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NCLB Stories: North Carolina

"The most important learning can never be measured quantitatively over the span of three days in the life of a person.

"Though the intent of the NCLB legislation is to close the achievement gap, the effect it is having on schools and on the delivery of educational services to students by teachers has been chilling. The love of learning and the joy of teaching have been adversely affected.

"Since the passage of the NCLB legislation, I have seen the focus of education change more drastically than I thought it ever could. We, the teachers, educate students because we have such a passionate love of and joy for learning that we want to share this joy with every person we meet. Teaching's gratification has never been in the indecent salaries that we make; it has been in the desire to be molders of dreams, lighters of fires, and lenses of hope and possibility through which people without hope can dare to dream, hope, and believe in the possibility of a better life for themselves and for their families.

"Teachers know intuitively that touching the life of a child through education means touching eternity. When people love to touch eternity through tangible means, they will use means to do so. This is what I, and millions of others, have done through teaching.

"The NCLB legislation has so narrowed the focus of what is important in education that it undermines the very foundation on which education in this country was built. The designation of specific areas for testing in order to measure adequate yearly progress has diminished the attention given to other parts of the curriculum. Just as psychologists and health professionals tell us that we must lead a balanced life, it is reasonable to expect that the beginning of balance must be taught through a balanced curriculum.

"A balanced curriculum does not consist of just reading and math, or get created by adding specific subjects at denoted times along the timeline of full implementation of the NCLB legislation. All subjects must be relevant and important, and all subjects must be taught well.

"Students are people. People grow and develop at different rates. How can a body of legislators set the rate for growth? If there are identified points of inequity in the formulation and/or the delivery of educational services, those points need to be identified and addressed expediently, without apology. To choose certain areas for which students and teachers are held accountable by the federal government has meant that the tested areas have become the taught areas.

"There is so much more to life than reading and math. There is so much more to students than how well they perform on a test. I continue to tell my students that no matter how they perform on a test, I will still love them, their parents will still love them, their families will still love them, and the sun will still rise tomorrow morning. The birds will still sing, the sky will still be blue on some days and cloudy on others. I tell them that they will still grow up to enjoy life, contribute to their community, and instill in their children the love of learning.

"At times like these, I have to do what the psalmist David said to do: I have to encourage my own heart as I encourage the hearts of students tempted to feel worthless based on the results of a test. I will do whatever it takes to help each student under my influence to realize that their meaning and worth can never be measured by quantitative data.

"The NCLB legislation has the potential to take the joy out of teaching and learning and, indeed, has done so for many. It will not happen to students under my watch. The problem with the legislation can be summed up in the words of a student who sincerely asked the teacher, 'If it is not on the test, then why do we need to learn it?'

"This is the damage that the NCLB legislation has done, and this damage must be stopped."

Annette Beatty
Elementary School Teacher
Winston-Salem/Forsyth County
Winston-Salem, North Carolina

 

"I will be laid off from my job due to this. I have worked for 28 years and now my kids will have no food because I am a single mom. I have great evaluations. I have the knowledge to help students. I do not need a degree, and I will make no more money doing this. This is not justice. We are paid below the poverty level, so how can I get a degree?

"I can barely pay my bills now with what I make after having worked for 28 years for the state, and now I will be laid off on June 28. What are my rights??? I have always worked. This is just so unfair to people like us who do not make any money from the start. We are there because we love students. I only have two more years and I can retire. I need help. I need my job. This has caused me to have high blood pressure.

 "We were in a Title I school when this took place. We need your help immediately. I guess Bush does not care if my kids eat or not. This has caused so much poverty and how has it helped students??

"We need your assistance in Durham immediately. We will be laid off. We have had no help with anything except the school paid one time for the test, but the test does not have anything to do with what I do in a classroom. Please help us. Send this to Bush. He eats every day and my kids need to eat also."

Elvira Bostic
Teacher Assistant
District 3
Raleigh, North Carolina

 

"Working with the students in my school makes it very clear to me that the ability levels of students are not the same. I also teach in the after school ALP program, and this program also makes it clear that the ability and comprehension levels of students vary.

"To have students take a test, regardless of their academic abilities or comprehension levels, and expect them to all score the same is unfair and unreasonable.

