NCLB Stories: Michigan
"Passing legislation without ensuring that there is proper funding is a recipe for disaster in our public schools. The required testing has little meaning without a pretest to compare with the end-of-year posttest. Of course, this means twice the testing and more money.
"If a chemistry major who teaches middle-school science is no longer eligible to teach sixth-grade general science because the chemistry major needs an endorsement in general science, the federal government should supply the scholarship monies.
"In the state of Michigan, funding is so tight that our school district in Troy has been forced to cut 26 custodial jobs and will not be filling the positions of some retirees. Our building sizes are not changing, but half the custodial workforce will be expected to do the same job.
"The more riches you put into education, the more enriching that education should be for our students and future leaders. Please consider revamping this legislation to include more funding, so that our children will benefit from well-qualified teachers, meaningful tests, and a safe and healthy environment in which to thrive."
Judy Gail Armstrong-Hall
Middle School Science Teacher
Troy Public Schools
I am writing to share a small part of my experience with you. I am a kindergarten teacher in Ann Arbor, Michigan. My morning class this year included 13 bilingual and non-English-speaking children from eight different Asian and European countries.
"I returned to teaching kindergarten two years ago after having taught first grade for nine years. What I've found is that my curriculum now includes many of the same goals that I was responsible for teaching to first graders 10 years ago. While I welcome higher expectations for all children, I am afraid for the children who are not ready to read and write at this time.
"I see children who must first learn the English vocabulary before they can read in English. I see children who have special needs (speech and language delays, developmental disabilities, or autistic impairments ) that prevent them from completely understanding the curriculum. I see parents of five-year-olds crying because they feel their children are failing before they've even had a chance to begin learning. I can't even imagine the thoughts and feelings of these children.
"What happens five years from now when we begin to see these children burn out? What happens to the joy, the love of exploration, and the love of learning that comes naturally to a young child? Yes, I think we need to raise our standards and expectations, but we must also remember that one size does not fit all children!"
Ann Marie Borders
Elementary School Teacher
Ann Arbor, Michigan
"The concept of No Child Left Behind is wonderful in theory, but the way the law has been implemented is causing problems. It uses a one-size-fits-all approach that is not working in my school. Schools are being asked to implement standardized tests, and these tests are being used to determine whether or not a school is achieving. This is wrong.
"For the past few years, I have taught eighth-grade science. Each year, I have to give a test that will measure how well our school is doing with respect to NCLB. It does not take into account the other factors that could tell how well a school is achieving. One problem is that high-stakes testing is not the only way to measure a school's success.
"The other problem is that it feels as if teachers are now teaching to the test so students can pass it. Many factors should be used to help students achieve, not just one test."
High School Teacher
Carman-Ainsworth Community Schools
Grand Blanc, Michigan
"I spend more time testing than I ever have, which means that students spend less time on learning tasks. To prepare my students for the Reading/Writing MEAP (Michigan Education Assessment Program), my district has implemented benchmark testing. I teach language arts to the seventh grade, so my students take four reading benchmark tests a year, four grammar tests per year, and one writing assessment test.
"This is in addition to the MEAP reading and writing. The MEAP takes four days of class, the grammar tests take one day each (or four days total), the reading tests are frequently two days each (or eight days), and the writing test now lasts one day instead of two.
"My students take tests 17 days out of the school year in language arts only, and that doesn't include all the tests in other classes. This is more than three weeks of testing per year. Outrageous! What are we telling 12-year-olds about school?
"I'm testing all students with the same test as there is no distinction between kids or ability levels. I'm teaching to a limited number of benchmarks because that is what is on the test. Students get no time to pick out interest areas; students are never given the time to prove their knowledge through creative, self-chosen projects.
"So, does their education and testing truly reflect the kinds of tasks they will be required of them as adults? Are they being allowed to do the kinds of projects that will truly pique their interest and thus increase their motivation to learn? Schools are moving in the wrong direction."
Middle School Teacher
"What I find troublesome about ESEA is the fact that many veteran , experienced educators have been forced to change positions or retire because they are no longer deemed highly qualified to teach. Teachers in my district have been unqualified (according to ESEA) for more than 30 years, yet they have been successful and dedicated teachers.
"Another sad fact is that ESEA has led to a serious lack of funds to meet the many demands of the law. This seems almost criminal to me.
"Please continue to address these and the many other concerns that educators are expressing from across our great land. Remember, great public schools are the basic right of all learners at any age!"
Elementary School Teacher
Vassar Public School
"Recently, our staff evaluated an elementary school student to determine whether she had a learning disability At the multidisciplinary evaluation team meeting, the psychologist and academic support teacher reported the student's scores and concluded that she was eligible for services as a special education student. The principal asked how it would affect our school AYP scores to have the student certified.
"The psychologist reported that it would hurt the school because the student's scores would lower the average scores of the special education subgroup, and that if the student remained in regular education, her low test scores would not adversely impact the school because there was a higher number of student scores in the regular education population to offset her low scores. The student was not certified, even though she qualified under the law for special education services."
Huntington Woods, Michigan
"I am the president of the Birmingham Education Association which represents 640 teachers, 84 percent of whom have advanced degrees. One of our members, Scott W., has led Groves High School to numerous regional and state forensics championships. Groves High School students are champions, and yet NCLB declares that their forensic coach is not highly qualified to lead them to these victories!
"Scott was told he couldn't be their forensics teacher because he doesn't have a speech endorsement on his certificate and that he would have to go back to college, at his own expense, to become highly qualified to do the job he is obviously doing so well. Should his students be deprived of his expertise? According to NCLB: yes, they should be— without exception."
Special Education Teacher Consultant
Royal Oak, Michigan
"I have been in early childhood education since 1971 and am retired as of June 2006. A Catch-22 with early childhood education revolves around the issues of age and readiness. Current best practices insist on teaching children at the chronological age at which a child is legally able to register for the Michigan School Readiness Program (at age four) or kindergarten (at age five), both prior to December 1.
"Readiness for these programs may vary by developmental age by one to two years. If a child enrolls as a young four or young five in a regular program and is not successful due to developmental-age issues, I would recommend the child have another year in one of these early grades to give them the gift of time. Under current ESEA/NCLB, a child who is retained is a mark of failure on the school system. If parents holds their child out on their own, to give the gift of time, is that a mark of failure on the parent? I have witnessed many who nod approval of such wisdom.
"Today's economic times are pushing parents in middle- and lower-economic groups to enroll children in kindergarten or state-funded preschools as soon as the children come of age. Readiness takes a back seat to pocketbooks. Then, when early childhood teachers seek to give the lower socioeconomic groups the gift of time in a quality environment, that is viewed as a failure."
Elementary School Teacher (retired)
"I had a third-grade student who was far below grade level in all subjects . She needed extra help in order to have any chance of keeping up with our class. Our Reading Recovery teacher asked me for a list of students who she could work with to get ready for our MEAP testing, a standardized test on which we are measured.
"I placed this child on her list, but the teacher said that she could not accept this child into her reading class because this student was so far behind that she didn't have a chance of catching up enough to pass any standardized test. She said that our school and our principal's goal was to only work with students who needed a little extra help to pass the tests.
"The goal was not to help those who most needed the help, but to help only those who may be able to pass a test if given a little help. The rationale that I was given for this is that it is better to have a few students fail badly than to have many fail by just a little.
"So, did our system of test scores pressure the schools and the teachers to push the students harder really meet its goal? Are we leaving students behind because of the ESEA? I think so!"
Elementary School Teacher