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NCLB Stories: Wisconsin

"I have been a teacher for 10 years, with three and a half of those being in Wisconsin. I have noticed my students becoming increasingly anxious about testing and test scores—and they are only fourth graders! They consistently ask, 'Is this going to be on the test?'

"They seem to think that it is only important to learn if indeed it will be on the test. I am an excellent motivator of my students and can motivate my students to learn even if something is not on the test, but the fact that this is the primary focus of the students is disturbing.

"Tests are not the answer. Some people are good test takers, others are not. I have students who tried really hard and came up short, less than their abilities would indicate, and I also have students who were not reaching classroom standards yet excelled in the test.

"The tests are not accurate. Since the adoption of NCLB, art, music, drama and physical education classes have been reduced or eliminated to make room for the tested subjects of math, reading, and writing. Because I am a great teacher, I know that students perform better when they are motivated. With the exclusion of these programs, students lack motivation to come to school and participate in activities.

"If it continues, students will have nothing to read or write about! Every classroom needs a highly qualified teacher. If you believe this, then you need to believe that as a highly qualified teacher, I know what is best for my students educationally and otherwise. If there are issues with teachers who are not highly qualified, then invest in them to make them better.

"Time and money would be better spent in this way.

"As the mother of a daughter about to enter kindergarten, I worry about the effect ESEA will have on her. She is one of the lucky ones: she is motivated to learn; she has a family that can feed, clothe and house her; she has a strong educational foundation.

"However, I have seen ESEA hurt students like her by dampening the desire to learn. Many students without a strong motivation to learn find school a difficult place to be, and additional testing hurts those students even more."

 "Please remember these issues when considering the reauthorization of ESEA/NCLB. Thank you."

Melissa Barkley
Intermediate School Teacher
Weston, Wisconsin


"To set a 'peaceful' environment for the sophomores in our district to take the required tests, our district cancelled classes for the remaining students (freshman, juniors, and seniors). This essentially gave them a vacation during the test days. The lost instructional days now put pressure on the teachers and students to deliver and receive the curriculum in a shorter period of time.

"Title I, LD, and speech/language classes were also cancelled in the elementary classes to use these teachers to help give the tests. Again, this is lost instruction time for the most needy of our district's population."

Julie Bratina
Title I Elementary School Teacher
Marshfield, Wisconsin


"President Bush came to my high school (Logan High School in La Crosse) in May of 2002 as part of his trip to launch ESEA/NCLB. His reason for coming to our school was because we had achieved excellent test scores with a large population of economically disadvantaged students.

"He spent five minutes during that visit addressing ESEA and the remaining time (one and a half hours) discussing his upcoming war initiative (the war in Iraq). Since May 2002, his continued lack of genuine focus on making the ESEA work has made my job as a high school chemistry teacher increasingly difficult.

"During the past four years, my class sizes have increased, and now the number of students exceed the number of seats I can accommodate in my classroom and lab area. Class size has increased to the point that I cannot safely monitor and individually help in the lab area. In addition, the main focus of district-sponsored training has shifted away from methodology and toward focusing teaching to the ESEA test. What a waste of money and professional time it is to instruct teachers on how to teach students to take tests in place of teaching ways to educate students for lifelong learning and critical thinking!

"During his 2002 visit to my school, President Bush urged students at my school to go out and, 'do some good!' I sincerely hope that the President of the United States does this himself and does some good when it comes to making the necessary language and funding changes to ESEA during reauthorization. Please make it actually work for education and educators instead of against education and educators."

Kraig Brownell
High School Science Teacher
La Crosse
La Crosse, Wisconsin


"Because of NCLB's emphasis on high-stakes testing , teachers must take valuable time away from teaching the curriculum to prepare and take the state test (WKCE). The high school test must be taken in October of the tenth grade but does not correspond to most school district's curriculum, so students are often tested on subject topics that they will not be taught until later in tenth, eleventh, or twelfth grade.

"This test also does not promote higher-level critical thinking skills and is therefore detrimental to student learning."