"I see students who are frustrated with information that they have difficulty understanding. Some of them work hard to accomplish as much as they can, and some just give up. We are losing students who are overwhelmed by the testing that they must endure. Is it fair? Does a test accurately and honestly reflect the work that a student has done over the course of a year? Would anyone, a child or an adult, feel that one evaluation is a true reflection of what that person has learned and retained?

"This needs to be changed so that we do not lose more of our children to the frustrations of this unfair legislation. It does not honestly address the various learning styles and diversity of our students."

Tama Bouncer
Music Specialist
Wake County
Raleigh, North Carolina

 

"The No Child Left Behind law has reduced the effectiveness of teachers in my district.  Although, in theory, this law addresses the needs of students, it actually serves to justify government involvement in local issues, with no benefit children. It is a smoke screen, not a solution to bridging the achievement gap.

"Teachers spend far too much time teaching to a standardized test rather than inspiring students to think and fostering the love of learning for life.

"I have attended many state conferences on closing the gap. In each case, I have left with the idea that the only way to narrow that gap is to use instructional strategies that address the learning needs of my students--not give them another test."

Gwendolyn Brown
High School Teacher
Wake County
Raleigh, North Carolina

 

"No dream is bigger than the person who conceives it, but it must be nurtured to grow into existence. The NCLB, which I have dubbed the Giant Dream Killer, has squashed the dreams of many young minds as well as mature minds. NCLB neither nurtures nor nourishes the dreams of students and teachers.

"Instead, it categorizes children and teachers under the same umbrella for living as well as learning. It does not take into account the abilities, creativities, or experiences of students or teachers and does not provide for the moments of wild-eyed wonder that make learning meaningful and valuable.

"NCLB expects every child to learn the same information in the same way and reach the same degree of success at the same time, despite their abilities and disabilities. It does not take into account the creative expressions that are uniquely innate to each individual, students and teachers alike. NCLB has squashed the dream of creativity in early childhood classrooms where big dreams are conceived.

"Whatever happened to exploration and discovery using the five senses? I submit that NCLB, the Giant Dream Killer, moved in quickly with weapons of mass destruction disguised as standardized testing, and children's dreams painfully died in the early stages of development.

"What happened to consideration for the social/emotional development of children? Again, NCLB, the Giant Dream Killer, stealthily undermined the possibility of having those needs addressed because of attendance AYPs. (In order to reach an attendance goal, students who are disruptive to the instructional process must remain in the school to attain that goal.)

"What happened to the arts, music, dance, and theater in the multi-intelligences learning process? Again, NCLB, the Giant Dream Killer, cut the umbilical cord of that dream, and it died of malnourishment due to lack of funding.

"I ask you, what happens to children whose dreams are crushed? Are their dreams deferred or do they slowly and painfully die? I submit to you that our precious children who come into school with wild-eyed wonder and enormous dreams are being subjected to educational legislation (NCLB) that is preventing them from reaching their full potential, and their dreams are being crushed without consideration.

"The joy of teaching these children has slowly diminished year after year because the thought of enforcing unfair practices (testing) upon unhappy, disappointed, sad, afraid (of failure), and justifiably uncooperative children depletes the energy and zeal of new teachers and leads to the early retirement of seasoned teachers.

"I plead with you to stop NCLB from placing nails in the coffin of children's unfulfilled dreams. Let's work together to create plans that ensure success for children, using whatever innate talent and abilities they have. Let's find ways to assess children that are fair and equitable.

"Finally, education should be funded more forcefully and fully than any other program in this nation. If this happens, our nation will continue to be the greatest in the world!"

Sandra Covington
Elementary School Teacher
Cumberland County
Fayetteville, North Carolina

 

"As a teacher for 26 years, my concern is the effect ESEA has on the students. How many students' needs are not being met because of testing? How many students are not finding the challenges they need to keep them involved because of testing? Students are losing interest in school at younger and younger ages, resulting in increased high school drop out rates.

"My nephew had no trouble passing tests -- he was intelligent. He did, however, have difficulty in school. He was not given the challenges he needed to be interested in school. The focus was on the test. But if you can already pass the test, and that is all that is being stressed and taught, where does that leave you? Uninvolved and disconnected.

