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NCLB Stories: Ohio

"Since NCLB/ESEA became a law in the nation and in the great state of Ohio, the students in my school district have been subjected to more testing and less learning. Curriculum has been designed to ensure that students can pass the test.

"Opportunities for real-life learning have diminished and, in some cases, have disappeared. If it isn't on the test, it isn't really important. What a message to send to our children!

"Our students are learning the importance of passing a test. They are not experiencing learning for the joy of learning. Is this the legacy you want to leave for our state?

"Besides our students learning to the test, the funding offered by the bill is not enough to do the job right. Programs are being cut-important programs that are good for kids. Is this the legacy you want to leave for our state?

"Please support the initiative brought forth by the National Education Association that is designed to fix the flaws in No Child Left Behind so that no child in Ohio or the United States is left behind.'"

Rebecca Brown,
High School Teacher
Princeton City Schools
Cincinnati, Ohio

 

"Since NCLB/ESEA became a law in the nation and in the great state of Ohio, the students in my school district have been subjected to more testing and less learning. Curriculum has been designed to ensure that students can pass the test.

"Opportunities for real-life learning have diminished and, in some cases, have disappeared. If it isn't on the test, it isn't really important. What a message to send to our children!

"Our students are learning the importance of passing a test. They are not experiencing learning for the joy of learning. Is this the legacy you want to leave for our state?

"Besides our students learning to the test, the funding offered by the bill is not enough to do the job right. Programs are being cut-important programs that are good for kids. Is this the legacy you want to leave for our state?

"Please support the initiative brought forth by the National Education Association that is designed to fix the flaws in No Child Left Behind so that no child in Ohio or the United States is left behind.'"

Rebecca Brown,
High School Teacher
Princeton City Schools
Cincinnati, Ohio

 

"In our school district's efforts to meet AYP, our district has given our elementary school teachers so much testing to do that they find they can't teach. It took until nearly February for most of them to get the students into some kind of routine. Some of the tests are mandated by the state, but others are selected by the district.

"Doesn't anybody care what the kids are learning? All this testing just makes the kids hate the testing concept and they do worse, not better.

"Our local has formed an ad hoc committee to work with the district to help alleviate the additional paperwork that our teachers are having to do as a result of all this testing, but that's not making the excessive testing go away.

"I can't wait until sanity is returned to the ESEA through better legislative ideas. I just hate it that politicians make the rules, not the people in the profession who actually know what works."

Gail Gentile,
Early Childhood Teacher
Youngstown City Schools
Struthers, Ohio

 

"I am a Title I teacher and I taught an extended-day kindergarten program called KEEP. It had been in place at my school for over 20 years. Last year, the program was discontinued because the district could not see that the children in this program tested well in third grade. They felt that the Title I money could be better spent in the other grade levels.

"The situation is that a majority of the children in this program move many times during their school years. While this program benefited many at-risk five year olds, it did not benefit our school's rating. We only have half-day kindergarten, so now these children go home to TV and video games for the other half of the day."

Glenna Irey,
Elementary School Teacher
Northwest Local Schools
Cincinnati, Ohio

 

"My daughter Alison Mayer teaches in the Columbus public school system at Easthaven Elementary. Her school is one of the five reconstituted schools in the system. All of the teachers have been pulled from the school, and new teachers will be brought in next year.

"This meets the requirements of ESEA for schools that are in academic emergency for a number of years. These teachers who have been pulled know the families, students, and histories of these at-risk students. The new teachers who are brought in will not know the students' backgrounds and what will work best for them.

"The teachers who have been at Easthaven had to re-interview for their own positions, and if they are asked to come back, they must go through training outside of their school day and will not be compensated for it. The affect on the students and staff has been devastating. My daughter has been placed in another building but this has shaken her confidence in her ability to teach and in the profession."

Rebecca Mayer,
Elementary School Teacher
Ashland City
Ashland, Ohio

 

"I am currently teaching in our district's special needs preschool program.

Our children leave the program and move into regular education classrooms, regular education classrooms with some support services, or special education classes. The expectations and demands of regular education classrooms are very high. Our preschool teachers work to give every child the best education available so that every child can reach his or her greatest potential.

