NCLB Stories: New Mexico
"I have a cross-categorical special education class. My students are behavior disordered, emotionally disturbed, speech and language impaired, mentally handicapped, learning disabled. Because of constraints with NCLB, there is no time to write Individual Educational Plans, so I spend five to 10 hours per week (after contact hours) writing IEP's and planning for the different needs of my students.
"This does not count the time I spend grading papers or lesson plans. There is also a great deal of time spent on test preparation and on actually testing students instead of instructing. I am also spending a great deal of time trying to help general education teachers meet the needs of students who have not been tested because the regulations have made it so hard to get a child tested.
"Much of the enjoyment of teaching is gone. I believe we will lose many new teachers due to increased paperwork and no time to complete everything. Our teachers are staying at school until 6 or 7 p.m. to complete plans."
Special Education Elementary School Teacher
Las Cruces, New Mexico
"I am a special education inclusion teacher who, because of my caseload's needs , spent three weeks, morning and afternoon, administering tests. That was three weeks that I could have spent teaching, and my students could have spent learning.
"Our fifth Grade Teachers and school administrators all remarked about the rise in student negativity and behavior problems during the weeks of testing. My students quickly became frustrated and gave up. They required many pep talks and much encouragement to continue with test taking. I spent much of this testing time refocusing them and attempting to maintain a hang-in-there attitude. As to the validity of these tests, I really question their results.
"I work extremely hard to build self-concept and perseverance in my students, but this testing nearly wipes out my months of work. I view the testing weeks as torture sessions that are cruel and unusual punishment for my students. I certainly do not enjoy this time of year, yet I do put effort into encouraging and maintaining a positive outlook.
"Please reconsider NCLB. It is torture and creates a negative atmosphere and truly does not measure student progress."
Elementary School Teacher
Rio Rancho, New Mexico
"Once upon a time there was a President who had a large rose garden. Each flower was unique and followed the plan that God had developed to help it bloom. The President had many gardeners and assistants, but he said to the flowers, 'Bloom. All together, at the same time: Bloom.' It's impossible for children, too."
Dr. Joyce Stone
Elementary School Teacher
Los Lunas, New Mexico
"As part of comprehensive school reform, we are being forced to participate in a process that is part of the sanctions associated with failure to make AYP. For the past two years, we have had people 'train' us in business models (Baldridge) that are supposed to improve kids' test scores.
"Our students have been referred to as 'products.' Our 'trainers' (are we dogs?) have been longtime school teachers who are retired and now working for the Baldridge offshoot, Jim Shipley and Associates. Not one of our trainers has taught at the senior high school level (let alone at an alternative senior high school). One trainer is a Middle School Teacher; one is a Kindergarten Teacher; one person is not even a college graduate. (I'm not making this up.)
"Not only this, but these folks write reports that assess how cooperative and compliant the staff was during the trainings. I got into a vat of very hot water because I had the audacity to point out that some of the things they were presenting to us simply would not work with our population. My comment was reported to the Shipley headquarters, our district superintendent's office, and my principal's office. Both he (the principal) and I were called on the carpet for failing to take full advantage of the training. (He was reprimanded for failing to make his staff understand that they must see the merit in every part of the training, and I, for speaking out.)
"We continue to be held hostage by a process that will not abate until we make AYP, which is not likely to ever happen considering that our student population is made up of kids who've got miserable academic track records in traditional high school settings.
"Our students were given the SBA (standards based assessment) in March 2006. It is now the end of October, and we still have not received the results of this mandated exam. We know the results have been generated because we have been told that we failed to make AYP.
"Since the beginning of the school year, we have asked to see the results of the exams. Our principal received an e -document that was lengthy, complicated, and difficult to follow; he said he was waiting until a more sensible document was sent to him.
"So, if you had a doctor perform a battery of high-stakes tests on you, would you wait more than six months for the results? What good would the results be six months after the fact? I would be curious to know whether I am the only teacher who:
"resents that these tests are paid for by my school district rather than the federal government,
"resents that the scores for my school exist somewhere, but I do not have access to them,
"does not understand why it takes so long for the tests to be scored, and the results sent back to us,
"resents that I must conform to a timeline created arbitrarily without my input or consent, and
"resents that the folks who generate these tests do not have to conform to any reasonable timeline in providing the test results. (I suffer sanctions; they do not.)"
Alternative High School Teacher
Farmington Municipal Schools
Aztec, New Mexico
"When NCLB was passed, I was excited. At last my students would be able to have the same textbooks as the general ed students; at last they would not be stuck in a portable way out in La La Land; at last they would be part of the school, the curriculum, and the field trips. At last they would be acknowledged as human beings in our society without the label of behavior disorder, special ed, or learning disabled.
"Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong.
"Now they have to take grade-level tests in which they have no idea what the words say, because, you see, they read on first- to third-grade levels. But they try. They still don't get textbooks with general ed; they are still in the portable in La La Land; and they are still reminded of their labels.
"As a program, we get absolutely no funding for our special materials and supplies for our special needs kids because the money goes to administration to train general ed teachers to understand how to include special needs students.
"Then we had to go on corrective action for three years, one year probation. There was no room for creativity, no special assistance, and no in-service training to assist the special ed teacher in how to implement and design a program to assist special needs students. They had to be taught at grade level with outdated, used, torn textbooks. Wow, have we gone backwards. Now, tell me how has No Child Left Behind helped the special needs students? (Hint: It hasn't.)"
High School Teacher
Las Cruces, New Mexico