Jack Clement
Social Studies Teacher
East Troy Community Schools
Elkhorn, Wisconsin


"I teach kindergarten and LOVE my job! I think I am one of the luckiest people in the world to have a job that I go to every day because of the joy it brings me -- the kids, the staff, the parents, the district in general! My little five-year-old students are my world and I am such a big part of their little lives. I guess that's why it bothers me so much that ESEA disrupts our little kindergarten lives.

"You might think, ‘What? Five-year-olds are affected?’ Well, here's what is happening in our district. Because of ESEA, we have now included several days in our school year when the children only come to school for a half day. The other half day we are looking at test scores, comparing ourselves with other local schools, and seeing that we are not deemed a school that needs improvement and has the threat of door closure. My students this year could not understand why I didn't want to be with them and teach them, but instead send them home (or more likely, to the babysitter).

'Why?' asked little Kayla. 'How come you don't want to have snack with us today and read us stories?' I said, 'Because I have meetings to go to today, but I would rather be with you and teaching.' 'Oh,' she said, 'Just tell your mom to call and tell them that my bestest teacher has to stay at school today!'

"Yes, I love my job. Yes, I love my students. Yes, I do everything I can to give them all opportunities to learn. The only problem is that I still waste time with an undesirable bill called ESEA when I could be doing my job!"

Angela Drewery
Kindergarten Teacher
Green Bay, Wisconsin


"There was a time when kindergarteners loved school! There was a time when they could play and learn at the same time. There was a time when their teachers could teach them how to tie shoes and be kind to each other.

"There was a time when they didn't know what a 'reading level' was. There was a time when they didn't worry about being tested and learning how to take a multiple-choice test. Back in this time I dreamed of being a teacher."

Danette Gauger
Kindergarten Teacher
Sun Prairie
Sun Prairie, Wisconsin


"I teach a self-contained math class in a middle school. This is a multi-grade level (sixth, seventh, and eighth) class in which students with special educational needs from all areas are enrolled. I have two weeks in both the fall and spring in which about one-third of my class is missing due to mandated testing.

"Instruction is severely disrupted for students who are more in need of instruction and remediation, yet the district requires that each grade be tested twice each year so that we can show adequate gains.

"The current law requires my special needs students to take the same assessments without regard to their current level of skills or ability to understand the concepts. These interruptions in classroom instruction definitely interfere with both curriculum presentation and the mastery levels my students attain. Help!"

Wendy Haag
Middle School Teacher
Janesville, Wisconsin


"The focus on ESEA and testing has taken the heart of teaching out of the classroom. Students’ spirit for learning and sharing has been reduced to rote memorization.

"Creativity is a skill needed to compete in today's society. Don't reduce the power of the teacher and students by having them spend 75 percent of their time and energy on a one-shot testing experience."

Rozalia Harris
Elementary School Teacher
Milwaukee, Wisconsin


"I have two adopted daughters from India. My youngest daughter was neglected in the orphanage due to the color of her skin. When she came to us at 16 months she could not stand because she had no muscle tone in her legs; she showed no emotion, and she showed other signs to neglect, like swaying and sucking her fingers hard to keep herself occupied.

"Because of this lack of early brain development, my daughter is learning disabled. She has comprehension problems and is especially delayed in math. But my Maya will be expected to be proficient, just like other children who were born to loving, nurturing parents, by 2016, the year she will graduate from high school.

"In second grade, Maya came home from school and said, 'Mommy, I'm so stupid. I took a big test today and got all of the answers wrong.' Ever since then, she gets upset and anxious when standardized test time comes, and she continues to express this same sentiment. She scores barely minimal in math and basic in all other categories.

"Maya has made great progress. Our school district is known for excellence in special education, and my husband and I work with her all of the time. Her teachers love her and say she is their hardest worker. Maya is the star of her basketball team and loves to learn about animals.

"However, Maya will probably never be proficient in math because of her early experience as an orphan. Why should she be expected to attain the unattainable and be made to feel, in her words, 'stupid?' Why can't she just continue to progress on her own timetable? NCLB sets students like my Maya up for failure. It compares her with children who were born in the United States under the best of conditions.

"All teachers know that each student is unique and learns at her own pace. Maya's teachers are doing a great job with her and should not be blamed for her scores. Please reform NCLB and give my Maya back her dignity.