"Due to funding cuts, our students are now losing the few early intervention services they could receive before they come to our program. This loss of early intervention will increase the number of students entering our program. Our program provides education to all children between the ages of three and five. Without early intervention between birth and three years of age that can prevent many problems from developing, we are now working with some children who are three years old but who are functioning at a cognitive level of 12 months.

"In our area, we have many parents with their own special needs or who are very young and don't have parental training. They don't know what they need to do for their children before the children reach school age. Many of the children don't have stable home lives to meet their basic needs, but they are expected by No Child Left Behind to learn at the same rate as a highly privileged child.

"Parents need training to work with their children on developmental skills, emotional skills, academic skills, socialization skills, as well as self-care skills. The expectations of No Child Left Behind have risen beyond the understanding of many families. When parents can't meet their own needs, they will not be able to meet the needs of their children.

"Our district's poverty level is increasing drastically. The children are caught in a cycle in which the government feels that providing them a free breakfast will fix the problem. Youngstown is losing jobs, and families are trying to figure out what lies ahead in their futures. Fewer jobs means less money in our valley, which in turn means less money for the schools. The government will no doubt step up the expectations on teachers without providing any help for the schools or for the districts' families."

Lisa Mook,
Special Needs Pre-K Teacher
Youngstown City
Youngstown, Ohio

 

"I have been teaching for eight years in my district. I was teaching before the implementation of ESEA and have seen how it has affected the teaching environment in my school and district. Before ESEA, students were able to explore and use imagination in learning. Now, under ESEA, my students are only assessed on how they do in math and reading. This has affected my classroom because I teach science.

"I have to take time from science class to walk students to computer lab, so they can work on their math and reading skills specifically for the state achievement tests. I am teaching science an average of three hours less per week and am focusing on math or reading. What will happen to our students when they head to college and don't have the science requirements they need?"

Ronald Plogman,
Elementary School Teacher
Hamilton City Schools
Hamilton, Ohio

 

"Many of the teachers in my building feel that a more accurate picture of the improvement being made would be given through a value-added approach. The scores of each child should be tracked from one year to the next, rather than comparing last year's fourth graders to this year's fourth graders.

"The children can change dramatically in their abilities from one year to the next. I, personally, would like to see a positive, supportive approach given to schools that are struggling to meet the expectations rather than the current punitive approach.

 "While teacher competence is critical to success, there are many other variables involved, not the least being support that students receive at home. One cannot assume that a school is failing because the staff is incompetent; this may not be the case at all."

Joanna Porreca,
Music Teacher
Columbus
Grove City, Ohio

 

"I have a bachelor's degree in journalism/communications and a juris doctorate degree. The state of Ohio has mandated that I am not highly qualified to be a Title I writing teacher at a juvenile prison. I was also a professional journalist for nearly 20 years, having worked in television, radio, and the newspaper industries.

"I was coerced into resigning as opposed to having been terminated. Will displaced teachers be eligible for unemployment benefits if they are forced to resign?"

Cheryl Saffold,
High School Teacher
State of Ohio
Warren, Ohio

 

"I have taught for 22 years. I have seen the richness of our curriculum diluted because of state mandates brought about by federal mandates. Our new state curriculum, which is aligned with state tests at every level, shows a social studies outcome for the sixth grade that states: 'Students willl learn the enduring impact on Western Civilization by the Greeks and Romans....'

"This is the last time that the classical civilization is mentioned. No sixth grader can possibly appreciate that learning outcome. This is directly attributable to ESEA/NCLB.

"We teach to the test so that we won't be punished. We were an excellent school system before the state of Ohio deemed us an excellent school system by its 26 measures. These measures are divisive. The constant data testing drives our students nuts, gives others anxiety, and I believe has fueled the home school numbers. I hate it-it is so clear that it means to destroy public education and place it in the hands of corporate America."

Alexis Vafides,
High School Teacher
Fairfield City Schools
Fairfield, Ohio

 

"This is my first year working in this school district. As part of the preparation for taking the Ohio Graduation Test (OGT), teachers of reading, writing, arithmetic, science, and social studies from kindergarten through tenth grade must give quarterly assessments of standards established for each quarter. The tests are required to count 10 percent of the quarter grade, so if a teacher's class has the potential for 1,000 points, the test is valued at 100 points. The effect on the students' grades in these courses has become almost as high stakes as the OGT itself.

