachers to show growth—we're all going to have a breakdown!

"It's now time for legislators to live in the real world and understand that home life for children is not what it was 20 (or even 10) years ago! While we have students six- to eight-hours a day, they are influenced by outside elements over which teachers have no control—their everyday lives and the diminishing incomes of the families (due to the loss of jobs in the Midwest).

"Teachers cannot be expected to cure all of society's problems and to improve the skills that students are so desperately lacking in this time. We are already teaching first-grade skills in kindergarten, high- school classes in middle school or junior high, and college -coursework in high school. Get real! How successful are you at getting your own children to be above average? Or, let's say, getting all of the children in your neighborhood to be successful students in school? And I don't mean an exclusive neighborhood either!

"I would welcome the opportunity for you to come and visit my small rural school."

Ginger Calhoun
High School Teacher
Argos Community Schools
Argos, Indiana

 

"I had a student, a senior, who was very good with his hands and was an excellent vocational student. He could fix just about anything, and when he spoke about these things, I had no idea what he was talking about. I, a teacher of chemistry and physics, was in some ways less educated than him. Could I fix my ailing car? Did I even know where to find my alternator? No. But this intelligent young man could fix it or find it.

"NCLB mandates high-stakes testing. What does this do? Well, for this young man, it ruined his self image. This young man had always struggled with test anxiety. He could do the work in class and could explain concepts orally. But when it came to an important exam, he became paralyzed with fear and would nearly always fail. Did this test prove that this young man did not know the material? No. All it proved was that he had trouble taking tests.

"Standardized tests do not accurately represent knowledge. All they represent is how well one did taking that particular test. The cost of the high-stakes testing (in this case, the Graduation Qualification Exam) was the destruction of a young man's self-esteem. Over and over, this young man—who had so much knowledge and expertise in so many areas—repeatedly said , 'I'm dumb. I'm stupid. I'm a failure.' He believed this because of tests like those mandated by NCLB.

"Did he ever pass the GQE? No. Too much emphasis is placed on these standardized tests and the cost is the self-esteem and self-worth of our students. Well, that and millions of dollars."

Barbara Deardorff
High School Teacher
Dewey Township
Wheatfield, Indiana

 

"I am a Title I assistant in an elementary school. I assist in giving NWEA testing to special needs children. (NWEA tests are computerized tests that assess language, reading, and math skills of students in grades three to five.) My observation is that it truly frustrates these children who can't even read the test questions but who are so brilliant in other ways. Please stop standardized testing with these children and test them in other ways, if necessary! Thank you."

Robin Endris
Paraeducator
Michigan City Area Schools
Michigan City, Indiana

 

"In my fourth-grade classroom, a student received special education services . She tried very hard in the general education classroom but was not the most successful student. When required to take the state assessment test, she did not pass the language arts or the math sections. She was crushed and thought herself stupid. She told me there was no reason to continue trying because she would never pass the test.

"Despite many conversations, I could not reassure her and she stopped trying in the classroom."

Deborah Hartz
Elementary School Teacher
Evansville Vanderburgh School Corporation
Evansville, Indiana

 

"I have volunteered to serve on the school improvement team and the remediation committee . This requires as many as 10 hours per week of time outside of my contract time. Our staff has been reluctant to participate in any of the initiatives Why? Our school of 990 students has reduced class size in the tested subject areas, so our seventh- and eighth-grade science and social studies teachers have an average load of 180 students per day. Our music, art, PE, and health teachers have 240 students per day. Our math and language arts teachers have only 120 to 150 students per day.

"We are an above-average school in a wealthy community. Our testing pass rate is 80 percent. Our building is in excellent condition, but our free- and reduced-lunch and special education populations did not meet AYP. We receive no resources to improve these areas. We receive no additional funding to support remediation efforts because we do not qualify for Title I funds. We could do better, and we do need help, but we need more staff and more professional development.

"It is not lack of priorities; it is lack of resources."

Michelle Hulse
Junior High Math Teacher
Warrick County School Corporation
Newburgh, Indiana

 

"NPJHS was a four-star school for years. Now, under ESEA, we are facing our third year as a failing school. This is due strictly to our special education population. While this population has shown dramatic improvement over the past four years, they are not at the 85 percent level. The irony is that our total school passing rate is 87 percent when the special education students are included and 90 percent without the special education students.

"Our school is extremely active in academic competitions—we were State Spell Bowl champions 16 out of the last 17 years, and math, English, and social studies area champions."

Lisa Koester
Special Education Teacher
Metro of North Posey
Wadesville, Indiana

 

"As a music educator, I am used to advocating for my program when budgets are trimmed or staff is cut. But since the reauthorization of ESEA, the targeting of arts programs has been redoubled. NCLB's primary focus on math and reading has led to arts programs nationwide becoming less and less important or being completely removed from the curriculum. Three years ago, we lost our elementary instrumental music program program and 9 of 23 instrumental music teachers in the EVSC. I am constantly told that standards for core subjects are more important than my own and that I have to incorporate them into my already fully developed curriculum.

"Meanwhile, research showing the positive effects of the arts on student achievement continues to pile up. While it is a proven fact that students who participate in the arts perform better in other subject areas, schools are cutting their programs in an effort to meet the testing demands of ESEA. It's time to change the law so that the full needs of all children are met!"