"He dropped out in search of a better way. He is learning now by living life out of the testing environments of our schools. In addition to dropping out, he also has developed a negative attitude about all levels of education. We must make the changes necessary to meet the needs of our students. A test score is here today and gone tomorrow, but our students are here every day!"

Pamela Graham
Elementary School Teacher
Harnett County
Linden, North Carolina

 

"At my elementary school, the NCLB act has created another level of administration and paperwork. It is ironic that this bill was sold to the public as one that gives local control to the schools so that teachers can teach. It is also ironic that NCLB was sold as an act to get Washington out of the classrooms. The real-life effect of NCLB has been just the opposite.

"We now have a whole layer of certified people in our school building who have minimal, if any, contact with our students. NCLB is like the shell game in which you hide the true number of students in a class. We hire curriculum coordinators, then add them to our number of certified teachers, and then divide our number of students by this number of coordinators and classroom teachers. Using this formula, the class size appears to be around 17 students per class when, in reality, the actual number is closer to 23 or 24 students per class.

"NCLB encourages good teachers to get away from our students. We, as taxpayers, are paying a lot of money to transfer the bureaucracy of Washington into our local schools."

Virginia Hargett
Elementary School Teacher
Union County
Marshville, North Carolina

 

"My school has become a school wide Title I school, which is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it has afforded more children the opportunity to receive instruction from an individual who is certified only in reading. On the other hand, it has diluted the amount of time the most needy children receive direct individualized instruction.

"Because the Title I teachers are going into the regular classroom to provide instruction to the whole group, the time to spend with the most needy in small group and/or individualized instruction is relegated to a time when the children are tired or when other equally important instruction is occurring in the regular classroom. Thus, they miss gaining a greater fund of knowledge in science, health, and social studies.

 "The instruction provided in these subject areas are incorporated in our North Carolina end-of-grade reading tests. Therefore, if the children who are most needy in reading are out of the regular classroom when those other subjects are being taught, they, the most needy children, are put at a double or triple disadvantage: they have less individualized attention, they are taught in small groups or individually at a time when they are tired (end of day), and they are removed from the regular classroom program when essential knowledge is being provided, and so they are less able to understand and reference knowledge for a state test that affects each of them, their school, their teachers, and their families.

"There has to be a better way to coordinate delivery of services through more teachers, better scheduling, more materials, and offering instructional opportunities on Saturdays and in the summer. Our current efforts to remediate have, in many cases, further hampered our children's progress.

"Also, the children who have a need to be instructed at a more advanced level get fewer opportunities to develop their skills, talent, and knowledge because everything gets compressed toward the middle.

"People who do not understand all aspects of the needs of children and the provision of knowledge through our public schools need to keep their hands out of the pot and allow practicing educators to make decisions about what, how, who, and when to accomplish the instruction of reading and all other subjects. Instead of celebrating the growth in each children's skills and knowledge, we are demeaning them for not being like everyone else. This is a form of governmental bullying. Let us do our job the way we know best for every unique child."

Sandra Hatley
Teacher of Exceptional Children
Burke County
Hickory, North Carolina

 

"As a kindergarten teacher, I have experienced many years with a wide range of students. There have been students in my classes who were middle class, and there have also been students who didn't have enough money for a change of clothes for the next day of school. There have been students who can read when they walk in the door, and there have been those who could not even speak English.

"I have had students who write their name, and students who could not hold a crayon. When I consider the grand scope of No Child Left Behind, I think that someone forgot children like Paul (the name is changed in case this story becomes public).

"Paul came to my classroom this past school year towards the end of October. He had transferred from a county across the state. On his first day, Paul was led into the classroom, and when his mother went to leave, Paul dropped on the floor and began screaming. His mother was leaving the room, so I tried to distract Paul and keep him from running out of the room after her. Paul then ripped down the posters on the wall and began hitting other students.

"In the next month and a half, Paul continued these same behaviors while at school, and he was absent more than 15 days. His absences I could not control. His mother just simply chose not to bring him certain days. His behaviors I could not alter in this amount of time. I could only begin the process of helping him.

"The paperwork came in from his previous school, and we learned that Paul had been out of school for a little over a month before he was reenrolled. Without the prior learning experiences in life and with the gap between schools and the absences from my classroom, Paul was not progressing.

