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Voices From America's Classrooms:

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"Voices From America's Classrooms"
(the complete document
in pdf format
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NEA's positive agenda for ESEA/NCLB reauthorization

OnWEAC Resource Page on the ESEA/NCLB law

NEA Resource Page on the ESEA/NCLB law

 

"There was a time when kindergarteners loved school! There was a time when they could play and learn at the same time,” writes Sun Prairie kindergarten teacher Danette Gauger. “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 worry about being tested and learning how to take a multiple-choice test. Back in this time I dreamed of being a teacher.”

Gauger is one of 33 Wisconsin teachers to share their perspectives on the federal “No Child Left Behind” (NCLB) law and how it is affecting children in the classroom. Their testimonials are among nearly 400 from NEA members throughout the country to be included in a book titled “NCLB/ESEA: It’s Time for a Change! Voices From America’s Classrooms.”

The book was released January 8 by the NEA to mark the fifth anniversary of the No Child law, which is the current version of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).

In the book’s introduction, NEA President Reg Weaver writes that the NEA “has consistently expressed support for NCLB’s goals – raising student achievement, closing achievement gaps, and providing every child with a qualified teacher – that are perfectly in sync with our own belief that great public schools are a basic right for every child. But our members are adamant that the law must be fundamentally improved and that the president and the Congress must provide the needed funding if NCLB is to achieve its goals.”

As Congress prepares to reauthorize the law, the NEA has developed a “Positive Agenda for the ESEA Reauthorization” (www.nea.org/esea), which offers detailed recommendations to improve it. That agenda was developed with input from teachers and education support professionals throughout the country.

In “Voices from the Classroom,” members repeatedly express frustrations over the impact of the NCLB’s excessive emphasis on standardized testing and the lack of resources that accompany the law’s expansive new requirements.

Here are just a few of the comments from WEAC members:

Melissa Barkley, Weston
“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!”

Kraig Brownell, La Crosse
“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. ... 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. ... 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!”

Jack Clement, East Troy
“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 10th grade but does not correspond to most school district curriculum, so students are often tested on subject topics that they will not be taught until later in 10th, 11th, or 12th grade. This test also does not promote higher-level critical thinking skills and is therefore detrimental to student learning.”

Wendy Haag, Janesville
“I teach a self-contained math class in a middle school. This is a multi-grade level (6th, 7th, and 8th) 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!”

Rozalia Harris, Milwaukee
“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 students need to compete in today’s society. Don’t reduce the power of the teacher and students by having them spend 75% of their time and energy on a one-shot testing experience.”

Mary Modder, Kenosha
"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.”

Posted January 8, 2007

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