Monday, January 16, 2012

moron NCLB...

The article on No Child Left Behind legislation in this week's Time Magazine is really quite good at describing its effects...
"Signed into law by George W. Bush on Jan. 8, 2002, No Child Left Behind was a long-awaited shift toward accountability, but despite its admirable intentions and the measurable gains it has produced in the past 10 years, the good no longer outweighs the bad. Teachers and administrators say NCLB sets impossibly high standards and has narrowed curriculums, forcing teachers to teach to the tests, and it has labeled far too many schools as "in need of improvement," creating a race to the bottom as states dumb down their standards to ensure that more of their schools meet NCLB's rigid benchmarks."
Any teacher can tell you that the NCLB legislation has had harsh impact on students and within each class. And you might enjoy reading an earlier post, that Children are not Clockwork. Some children begin walking as early as 7 or 8 months, and some begin as late as a year or more, and where a child lies in that window of development means almost nothing relative to the child's long range development. But lay on a grid, and put a child into classes where children are all tested and measured and expected to develop and mature at exactly the same pace, and you will have created an educational nightmare, imposing severe limitations for some children, leading them to assume that they are not and will not be capable in certain areas. Math and reading are examples.

We are now, in American Schools, pushing kindergarten students to read too soon and as a result make reading is a chore to be avoided instead of the pleasure of opening the whole world for each child's enthusiastic examination.

According to the Time magazine article, teachers complain that "NCLB has sucked the creativity out of their lesson plans" forcing them to teach only those things that will be on the state tests. As one eighth grade science teacher explained, "the worst thing is when students have questions and interests and I have to say, 'Put your hands down. We don't have time to talk about that.'"

I am once again reminded of this story about Pestalozzi:
Back in the late 1700’s a child in Pestalozzi’s school challenged his teacher, “You want me to learn the word ladder, but you show me a picture. Wouldn’t it be better to go look at the real ladder in the shed?” The teacher was frustrated by the child’s interruption and explained that he would rather not take the whole class outside the building just to look at a ladder. Later, the same child was shown the picture of a window and again interrupted the teacher. “Wouldn’t it be better to talk about the real window that is right there? We don’t even have to go outside to look at it!” The teacher asked Pestalozzi about the incident and was informed that the child was right. Whenever possible children should learn from the real world and the experiences it offers.
Learning is best when it comes first hand.

Make, fix and create...


  1. Having just read Diane Ravitch's book demolishing NCLB, testing, charter schools, accountability and most of recent school reform ideas, it seems the legislation should've been called All Reality Left Behind. The triumph of delusion, shared by law makers of all stripes, of the possibility of 100% proficiency by 2014, seems to go together with the triumph of abstraction reflected in disengaged students, teachers, administrators and policy-makers relying on largely meaningless measures. Another example of the debasing of our culture. As William Saroyan said, "No foundation, all the way down the line."

    A good schoolhouse must be built on a foundation.

  2. As Otto Salomon said, "Start with the interests of the child." That is the appropriate foundation for education.

  3. It is too bad that todays teachers are not clever enough or creative enough to take the learning objectives and engage their students sufficiently to learn. Of course not all children are equal and that learning occurs at all speeds. But all must learn. My son was classified as "learning disabled" and was put on a program to increase his reading level by 1/2 grade each year until mainstreamed. These teachers could not explain to me how pushing him at this rate will enable him to catch up with his classmates. Since he was already behind, shouldn't we be pushing for increasing his reading level by 1.2 or 1.3 grades each year to catch up? This is where my wife and I first learned what a "thousand yard stare" looks like.

    If there is no goal or standard, how can we know when we have reached it?

  4. Mark, I would not consider it to be the teacher's fault. Their hands are tied. In the old days, teachers were trained observers of child growth and development and were not forced to rely on standardized tests as their only reliable means of assessment. We have so demoralized the teaching profession that it is wrecking American education.
    One of the problems with boys is that they are pushed to read before ready, so they become hesitant readers or worse. They learn to think they can't read, or don't want to. then they are identified as stupid, given extra attention because they are thought dumb, none of which addresses the real issue, that of being forced to read before ready.

    Folks love to blame the teacher. When it is the system that is so screwed up. In Finland they start reading at 3rd grade and surpass American readers by far in 8th grade. In other words, they become better readers in 37 1/2% less time, by simply waiting until the children are ready.

  5. One of my daughter's teachers called it "No Child Gets Ahead".

  6. First of all, I firmly believe that the parents are on the front line of learning. Parents must be involved and support teacher lesson plans. Secondly, I remember taking standardized tests in elementary school. I remember they were not particularly difficult but it was tedious to sit still and concentrate for what seemed like hours. I do not know what became of the results. I remember seeing them but do not know how they affected my teachers or school.

    Do teachers feel threatened by standardized tests? Is this the problem with NCLB?

    You mentioned children not ready for learning. There was a study a couple years ago concerning when the best time to begin the school day. I believe their conclusion was that a child's natural internal clock suggested starting the school day at 9:00am rather than 7:30am. That beginning the school day an hour or two later in the day would increase learning and retention. Naturally education officials, teachers and parents rejected this idea because it would be a giant inconvenience.

    Is the NCLB a giant inconvenience? Maybe a goal of 100% proficiency is unlikely, but I would think it is a great goal to aim for. We expect 100% efficiency in our banking system, gas pumps, doctors, etc. Why not our children's education system?

  7. Mark,
    The old Arkansas saying, you can't push a rope applies to the NCLB discussion. Do you lead children into learning or push them?

    The arts and creative work insure the child's curiosity is engaged. Work sheets, teaching to the test do not.

    So yes, I think 100% proficiency is a worthy goal. But NCLB has proven itself to be a faulty method for attaining it. You mention the standardized tests you took as a child.

    "I remember they were not particularly difficult but it was tedious to sit still and concentrate for what seemed like hours. I do not know what became of the results."

    When children are engaged in busy work, they learn that their education has no meaning. The point should be engagement, not detachment.

  8. Here is some more fuel for ill effects of NCLB.

  9. Mr. B, that is an interesting series of articles. Particularly the one connecting the Bush family close ties with the testing and publishing industry. It explains a few things.