NCLB Stories: South Dakota
"After 29 years of teaching, havng obtained a B.A. from Augustana, an M.A. from USD, and having completed an additional 36 hours of graduate courses, I've now been determined to be 'highly qualified' because I passed a test (Praxis 146) last November. The idea that one test could determine my qualification status is not only laughable, it is insulting.
"As president of the largest local association in my state and, in fact, one of the largest professional organizations in my state, I urge our state legislators, state department of education, national legislators, and the U.S. Department of Education to return to trusting the integrity of college and university teacher certification programs.
"If you do some investigation, you will find that testing companies like Praxis have hired hundreds of employees to develop and administer these tests. A new growth sector of our economy has been generated by these requirements. A very few companies (like Praxis) have monopolies on the teacher-testing market.
"Someone is making millions while public schools continue to be underfunded. Over 100 Sioux Falls special education teachers were forced to take the Praxis 146, regardless of how long they have taught. All passed! (No surprise to me!) South Dakota teachers are qualified professionals doing their work for the lowest teacher salaries in the nation. These tests are just one more travesty in the NCLB debacle.
Teacher/President of Sioux Falls Education Association
Beresford, South Dakota
"As a primary school teacher, I've found that ESEA/NCLB has taken much of the joy of learning out of our classrooms. It used to be that I, as a teacher, would look for exciting and inclusive activities to motivate the students to learn state standards material.
"If we were learning about China, we listened to Chinese music, practiced Chinese dance, and ate Chinese food-while reading books about China and exploring Web sites. Now, I find there is less time for these activities because I am preparing my students to be test-ready.
"From the beginning of the school year, we start teaching students how to 'bubble in' test sheets, how to read a selection, how to find an answer to a set question, and how to sit for long test periods.This all takes time away from more valuable learning, like open discussions as to what the story meant to each child and comparing and contrasting and making connections about the text. It also takes away from cooperative learning in which everyone participates -- in which learning is not a singular experience. With so much emphasis on testing, we've lost the focus on learning -- and the joy of discovery. There is no way one test can tell anyone what my students can do -- and how well they really learn. All it does is create stress for teachers, but more importantly, for the students."
Elementary School Teacher
Hartford, South Dakota