Saturday, November 25, 2006

No Child Left Behind --One Size Does Not Fit All!

Chris Lehman's comments on NCLB really resonated with me.
"With NCLB and the pressure to conform, to pass the test, to teach to the test, so many schools, adminstrators and teachers have no incentive to innovate, in fact, they often have a disincentive to do so. With the focus on "Research-based curriculum," many folks fall back on what has been done before because there's less risk in doing so. With so much content in the average state standard, too many teachers just try to get through all the content and think, "I'd love to do new things, maybe in the two weeks after the [Insert State Test here.]"

"And that culture of fear that is slowly gripping the American educational system under the current version of NCLB will kill us. It will drive out innovation. It will drive out the brilliant, exciting teachers who want to take the lessons they've learned in their lives and bring it to the kids. To take the NCLB mandate in its most charitable inception, we have created a system where we were so concerned about raising the floor, that we have lowered the ceiling."
In the large urban district in which I used to teach, that culture of fear strangles teacher creativity. Scripted lessons and timelines, rigid rules, and the push to improve test scores rip from children the opportunity to explore areas of interest and develop a love of learning. The drop out rate explodes exponentially. When I recall the youngsters with whom I worked --their needs, their strengths, their weaknesses and their resilience-- tears well in my eyes, for it's my heartfelt professional belief that NCLB has created for them even greater obstacles as they attempt to escape a life of poverty.

And now a group of educators, seeking signatures on a petition calling for the dismantling of NCLB.
"We, the educators, parents, and concerned citizens whose names appear below, reject the misnamed No Child Left Behind Act and call for legislators to vote against its reauthorization. We do so not because we resist accountability, but because the law's simplistic approach to education reform wastes student potential, undermines public education, and threatens the future of our democracy.

Below, briefly stated, are some of the reasons we consider the law too destructive to salvage. In its place we call for formal, state-level dialogues led by working educators rather than by politicians, ideology-bound "think tank" members, or leaders of business and industry who have little or no direct experience in the field of education."
I find the following compelling reasons to add my signature:
7. Requires the use of materials and procedures more likely to produce a passive,
compliant workforce than creative, resilient, inquiring, critical, compassionate, engaged members of our democracy.
9. Allows life-changing, institution-shaping decisions to hinge on single measures of performance.
10. Emphasizes minimum content standards rather than maximum development of human potential.
11. Neglects the teaching of higher order thinking skills which cannot be evaluated by machines.
13. Forces schools to adhere to a testing regime, with no provision for innovating, adapting to social change, encouraging creativity, or respecting student and community individuality, nuance, and difference.
14. Drives art, music, foreign language, career and technical education, physical education, geography, history, civics and other non-tested subjects out of the curriculum, especially in low-income neighborhoods.
I don't fully agree with the wording and content of some of the other points; however, it seems to me that this might have the potential to set the stage for a meaningful conversation on the efficacy of this law. Perhaps we can persuade our legislators to consider a bill that will allow for teacher innovation and creativity AND provide for accountability. --And once again allow us to create for our children learning environments that celebrate their diversity and meet their needs.

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