"Paul could not recognize a single letter of the alphabet or count past four in sequence. He was unable to identify shapes and could not hold a pencil or crayon in such a way that it could be utilized. Paul was in danger.

"Naturally, all of the referral processes were set in motion, in accordance with the law. On the date of the meeting to explain the outcome of the screening, Paul's mother stopped bringing him to school. That was the first week in December. It was not until March that Paul was re-enrolled in another school.

"Paul is a young boy who has missed guidance. He has missed having examples, modeling, and nurturing. A year of school can help Paul build these basic skills for reading and writing. His letter and number identification skills must come, but first he needs social skills. This has also become the duty of the educators in schools today.

"In No Child Left Behind, it is expected that students be placed on a track and reach a pre-set level by the end of the year. Paul will not be there this year or the next. The expected growth from me is unrealistic. The expected growth from NCLB is unrealistic. Students are real, live, breathing individuals, and they are individuals who are born and raised differently.

"I encourage each of you to consider the broad range of students in your legislative districts. There are Pauls in every diverse classroom. I, as an educator, am proud to accept responsibility for my students and their achievement -- to take them in, learn about their educational needs, and deliver the best designed personalized education for them. That is all we can do. NCLB does not make room for these needs. Please, remember Paul."

Kevin Martin
Kindergarten Teacher
Charlotte-Mecklenburg
Charlotte, North Carolina

 

"Our school system has required more and more paperwork over the past few years in order for teachers to document what and when they are teaching. Creativity and individuality have been taken out of the classroom because of teaching to the test. Workshops are taken so that teachers teach material the same way, using whatever the strategy of the month happens to be. Our teachers are indeed working harder, not smarter, because of expectations at the local level. Of course, the bottom line is raising test scores.

"When did we forget how to raise children? Not everyone is meant to be a writer or mathematician. We have need of other specialties, with all having pride for achieving a high school diploma. I am afraid that our drop-out rate will only increase because of expectations which cannot be met."

Alice Monk
Elementary School Teacher
Surry County
Mt. Airy, North Carolina

 

"No Child Left Behind is failing many students, and children are left further behind now than in the past. We tell parents daily that children learn at different levels and at their own pace and development, yet we expect children to take a test at the end of the year that expects them all to have developed the same.

"Our children with special needs are leaving the schools and dropping out because we do not have funding to support their needs. I am an eighth-grade special education teacher who meets the needs of all my students on their individual level, but I am expected to create miracles.

"Many of our children have talents, but they may not necessarily be academic. They are placed in regular social studies and science classes but can't read beyond a fifth-grade level (some read at third-grade level). They are exposed to the curriculum but cannot understand it when reading.

"NCLB tries to put all kids in the same category and, in the process, limits their options. Because these children have not developed as expected, many eighth graders are 16 and quitting school, or 15 and quitting when they reach high school. We need to help our students and give them an alternative. We need to educate our youth and start meeting their vocational needs when they are younger and then focus on their future. We need to provide them with skills so they can provide for us later."

Kelly O'Hara
Middle School Special Education Teacher
Wake County
Holly Springs, North Carolina

 

"Because of NCLB, many of my students have lost the will to learn. As an educator, I am expected to adapt curriculum to meet grade-level standards for students who are significantly below grade level in the first place. The IEP has become null and void. This law does not meet the needs of the children.

"I strongly believe that every child can learn, but at different rates, with different methods. One mold does not fix all. We are killing the individuality of each student. As a result, we are leaving more children behind, and forcing educators out of the profession."

Estella Poteat-Okafor
EC teacher
Person County
Roxboro, North Carolina

 

"When you visit my room, you'll find children of all ability levels. That's not unusual; however, most of the students' reading levels are three or four years below their grade. The NCLB mandates that these same students perform like their regular peers on formal tests. NCLB objectives do not take into consideration the fact that these children do have learning disabilities that prevent them from performing at or above the passing level and growth that is mandated.

"My students realize that they are under the gun, so to speak, and sometimes they give up. Then there are those classes in which the size is not conducive to optimal learning. We teachers are helping our kids and instructing them well. Help us to continue doing this with more teachers, better pay, and smaller classes. We are a great nation built on learning and implementing what we learn. We don't give up just because someone has decided that this 'best' education system has lost its effectiveness.

