. . . .Now, all year long, precious days are lost and enormous amounts of money are spent on annual testing. Out here in the country we have a saying: "Nobody ever fattened a calf by weighing it." Unfortunately, we've figured out that only tested subjects "count" anymore. Many of our limited resources get pumped into the few areas that get tested; other areas are given short shrift when it comes to funding, staffing and, more importantly time. In order to combat this two-tiered system of "core" and "non-core" subjects, time requirements need to be imposed so that all students at all levels get the chance to take music, art, foreign languages, vocational training and other non-tested subjects.
One more change that needs to be made in NCLB is how we treat special education students. In order to play the NCLB game and to avoid having the stigma of being labeled a "failing school," there is a lot of pressure not to classify needy students in order to avoid having to disaggregate data and make AYP for special education students as a separate subgroup. In addition, students with very limited abilities are dumped into classes that are way beyond their developmental abilities instead of being given appropriate instruction at a level at which they can be successful. Some have been forced to sit through lengthy exams that they have no hope of passing. In the same vein, we need to recognize that not all students will want to pursue a four-year college degree. In fact, we need more tool and die makers, more skilled carpenters, plumbers, and electricians; more nurses, EMTs and child care workers. Vocational programs could be made just as rigorous, incorporating meaningful certification and licensure requirements attainable by the time a student graduates from high school. . . .
. . . .Above all, Mr. President-elect, I hope you can help create a climate of zero tolerance for bashing teachers. The teachers I work with will bend over backwards to help students as long as they are given a say in how best to do it and as long as they are not made to feel that their health care and pensions are not under constant attack in the media and the marketplace. Those who would like to use business models and metaphor as a solution to the "failures" of the public schools are mistaken. Businesses can be held accountable for a finished product because they can control the quality of the raw materials used. We need greater cooperation, not greater competition among schools and among teachers. Public schools take all comers, which is as it should be. America's teachers do the best with what they have. Anything that needs fixing in the public schools needs first to be "fixed" in the home and in the values promulgated by the mass media. Take care of the home and the schools will fix themselves.
"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
Teacher Appeals to New President on NCLB
Here is part of an open letter from Bill Heller of upstate New York: