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NCLB Stories: New Jersey

"Two years ago, I had to assist one of my members in my capacity as building representative . She had been successfully teaching replacement English to special education students at the high school for the past 15 years. She came to me very confused and frustrated with the 40-plus pages of paper which had to be read and completed to prove she was highly qualified in English because she taught her students under her Teacher of the Handicapped certificate.

"I had her bring in all relevant documentation: college transcripts, past teaching schedules, etc. She fulfilled the highly qualified definition in New Jersey by amassing 16 points on the state's HOUSSE standard, which is used by veteran teachers. (By the way, New Jersey only requires 10 points to be considered highly qualified by this standard.) The paperwork was duly submitted and received by the central administration. The next year, the teacher was transferred to an elementary special education position because, according to the school superintendent, she was not highly qualified to teach any secondary subject.

"She has continued to teach, but not with the same enthusiasm. We made copies of all her paperwork and sent a set to every member of the Board of Education and asked them to reconsider the transfer decision. It has been two years and she has still not been put back at the high school where she had enjoyed so much success and personal fulfillment.

"All her colleagues ask: 'What's the point of doing a great job if you can prove you're highly qualified, yet the administration and Board will not recognize your credentials?'"

William Baronowsky
High School Teacher
Holmdel Township
Freehold, New Jersey

 

"As a teacher of students who have been classified as handicapped, my passion has been and continues to be to have my students become an acceptable part of mainstream society, independent, self-sufficient, and contributors to our great country. With the passage of the ESEA, most of my hopes and aspirations have been eliminated because I no longer can teach to the whole child. I am forced to teach to a test that 'qualifies' a child for high school diploma candidacy.

"The test is biased, unfair, and set up to have my children fail. The students I have are not on grade level as measured on this standardized test that only taps verbal intelligence. How, in this day and age when we recognize that students possess multiple intelligences, can this one test determine whether a twelfth-grade student who has successfully met the district and state high school requirements will graduate?

"The answer cannot be in academic and logical domains. Only politics that support bashing of a free public education can be the answer. The ESEA is a setup to promote private education so that this country will no longer have free educational opportunity for all.

"Thank goodness for NEA and New JerseyEA who are working vigorously on behalf of our millions of students and working toward making ESEA a law that will support our country's children. Please keep up the passion so that my passion can also be restored!"

Marie Blistan
High School Teacher
Washington Township, Gloucester County
Harrisonville, New Jersey

 

"My story is unique. I was granted my special education certification in May 1972. I taught for the first eight years and then changed from teaching to school psychology, (after additional education) in the public schools from 1980 to present.

"After a minimal five courses in earth science, completed in 2002-2003, I am now deemed to be a highly qualified teacher, whereas my friends who have been sucessfully teaching for years are not. I certainly hope these 'less qualified teachers,' according to NCLB, will help me next year because I surely value their expertise."

Linda A. England
High School Psychologist/Teacher
Bridgewater-Raritan
Hillsborough, New Jersey

 

"Our middle school has not made safe harbor because of our ELL population and special education students. "How you can expect someone who has been in the United States for less than a year to take a content test in another language is unfathomable. How you can expect the rest of the community not to resent them is likewise beyond comprehension. This law has exacerbated tensions between cultures in my town.

 "As the mother of and teacher of students with reading difficulties, I submit that asking them to read at grade level despite their learning disabilities is like asking a kid in a wheelchair to run track and failing him if he can't. It is cruel.

"Revise this law and fund its mandates."

Kerri Farrell
Middle School Teacher
Morris Public Schools
Morris Plains, New Jersey

 

"Highly qualified teachers are being shifted after many years of teaching one subject under a K-8 teaching certificate. It is incomprehensible to me that a teaching certificate can be changed after many years. It was earned in good faith, issued in good faith, and now may be changed."

Gayle Faulkner
Sixth Grade Teacher
Bridgewater-Raritan
Martinsville, New Jersey

 

"This year the state of New Jersey required all English language learners to take the access test, to determine language proficiency in English in listening, reading, writing, and speaking. I spent over one-and-a-half months testing my kindergarten and first grade students, rather than teach these most needy children in English.

