This is in response to discussion of No Child Left Behind. As a District 87 teacher who recently moved to Bloomington from St. Paul, Minn., I saw how NCLB destroyed good urban schools with dedicated teaching staff.
The school where I worked in St. Paul had many disadvantaged students: 94 percent were classified as living in poverty and 65 percent were English language learners.
I taught English to junior-high-level Hmong refugees from Thailand who were just beginning to learn English and had never attended school before coming to the United States. Under NCLB, my students were expected to pass a grade-level reading test intended for native speakers. If, due to their scores, the Asian or ELL subcategory failed to meet the standard, the whole school would be labeled a failure.
From pressure under NCLB, the district reprogrammed the school, brought in an incompetent principal and pushed out a talented principal and many dedicated teachers. The beginning ELLs were also pushed out and moved to other schools so as not to bring down the test scores of the new school.
Did NCLB help this school? I doubt it. In the end, people were just shuffled around. It didn't matter that the old school was considered by the district administration to have one of the best ELL departments among junior highs in St. Paul. Only test scores mattered.
From this experience, I believe that the goal of NCLB has nothing to do with school improvement. Rather, NCLB is designed to stigmatize urban public schools as failures, so as to open up the terrain for private and charter schools, which often are not subject to the same testing standards.
When NCLB comes up for reauthorization in 2009, we should push for its elimination. Despite Barack Obama's intention of reforming it, NCLB is unsalvageable.
Wednesday, December 24, 2008