Tamara Johnson
Social Studies High School Teacher
Kettle Moraine
Wales, Wisconsin


"One of the skills essential in a democracy is the ability to communicate effectively in public. Public speaking skills have been taught in Waukesha public schools and required for graduation for over 30 years.

"Next year, due to WKCE testing, the required speech and composition classes have been rolled into one year-long class. The curriculum has been changed, and while speech and composition are not gone, they are sharing time with more of the study of literature.

"In addition, the combination will no longer require a highly qualified (or even a certified) speech teacher to teach the class. Have we thrown out the baby with the bath water?"

Ken Sajdak
High School Teacher
Waukesha, Wisconsin


"Next year will be my 33rd year of teaching and unfortunately it will also be my final one. Although I will only be 55 years old, I have decided to leave the educational field. What once was a wonderful, challenging, and exhilarating experience has become a world revolving around statistics rather than students. Without listening to those of us who know our children best, bureaucrats make decisions on their own that harm rather than help our students.

 "My district has been placed on a watch list of failing schools. No money or support arrives to improve our situation. Classroom sizes increase rather than decrease. Student and staff morale is at the lowest it has ever been due to constant attacks from a local editor who is a proponent of private school choice. The No Child Left Behind Act created this trail of students and educators drowning in its wake."

Kathleen C. Schmidt
High School English and French Teacher, Beloit
Beloit, Wisconsin


"With NCLB we are testing our students too much . In my fifth grade classroom, we start testing in October and test for seven days. Next year we will be adding another portion of testing, which will add more days.

"Important instruction time is being lost that is needed to actually teach our students and ready them for the future."

Lynette Stansfield
LD Middle School Teacher
Hollandale, Wisconsin


"I guess you could say that I was like a frog in a pot of water with regard to ESEA. As an elementary music educator, I had seen tremendous support for my program, but over the years that support has waned.

"Although no subject is to be left behind, with ESEA it has become apparent to me that the arts and other non-tested areas are being affected by the political and punitive reality of standardized testing. The arts in my district have experienced cuts. Each year another 50 percent was cut from our budget, and the heat was turned up on that boiling water.

"While these cuts were being made we were always told that everyone was sharing the load equally. But to see offices being fixed and new staff being added to tested areas, while another 50 percent was cut, I could tell that the load isn't being shared equally.

"Meanwhile, our instruments are breaking, our equipment is failing, fewer supplies can be purchased, and we have to rely more on parent-teacher groups to provide much-needed items for our classrooms. I am afraid that I am standing in a pot of boiling water and I need some help to turn down the heat."

Andrew Tolksdorf
Elementary School Teacher
Green Bay Area
New Franken, Wisconsin


"As an experienced LD teacher, I always strive to help each student reach the highest possible academic achievement. However, after 32 years in the classroom, I have to accept that a fifth grader with first -grade reading skills is extremely unlikely to reach grade level on standardized tests.

"This is despite my using research-based curriculum and best practice teaching methods. We need to change ESEA during its reauthorization to allow for special education students to demonstrate significant yet realistic yearly growth."

Margaret Walker
Fifth and Sixth Grade Learning Disabilities Teacher
Stoughton, Wisconsin


"The joy of teaching and learning is being sucked out of our schools. Children are being forced to endure endless hours of rote skill practice at the expense of higher-level thinking projects/activities.

"My school is no longer accepting Title I funds because we are afraid if the school does not make AYP, a major portion of the money will need to be put in reserve to bus children to other schools. We are making AYP, but since NCLB's design means that eventually all schools will be failing schools, we know that it is only a matter of time until we will not make AYP."

Debra Kadon
LD Middle School Teacher
Green Bay
Green Bay, Wisconsin


In my second grade classroom, my students are not required to take ESEA tests. However, we did spend a full week of instructional time to give a standardized test, just so the students could practice their test-taking skills. We then spent more time analyzing the results so that we could figure out which kind of problems our students had. That information will be used to drive the instruction for next year.

"In addition, our Title I teacher, who is designated to provide additional instruction to our struggling readers, was absent several days while attending workshops on how to properly administer the tests to ESL students, yet we don't have an ESL program or teacher on our staff!

