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

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Voices from the Front Line on NCLB

As No Child Left Behind moves towards reauthorization, look for the newly-elected Democrats to push for more funding, growth models, and national standards. Lost in the discussion taking place in the halls of Congress are the voices of teachers on the front lines living the realities of a fundamentally flawed education reform policy.

An English teacher in Billings, Montana would like to see her students and her own children get on with the task of meaningful learning.
My perspective on the "front line," working with kids is a bit different. Test scores are going up, but they don't tell the entire story. For example, one of my students thoroughly studied a complex ancient society - examining its architecture, converting its currency into American dollars and dissecting social norms derived from religious beliefs. He wrote a comprehensive report and deftly presented his findings to his peers without a single "like" or "cuz."

Unfortunately, none of the information he learned appeared on the test. If his scores tell us he didn't learn, is that the truth? Has our school failed? Conversely, if I spend the whole year teaching him how to answer test questions, he will look like a genius, and I'll look like a brilliant teacher. Yet he would not have learned to think independently or solve problems. NCLB puts way too much stock into test scores.
What is her solution?

A great solution exists. Montana should reject NCLB. True, we will lose federal education funds, but that will actually equate to a raise. You heard me right - a raise in funding for our schools. It costs us more dollars to administer NCLB than we receive from the federal government. Please write or call your state legislators and demand they reject NCLB. It isn't improving education. It's just raising test scores.

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