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NCLB Stories: New York

"Many children in the city of Buffalo come from economically deprived families . Their experiences are often limited. It is very difficult to help these students reach benchmarks without adequate funding.

"In New York state, we are certified N-6 for elementary. As a pre-Kindergarten Teacher, I strive to help my little ones receive the missing background that they need to be on par with students in wealthier districts. It is difficult to teach beginning reading to three-year-old children who don't even know their names.

"Buffalo Public Schools have begun a policy of retaining pre-K and kindergarten children until they reach mastery. But, without funding, NCLB is just putting these young ones behind, right off the bat. There needs to be a better way to reach these children instead of retaining them and telling them they are failures at four and five years old."

Lynn Diagostino
Pre-Kindergarten Teacher
Buffalo
Buffalo, New York

 

"In 1978, I was hired by Buffalo as a Title I ESEA corrective math teacher. At that time, testing was used to identify students who needed corrective math and reading instruction. I had contact with 50-plus students each year in the first through eighth grades. This small group instruction was beneficial, as indicated by their annual test results. The students were successful, I felt successful, parents praised the program because they saw their children thrive, and the school district was satisfied that the funds were well spent.

"Four years later, federal money was cut; I then was placed in a classroom of 32 fourth-grade students whose test results indicated that they had the same deficiencies that my previous Title I students had, yet these students were not given the support due to the lack of funding. As the years went on, NCLB modified the Title I ESEA, but my students still are not receiving the support and instruction they need to succeed in school and in life.

"My colleagues and I are being intimidated into using the test scores to prove that we are successful teachers. And many teachers, afraid of reprisals, have lost the joy they have for teaching. They are too busy cramming for and practicing tests with their students. Results are published. You must meet the standard. In the middle of all of this, children are losing out. In other words, it has become a case of 'forget the child, just prove you can make them score acceptably.'

"The fact is that students may actually need corrective math or reading instruction, but they will not receive it because for a teacher to admit having students who are below the standard is admitting failure as a teacher. No wonder so many teachers leave the profession!!"

Teri DiPasquale
Sixth Grade Teacher
Buffalo
Buffalo, New York

 

"NCLB has taken away the time for kindergarteners to learn and practice essential getting-along skills that will help them in their educational and their working careers. We have had to decrease free time and recess in order to instruct the students in all the language arts areas. We are expected to have the children reading and able to decode words before they leave kindergarten. These children are being deprived of opportunities to experience give and take, to understand one another's point of view, to play and work cooperatively.

"Individual schools are under pressure from the district, and the districts from the state, and the state from the capital, to get all children to the same place at the same time.

"Due to the push-push-push attitude, we are killing student spirit and creativity. Where a student may take time to understand and further explore a concept, we are forced to stop on that topic and move on. Not all of us look the same, act the same, behave the same, come from the same home, or have the same experiences. School is a time when we offer experiences that help put students on the same playing field. We are dampening their spirits and not allowing them to grow and blossom, to be the best they can be. I worry that these pressures are stifling our children, our future leaders."

Eileen Healy
Kindergarten Teacher
Jamestown
Jamestown, New York

 

"As a Reading First Coach, I am involved in every aspect of implementing the Reading First grant in my school. Part of the problem, as I see it, is the lack of adequate funding for the mandate. For example, the teachers in my building are required to have a diagnostic team with which to focus extra help.

"We have no such extra staff to create these teams, and the funding is not in place in schools to hire extra help. The grant itself is in danger of not meeting the mandates because the local district does not have the manpower or resources to implement it."

Melinda MacPherson
Reading First Coach
Buffalo
Williamsville, New York

 

"ESEA has created a situation in which my members are unable to utilize the teachable moment. Learning is part of every minute. Motivation and engagement often arise from the natural inquisitiveness or curiosity of children as they experience events in their lives. Following a set curriculum and incorporating all the standards to meet standardized tests does not support the natural learning created by experience.

"Exploring the creek, climbing a tree, walking in the city, watching the clouds, wondering why the weather changes should be everyday events. Sitting in the classroom for six hours or more is restricting.

"Teachers in our schools are monitoring how many minutes their students read, but they should be encouraging the exploration of language to convey information, emotions, culture, and more. NCLB creates mandates that cannot be met. The cost of these dictum's is less spontaneity, less laughter and joy, and highly capable individuals finding other professional outlets. NCLB's honorable intent is truly a constrictive dictum that does not address the real needs of individual students. It should promote the joy and benefits of learning, but instead it is a gray cloud that often rains on the least able students. It rains on the fiscally restrained districts. NCLB should promote equality.

"Our schools are successful with individual students because of the professional dedication of teachers who go beyond the mandates, go beyond the rules, go outside the box to find a way to keep the joy. "Leaving no child behind means we should abandon the government's iron fist and offer the open hand. Our schools care about every child."

Susan Mittler
President of Ithaca Teachers Association
Ithaca
Ithaca, New York

 

"ESEA has created a situation in which my members are unable to utilize the teachable moment. Learning is part of every minute. Motivation and engagement often arise from the natural inquisitiveness or curiosity of children as they experience events in their lives. Following a set curriculum and incorporating all the standards to meet standardized tests does not support the natural learning created by experience.

"Exploring the creek, climbing a tree, walking in the city, watching the clouds, wondering why the weather changes should be everyday events. Sitting in the classroom for six hours or more is restricting.

"Teachers in our schools are monitoring how many minutes their students read, but they should be encouraging the exploration of language to convey information, emotions, culture, and more. NCLB creates mandates that cannot be met. The cost of these dictum's is less spontaneity, less laughter and joy, and highly capable individuals finding other professional outlets. NCLB's honorable intent is truly a constrictive dictum that does not address the real needs of individual students. It should promote the joy and benefits of learning, but instead it is a gray cloud that often rains on the least able students. It rains on the fiscally restrained districts. NCLB should promote equality.

"Our schools are successful with individual students because of the professional dedication of teachers who go beyond the mandates, go beyond the rules, go outside the box to find a way to keep the joy. "Leaving no child behind means we should abandon the government's iron fist and offer the open hand. Our schools care about every child."

Susan Mittler
President of Ithaca Teachers Association
Ithaca
Ithaca, New York