"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Teacher Knows NCLB is "Severely Harming Students and Schools"

From the Vermont Society for the Study of Education (VSSE):

DANA RAPP, 413-662-5197

Montpelier--William Mathis, Superintendent of Schools for the Rutland Northeast Supervisory Union, and Dana Rapp, Associate Professor of Educational Studies at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, released the results of a first-of-its-kind survey of Vermont teachers’ opinions regarding the impact on students of the No Child Left Behind education law.

According to Rapp, who conducted the survey, “The results of this survey lead me to conclude that overwhelmingly teachers believe that Vermont is undergoing a dramatic negative shift in the direction of education and that NCLB is severely harming students and schools.”

Survey findings include:

• 80% of teachers don’t believe students’ needs are reflected in NCLB;

• 88% believe there is less local control of curriculum: 45% “significantly less”;

• 83% report that NCLB has had a negative effect on education: 44% “very negative”:

• 93% report students’ love of learning is less, 38% much less;

• 90% believe Vermont’s Commissioner of Education is “inaccurate” in believing that NCLB won’t harm schools: 48% “completely inaccurate”;

• 96% report that “enriching activities” are less possible: 50% “much less possible;

• 89% report Vermont classrooms are worse places because of numerical accountability and testing: 40% “much worse”;

• 97% believe NCLB creates more stress for students: 51% say “much more”;

• 73% believe Vermont education is headed in the wrong direction; and

• 88% report that NCLB encourages them to develop “less intellectually engaging activities”;

• 97% believe NCLB encourages them to use more worksheets;

• 92% report that NCLB encourages them to have less class discussions;

• 99% believe that NCLB encourages them to teach to the test.

Nationally, there is extensive evidence that: (1) test scores do not equal educational quality; (2) federal and state NCLB mandates are forcing schools and communities to issue and teach to high-stakes tests; and (3) opinions of researchers, educators, and citizens are not sought by many states if they contradict the ideology of NCLB. Therefore, this survey of 216 Vermont teachers was undertaken by Professor Rapp to determine how teachers view the effects of NCLB on state policy, children, classroom climate, and quality of education.

These findings are significant because they contradict the Douglas administration’s suggestion that NCLB won’t harm Vermont schools, and, more importantly, teachers believe that NCLB is making schools worse places for children to learn. According to Mathis, a “bewildering bunch of box-scores is being used to determine whether schools make ’adequate yearly progress’ by improving their state standardized test scores.” Mathis goes on to say that these “standards” are far from benign: “if schools don't make AYP, school and community reputations, property values, teachers' pride, children's motivation, and parents' school support are all affected.”

Adds Rapp, “Overall, the results from this survey illuminate the disparity between what supporters and enforcers of NCLB are saying is happening in schools and what teachers
are reporting. If anything, the Governor and the Commissioner of Education must do more than convince Vermont citizens that NCLB is a positive force, they have a responsibility to engage us in a vibrant and transparent conversation about NCLB’s legitimacy and whether it benefits Vermonters.”

Dana Rapp is a resident of Readsboro, Vermont. He has published numerous articles on high-stakes testing and NCLB in national and international academic journals. He is coauthor of “Ethics and the foundations of education” (Allyn and Bacon, 2003).
— Press Release
Vermont Society for the Study of Education

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