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NCLB Stories: Utah

"We have special education teachers who have been teaching handicapped students subjects such as basic math and English successfully for over 20 years, and now they are told that they are not highly qualified because they don't have a major in math or English. This is wrong!"

Jay Blain
High School Teacher
West Valley City, Utah


"Last spring, I had the privilege of watching my son compete in a high school track meet for the first time. He had worked very hard for this moment. His coach gave him the best training and advice available. As a parent, I was very supportive of my son's endeavors. As he lined up for the 100-meter sprint, we were all alive with anticipation, and then the gun sounded. My son quickly fell to the back of the pack and lost ground throughout the race.

"What went wrong? The effort, teaching, and support for him to to be successful were all present, but curiously my 240-pound son could not keep up with the other sprinters. Then we had an idea: maybe we could try another event more suited to his particular gifts. We switched to shot put and discus, and he soon rose to the top of his group.

"As a teacher of career and technical education, I see some very important parallels here. Knee-jerk reactions to ESEA/NCLB mandates have put elective coursework in jeopardy all across the country. We are taking talented students away from their best chances for success and forcing them into an educational 100-meter dash in which they have no opportunity to show the world what they can really do. I urge you to make changes in ESEA that will allow for diverse types of learners to be successful."

Neil Creer
High School Teacher
Box Elder
Tremonton, Utah


"My elementary school is in a network of nine elementary schools, one junior high school, and one senior high shool that have developed its own power standards to deal with NCLB/ESEA. Increased testing and data collection have been required of each teachers in my network. Although the testing is not cumbersome for me, it has been so for some colleagues.

I complete the testing, but the challenging component is the in-between drill and practice that I'm required to complete to try to raise the scores of my students. The tests that have been added to my duties by my network and district include: Yearly Progress Pro, DIBELS Reading Fluency, Star Reading (Accelerated Reader Program), and basic math facts. Just ask my sixth graders what they would rather be learning—they'll tell you."

Florence Graham
Elementary School Teacher
Taylorsville, Utah


"A few years ago, I read a book about Helen Keller to my class as part of our second-grade social studies and health curriculum. Some of my students were fascinated by her story and wanted to know more. I helped them find books about her in the library. We learned the manual alphabet. It became a great unit of study. At the start of school last year, our principal told us that we did not make AYP for the first time. We were told to cut out all the fluff and only teach to the test. How sad that future students will not be able to pursue topics that interest them, like the class I mentioned.

"NCLB has some good parts, like the Reading First program. But please help us to get rid of the punitive parts that keep schools from providing a well-rounded education. It has taken the joy out of school for the students as well as the teachers."

Gayle Hoffman
Elementary School Teacher
Kearns, Utah


"As English Department chair, I create our curriculum teaching schedule each spring, and I try to accommodate everyone's requests and certifications. By district policy, we must offer remedial classes in the tenth, eleventh, and twelfth grades to assist students who have failed our Utah Basic Skills Competency Test (U-BSCT), but none of these classes are funded in our school's full-time faculty equivalent (FTE) scheduling formula.

In other words, these classes require FTE to cover the approximately 150 students who need remediation, and then those numbers are 'absorbed' into our other grade-level classes, increasing the total English classloads by three to five students each. In our already-crowded classrooms (in Utah, we stack 'em deep and teach 'em cheap!), this sometimes results in enrollments as high as 40 to 45 students per class. That's not teaching; it's crowd control!

A one-half FTE to cover these English remediation classes costs approximately $25,000. Our math department offers similar classes, so in our high school alone the unfunded FTE for both English and math amounts to about $50,000. We have nine high schools in our district, so the total for our one district comes to nearly a half-million dollars in unfunded services.

"Besides the added burden of managing more students each day, the paper load for an English teacher under these circumstances is staggering. Also, these remediation classes have morphed into a teaching-to-the-test curriculum instead of what had been slower-paced and smaller classes with more individualized instruction and lower-level skills taught. Now, we just download sample tests from the state office, so students will know how to navigate the test. The joy of learning and of teaching has disappeared from these classrooms, and students are merely widgets we must manipulate, so they can pass the almighty test.

"We are just a small sample of the unfunded mandates of the NCLB law. Please fund it and fix it!"

Margaret Pratt
High School Teacher
West Jordan, Utah


"As the person in charge of testing at my school , I totaled the average time that a sophomore student might spend in testing (standardized, CRT, and NRT) to be about 54 hours over three years. That is roughly equivalent to more than one quarter in a given school year at our school! That is time the teacher could have used to actually teach those students (a novel thought under ESEA!)."

John Pruitt
High School Counselor
Richfield, Utah