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

Thursday, September 21, 2006

An Art Teacher's Nightmare

All schools and local educational agencies that do not make Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) are identified for Program Improvement under the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. This art teacher in a PI California school finds herself caught in the grip of an education policy that is undermining and threatening any chance of providing a meaningful education for the most vulnerable and neediest students. Her comment was posted on ScoolsMatter in response to "20 Reasons to Eliminate NCLB."
I am a teacher in a PI school.

It is so apparent in my school in Oxnard, CA that what is passing for "improvement" is undermining the quality of instruction and the learning outcomes in my students. I can barely see my way through to do my job, much less be effective with students.

In fact, at Hathaway I would say my perception is one of mass frenzy on site and an atmosphere of eroding core teaching praxis. This is being replaced with fairly poor textbook generated pacing and content that assures us no outcome but keeps reiterating that it's based in "data driven" programs. Experienced teachers obviously retire and leave, newer teachers lack skills, voice, understanding of why things are really getting ridiculous. Many teachers are reflective enough to challenge the assumptions for these are sophisticated societal issues being addressed in a very unsophisticated manner. I doubt Bush can articulate his rhetoric well enough which is why his architects do the planning for him. No ChildLleft Behind was about all he got from his attendance in the plans, and indeed their best piece is controlling the rhetoric.

Anyway, I appreciate this list especially after listening today to a county presentation on "year 3" in “underperformance world” and the federal "take" on the rectification of teachers. I am examining the why of my teaching life. After 23 years dedicated to the poorest students in California in the Salinas Valley, South Central Los Angeles, and in Hueneme District I, find myself dealing with those I think who see the whole NCLB notion as a way to privatize, make a buck off audits, data proscribing program pieces and taking the teacher and literally flailing them alive -- and getting paid big money doing it.

And as that person who stayed in the classroom dedicated to students who watches many of these figures flee to run DataWorks or other agencies/companies that are collecting the big bucks by maintaining this big lie I ask myself..what can be done? In my world I talk.

Often teachers ask me to stop-questioning basic assumptions is a no, no. I seek outside connections and help. I try to write and talk to those we work with. But you know, as I sat today in this meeting, (in part why I found your site), it occurred to me my kids and parents are further from a voice in this picture than ever before. We know they are too poor, language hampered, possibly not even correctly papered, they can't come in to advocate, some lack the skills and tools educationally to have the view articulate enough, that places me, this elementary teacher into an advocacy role.

Concurrently, my district is mandating my voice, scripting, proscribing and reacting to the act and its bite. Lost in all of this is the little girl on my apple carpet with a family in a garage or the little boy unready to take on a curriculum paced beyond him who is now the room "problem". Now I go to my yard at recess, a place I've known for 12 years, and watch chaos. I observe, without a doubt, children in stress, children depersonalized, children shoved in "universal access" who should be doing something very different -- maybe even painting. It's like watching and living a human nightmare. I'm in as unethical a position as ever in my life.

I appreciate this site. I wish you might write for me where you think this gets us to if you go to the ultimate end point. I know privatization is one aspect but I look further. I do not see how mutual cooperation and survival, respect and the values that built America are in play here. I see a thing eating its young. I see children as commodities. I see ultimately a permanent underclass, a creation of a divide of have/have nots that's unbridgeable via educational systems. It’s so fundamentally clear here in poor South Oxnard. I'm ashamed really that this country could unleash this on our children and doubly ashamed I am forced into its implementation.

Sarah Puglisi

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