Mark Lichtenberg
Instrumental Music Teacher
Evansville-Vanderburgh School Corporation
Evansville, Indiana

 

"The ESEA tells me that I should be allowed to have smaller classes and assistance, but due to lack of proper funding, I have class sizes of 35-plus students and no classroom assistants. My students suffer because I can spend so little time with them individually. We need more assistants and aides to help the teachers with large classes.

"Please fund the government-mandated programs such as ESEA."

Kathy Malott
Visual Arts Teacher
Fort Wayne Community Schools
Ft Wayne, Indiana

 

"I am concerned about the impact No Child Left Behind has had and will have on my school . Already, we have begun rearranging and cutting programs so we can accommodate NCLB. All children should have full access to the arts (now reduced), vocational courses (such as family and consumer sciences), and foreign languages."Well-rounded students are happy, positive students. Please encourage additional funds to keep a full slate of programs available for all children."

Bill Oates
High School Teacher
Rensselaer Central
Kouts, Indiana

 

"Our school is an excellent school but because of ESEA and the AYP, we now have to offer choice. The problem is the special needs students count into our failures, even though they are doing the best that they can. Sometimes it is a success just for them to show up. Please reconsider the sanctions and AYP guides.

"Our students desire a fair chance, and our faculty is excellent."

Mary Puntney-Katchmar
World Language Teacher
White River Valley
Bloomfield, Indiana

 

"I have to spend so much time working on NCLB rules and paperwork, which means I have less time to work with children. There is always a new thing to be filled out, workshops on a new directive to attend, or something that takes me away from teaching. Let me teach. Have someone else take care of NCLB or get rid of it."

Barbara Rotramel
Elementary School Teacher
Southwest School Corporation
Carlisle, Indiana

 

"While I support the idea of accountability and responsibility in our public schools, I would like to share some of the experiences we have had in my school and school corporation as a result of No Child Left Behind. "My school was labeled as a failing school in 2005 when special education students were counted in the adequate yearly progress. We needed only two more special education students to pass the language arts portion of the ISTEP test and only one more special education student to pass the math portion.

The students who failed the test were severely behind in school as a result of their disabilities. It was inappropriate for them to even take the test, and although there is an alternative assessment available in Indiana, only a small portion of students are allowed to be assessed using the ISTAR model. (If we had gone over the number of students allowed to take the test, we still would have been penalized.)

"Students need recess time for physical growth and development and for social-skill development with their peers, not to mention a little bit of unstructured time for their brains to process what they have learned. Recess time is being reduced in our schools. At one school, the principal monitors recess and calls classes in using a bullhorn after 10 minutes. This undermines the teacher's authority and professional decision-making skills regarding how much time is really needed on the playground.

"We are giving a standardized test to our kindergarten and first-grade students. We are giving two types of fall and spring tests to our second graders, and we test grades two to six three times each year on an additional test. Teachers are spending more time before and after school as well as summer vacations to learn new programs that are supposed to magically 'fix' students.

"NCLB has taken the joy out of teaching. We are all stressed: students, parents, and teachers. All we hear is negative publicity about our schools, even though there are lots of wonderful things happening in all of our buildings.

 "Let's change NCLB so it is more positively focused and lets the public know what is going well at our public schools while we work on societal issues that are affecting children in our schools. Let's focus on family values (and I don't mean gay marriage and so forth). I'm talking about training parents to be parents whether they are single, married, or in a domestic relationship. Let's begin to hold parents accountable for teaching their children how to behave and for modeling good behavior. Schools cannot fix all of society's problems, but beginning to fix society's problems will begin to help the problems we face in our schools.

"Let's put human dignity before high-stakes testing."

April Sanders
Elementary School Teacher
Richmond Community Schools
Richmond, Indiana

 

"NCLB has negatively impacted my school and district in two significant ways . First, the high-stakes testing has caused many administrators and teachers to narrowly focus their curriculum on the tested areas only. Second, the real start of school is delayed in elementary schools by all of the test preparation programs and the time it takes to administer the tests. Both have changed schools for teachers and students.

"I don't get an opportunity to bond with my students until after the testing is completed. The stress placed on schools due to these high-stakes tests really has taken some of the joy out of school. I am an advocate for formative tests that provide educationally usable data that can inform my instruction.

"I want to be held accountable by educationally sound testing programs and teachable standards that focus on the core of what is essential I still love my students and seek to provide the best education possible for each child."

Doug Taylor
Elementary School Teacher
New Albany-Floyd County Consolidated School Corporation
New Albany, Indiana

 

"26 Schools Left Behind: What a great day that newspaper headline started! The students and staff now realized that we were losers. As a Title I school with over 90 percent of its students eligible for the lunch program, we only met 11 of the 12 subcategory requirements. As for AYP, we once again learned that we were failures. After all, we didn't meet the 5 percent increase necessary to be winners. Our AYP was only 4.96 percent.

"Thank goodness for ESEA. Without it, we would surely have thought we were on the right track. We might have even felt proud."

Mary Tremper
Elementary School Teacher
Evansville-Vanderburgh
Evansville, Indiana