"Testing such young children is an affront to their education and must be addressed."

Bettina Heller
ESL Teacher
Plainfield
Monmouth Junction, New Jersey

 

"I have taught special education science for 20 years, and NCLB has taken the joy out of teaching my special needs students. Instead of teaching them basic science facts that would be relevant to these adolescents after graduation, I am forced to teach concepts that will be covered on the HSPA because of No Child Left Behind.

"In other words, I have to teach to the test, which forces me to bypass those very important topics that my students will need in the future in order to be productive citizens. Instead of learning about how their bodies work, they will be exposed to how the atom works. Instead of learning about consumer safety, they will have know how to identify rocks and minerals.

"I strongly believe I am wasting precious time on topics that these moderately handicapped childred will not understand nor will they use the knowledge in their lifetimes. I want to prepare them for life after school, not satisfy a political agenda!"

Margaret Kelley
Special Education Science Teacher
Randolph
Randolph, New Jersey

 

"As I sit and watch my children take the standardized tests given by New Jersey for third, fourth, and fifth grades I wonder what we are doing to our children. Yes, I want them to achieve and to thrive, but I do not want them to become basket cases over not passing a standarized test that might or might not test their true ability because of their disabilities. How can we test children on grade level when they are reading in class below grade level? Yes, we are striving and have brought their reading levels up, but because of their disabilities, it takes them longer to learn and to process.

"Testing children several times a year on top of the standardized tests has become a nightmare. These students are turned off by it and look at the important test as, 'Oh, here we go again with another test.' I have seen them get frustrated and when in doubt choose letter C as the answer to any question on the test.

"The test in New Jersey is given in March. If we are to have completed teaching everything that those students are supposed to know by March (we start in September), why do we have school from March until the end of June? The test covers curriculum for the entire year, why are we testing in March and not May? It is amazing how much better my students would do if we tested in May! So many more of the light bulbs would get lit.

"I was glad to see the bar raised; we need to make our students reach higher than they think they can reach, but we don't need to turn them off to education or to think that the most important part of the school year is the March standardized test. Why test a Spanish-speaking youngster who has been in your school two--count them, two--days? Granted they do not have to do the reading, but they have to do the math, and it must be done in English, not in their native tongue. What are we testing here? How well they doodle?"

Betsy Rescorla
Resource Room Teacher
Morris
Morristown, New Jersey

 

"I have personally witnessed the unfairness of the NCLB's mandates on my students. The frustration caused by unnecessary testing was evident when my eighth-grade special needs students were forced to take the state tests. These students had worked so hard all year long to be mainstreamed in the regular class and had performed well. Their confidence soared. However, when they were subjected to the mandated state testing, the frustration soared! Imagine their discouragement when their below-average test scores were distributed. Is it fair to them or the school to have these test scores count against them and the school?

"Our ESL students are also unfairly tested and their test scores do not reflect their ability or potential. I feel that NCLB only has a negative impact on our students."

Sherrie Rizzo
Media Specialist/World Language Teacher
Hopewell
Bridgeton, New Jersey

 

"I teach a diverse group of students who work hard and try their best. I strive to teach each child based on individual needs and abilities. Many of my students are two to three years below grade level. These boys and girls have IEPs and are instructed on their ability levels, yet ESEA mandates that they take a standardized test which measures what they should know if they were being instructed on grade level.

"This is a very frustrating experience for these children as the content of the test is well above the levels at which they are capable of working."

Leslie Trucano
Special Needs Teacher K-4
Hopewell
Vineland, New Jersey

 

"I am a song writer and third Grade Teacher. My classes have won contests for writing songs. There used to be joy on my student's faces. We cooked, we did projects, we played. Now, those looks of joy are replaced with stress, nervous ticks, and work. The test is coming up!

"I am a responsive classroom teacher. I feel guilty for helping children be children. The things that I loved about teaching young children are gone. There has to be a better way."

Sandra Villegas
Third Grade Teacher
Monroe Township
Monroe Township, New Jersey