"An administrator has used the test to 'help' in his assessments of teachers. He compared the scores of one of my classes-25 Career Based Intervention Program students, 10 of whom are IEP students, to the scores of others teaching language arts at the same grade level. When he was told that these were CBIP students, he suddenly 'remembered' that I had been blessed with some of the 'toughest' freshman in the class.

"Although I now have been blessed with a continuing contract, my younger colleagues and I must deal with the prospect that a set of scores could be used in evaluating our work and success as educators. Our students pay the price for the high-stakes testing that requires all students to attempt the test multiple times before they may become exempt. Some of my IEP kids have a hard time spelling the simplest of words, so how can they pass the writing tests?

"They have a hard time remembering who to pay attention to when reading Romeo and Juliet, so how can they pass the reading tests? And still, I assess them every nine weeks in a test that will make or break their quarter grade.

"In the third quarter this year, my sophomores faced OGT, a test on a major novel in my class, and the quarter assessment (preparation and measuring for OGT), in this order. This is good education?"

Wilbur Vickery,
High School Teacher
Chillicothe City
Chillicothe, Ohio

 

"I have taught for 34 years. My job has been an important part of my life. I taught in Ohio and California. I have had experience in all aspects of education (regular ed, special education, learning handicapped and cognitivly disabled, ESL) from the grades preschool through high school. Now NCLB tells me I am not qualified to teach students the core academic subjects in high school.

"I am currently teaching students with IQ's below 75. I have completed summer classes in algebra (my students do not need algebra), world studies (I am capable of teaching basic social studies concepts), and writing and reading literacy. Last summer I spent four weeks fulfilling these ridiculous requirements in order to teach retarded students. This is unfair for veteran teachers who love the teaching profession.

"I have become disillusioned with President Bush and the present Congress concerning the NCLB mandates for special education. Please consider changing the requirements for special education teachers."

Karen Vince,
Special Education Intervention Specialist
Nordonia Hills City Schools
Stow, Ohio

 

"Northmont City Schools is proud of its excellent state school report card. We have held an excellent ranking for five years. Unfortunately, the way the law is written, at some point we will no longer meet AYP, which will mean that we will have a federal rating of failure, yet we could possibly be an excellent school by the state report card standards.

"As a school district, we realize that our students and our schools will be judged by the ratings we make as a result of the state and federal legislation that holds us accountable. Unfortunately, this also directs the priorities for our funding. We have very crowded classes in subjects that are not on the test. We have added administrators and technology staff to manage the data, provide the remediation, and implement the testing. This is money that we could be spending on direct instruction to students.

"We lose lots of class time to the testing. We also spend class time preparing for the test. In off years when there is no testing, practice tests are administered to prepare students for the tests. I went into education to prepare students for life. I think life is the most important challenge my students will ever face. Life is not an objective test question, a short-answer, or even an extended-answer proposition. Passing graduation tests is very simple in comparison to being well-prepared for a challenging college education, a 21st century career, or a meaningful family life.

"Accountability is necessary, but ESEA as it is currently written is not the right way to educate students. Please consult with the National Education Association and the Ohio Education Association for better ways to structure the reauthorization of ESEA."

Dawn Wojcik
Language Arts/Spanish Teacher
Northmont City Schools
Trotwood, Ohio

 

"I contend that students who have been disheartened by standardized test failure do one of two things: they stay in school and misbehave because they know that their classwork is in vain if they cannot pass the mandatory standardized testing, or they drop out.

"We end up having to support with our tax dollars those who end up incarcerated due to continued misbehavior (that rapidly becomes criminal in and out of school), as well as those who never graduate and work minimum wage jobs (or no jobs at all) and need government assistance to feed, clothe, and provide medical attention for their families.

"Wouldn't it be cheaper to conclude that standardized testing is not one-size-fits-all and should not be used to determine whether a child has mastered the required content needed for graduation?"

Rhea Young
High School Disciplinary Dean
Washington Local Schools
Toledo, Ohio