"Our students know the deal, and they still get tired and burnt out just like educators do, not because we are weak and ineffective, but because we are left out there alone and without proper funding for resources, human and material."

Pat Randall
Middle School Teacher
Cumberland County
Fayetteville, North Carolina

 

"I am a National Board Certified teacher with a Master's degree in reading who retired July 1, 2006, because teaching in North Carolina is about test results. Everything about teaching third graders must center around curriculum and testing. In a global society, I feel passionately about teaching children to think and discover things that interest them-something I was challenged to bring back to my children while working on my National Board certification for Middle School Generalist (one of the hardest areas to achieve certification, according to some sources). I choose to work on my National Boards at the end of my career, which has made me learn to reflect and rediscover the best practices in education.

"No Child Left Behind requires students to perform at a level that some will never achieve. This past year, I had a child who was severely handicapped in learning because of behavior issues. This child learned at a very slow pace; today she would know the concept, and tomorrow she would forget what she had learned. In our county, she would be required to repeat the third grade because of her low test score. She was 11 years old. Fortunately, my principal was willing to waiver this child.

"No Child Left Behind would leave this child in a situation that would cause her to drop out. The constant pressures of performance, someone watching over my classroom every day, increased expectations in the area of paperwork, and 12-hour workdays three or four days a week have burned me out. If I could just teach children to read and teach them about the world along with the curriculum, I would not retire. It is time for the pendulum to turn and to trust the teacher to do the job we want to perform."

Connie Savell
Third Grade Teacher (retired)
Cleveland County
Kings Mountain, North Carolina

 

"Teaching a self-contained class for deaf/hard-of-hearing students, I see the frustration experienced by my students who, this year, had to take a traditional paper-and-pencil test similar to our state's end-of-grade tests. American Sign Language and English have many differences that impact on their reading and comprehension. "

They could not have an interpreter to sign the reading passages or questions, many of which contained multiple-meaning words, colloquial expressions, and inferences. This is like taking a test in a foreign language. I could not explain or clarify for them, and they either teared up or quit trying.

"I teach my students that they are competent and that they are disabled, not Unable!! This type of assessment, rather than the previously used portfolio checklist with work samples, destroyed their confidence in their abilities and impressed them with what they were Unable to do!! If they were successful on grade-level assessments, they would be in regular education classes!!

"They repeatedly questioned why they had to take these tests when their parents signed an IEP that said they would take our individual alternative assessments. My only answer was that people who did not know them, who were not at our meetings, and who read and spoke English and had no hearing loss, voted that they needed to do this, and we had to make the change in their IEP.

"What happened to 'individualized'? How is this in their best interest? What happens to their self-esteem? How will this keep them from dropping out of school at 16, frustrated and depressed with their failing scores?

"How will these results help me plan to meet their needs? The results I get will tell me what they cannot do, something I already know because I work with them all day, every day, often for three years in a row! My students are capable! They learn differently and greatly benefit from an interpreter, just like their work situations will be, post secondary school, as the ADA provides!

Catherine Sigmon-Mitchell
EC teacher
Cumberland County
Pinehurst, North Carolina

 

"The way NCLB stands, it will leave every child behind. I should not have to let an ESP person leave the job she has held for 35 years simply because she is required to take a test or have an associate degree. Her 35 years of experience should speak for something.

 "If you are requiring a test or a degree, then you should pay a salary that reflects such a credential. As it stands, a new person with no experience has to be trained, not only on paperwork, but also on how to work with children. The best practice is experience."

Patricia Utley
Elementary School Teacher
Cumberland County
Fayetteville, North Carolina

 

"No Child Left Behind was very hard on my part-time assistant. It was hard because she was not rehired until after the school year had begun. That was only because of new legislation. She was still not deemed highly qualified, but she had all the compassion that any person could have to motivate students in a positive manner.

"She took the qualifying test many times and did not pass it. The negative outcome was so very hard on her as she tried to do her job and study to pass the math portion of the test. But thanks to NCAE, positive coworkers, and tutoring sessions, she finally passed the test and is now designated as highly qualified."

Ophelia Wright
Elementary School Teacher
Rockingham County
Reidsville, North Carolina