"Thus, NCLB's testing rigors are robbing our students of the time to learn what they need to know, time to get the help they need for the areas they struggle in, and the opportunity to learn all the other things that truly do need to be in the curriculum but are not tested! In trying to improve their AYP (Adequate Yearly Progress), we are robbing from their present and their future progress!

"Add to this the recognition that the students we are teaching this year are not the learners we tested last year, and this compounds the issue. If we really want to leave no child behind, then we need the time to teach the students we have!"

Judith Larson
Elementary School Teacher
Glenwood City
Hammond, Wisconsin


"ESEA has impacted not only my classroom but our entire school district! Unfortunately, most of the impact has been negative. The elementary school I work in is filled with dynamic and dedicated teachers. We study the various teaching data (district, state, national), celebrate our successes, and figure out strategies to improve on the areas that need it. Without a doubt this helps our students succeed.

"However, to test our elementary students several times a year is very negative. We also test them in October—very early in the school year!

"My co-worker ran to my room one day in tears. She was about to begin the WKCE-CRT standardized test when one of her students vomited all over the test booklet. I calmed her down, got the student to the school nurse, and moved her students next door to begin the test. Talk about student and teacher trauma from this one test! High stakes indeed.

"Our district now has a full-time testing coordinator. The cost of her position and all of the testing costs has pulled large amounts of money from other curricular areas. Please support changes to this law!"

 "Add to this the recognition that the students we are teaching this year are not the learners we tested last year, and this compounds the issue. If we really want to leave no child behind, then we need the time to teach the students we have!"

Louis Lessor
Elementary School Teacher
Sun Prairie
Stoughton, Wisconsin


"I am an elementary librarian in the schools in Wausau, Wisconsin. This last fall, I was hindered in providing instruction for my fourth-grade classes due to the excessive testing now required through ESEA.

"In a two-month period, I should have met with these classes eight times. The testing interfered so that I could only meet with them three times.

"As a result of budget cuts, I do not have the luxury of being able to make up that time as I have to travel between two buildings. How can I be expected to teach my curriculum if I am not provided the adequate time to meet with students? "Please make sure you support public education for all student by providing sufficient funding for all aspects of education. Thank you!"

Jean Melching
Elementary School Librarian
Wausau, Wisconsin


"For me, the ESEA means that all of my students must take standardized tests, regardless of their cognitive or emotional capabilities. The way that it was explained to me was that if my students took alternative tests, it would mean that children at the severely disabled (pre- Kindergarten) level could not be exempted.

"My students have severe test anxiety, and many are below grade level in reading and math. The two weeks that we spend testing are a nightmare of tears and vomiting as they undergo the stress of testing. The worst part is that this is all for nothing. I know what level my students are at and give them a variety of less invasive tests on a regular basis! If only I could spend this time teaching instead of testing."

Mary Modder
Middle School Special Ed. Teacher
Kenosha Unified
Kenosha, Wisconsin


"The No Child Left Behind Act hurts our public school students. Please fund our public schools to help meet the needs of our students."

Leslie Nemmers
Elementary School Counselor
Marinette, Wisconsin


"When we are ready to conduct testing again, and a fifth grader asks why they always have to take more tests, I am reminded that my teaching time has been reduced. And it also reminds me that the child is being measured on how well she can take a test, not necessarily on what she knows."

Kathy Peterson
Elementary ELL Teacher
Eau Claire Area
Eau Claire, Wisconsin


"This year our preK-6 building spent six weeks on testing. Since I am a special resource teacher, that meant that for six weeks I spent all mornings and many afternoons on testing rather than instruction.

"That meant I couldn’t teach guided reading groups, was not able to conference with my colleagues in the classroom, and, most painfully, didn’t teach fifth grade social studies.

"It was the latter that I was teaching as a separate class this year so we could focus on 'reading in the content area' skills as well as learning about the geography of the United States. None of that for six weeks! We missed almost an entire quarter of instruction so I could help test kids. That's a real waste of my professional skills and talents."

Mary Rasmussen
Elementary School Reading Specialist
Boyceville Community Schools
Boyceville, Wisconsin