NCLB - any thoughts?

Discussion in 'General Education' started by mollydoll, May 21, 2011.

  1. mollydoll

    mollydoll Connoisseur

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    May 21, 2011

    I'm writing a short paper on the effectiveness of NCLB, and I'm wondering how working teachers feel about it. I'm using mostly peer reviewed sources, but I can probably work in a few quotes too; I'm really just curious at this point.

    For my part, I feel that in many places it has caused a tragic decrease in the amount of instructional time given to science. It would be so much more beneficial to integrate reading and math into science (as I do in my class; even though the standards don't leave me much room to shoe horn in math, I do it anyway).

    At the school I taught at, administrators (well, the one that counted as far as my job) disliked my reading assignments (that were all chosen to support my standards based content! for example, a short Nat Geo for Kids article on crystal caves at the end of our mineral unit summed up all of our vocabulary and let me add on a mini measurement review/lab activity) and wanted me to focus only on state exam drilling and review. As a science teacher, I feel that a lot of the pressures from NCLB (rightly or not) lead to mixed messages. On the one hand, you have the NSTA, researchers, common sense, and even administrators cheering on the move towards inquiry based education, then on the other you have the same administrators bemoaning class time that could be used for exam practice instead.

    On the one hand, clearly we do need some standardized way to measure kid's progress, especially at the earliest grades so kids who need extra help are identified as early as possible, but on the other, I worry at the impact all the focus on standardized testing has and will have. I know that in many districts, NCLB support and mandates have helped boost reading and math, but is this real progress or somewhat artificial?

    And I REALLY worry what will happen with science education. As it is, reports about science performance are already dismal. Earth Magazine (put out by the American Geophysical Union) recently ran an article that quoted that 2009 NAEP report (put out by the DOE) as saying that by 12th grade, 40% of students aren't considered to have basic science knowledge.

    In many cases, standards are REALLY low. My department gave our kids a practice exam the first week of school, and at least half the kids pass it just based on their prior knowledge.

    Sorry this turned out so long. My perspective is obviously as a high school science teacher, so I am really curious how those of you who are more affected by NCLB on a daily basis feel about it.

    If you don't mind my using a quote in my paper, make up a fake name for me to use and tell me the level/subject that you teach. Thanks!
     
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  3. EMonkey

    EMonkey Connoisseur

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    May 21, 2011

    No Child Left Behind has ignored the many different learning abilities and interests people have. It has also ignored the fact that in true assessment of long term memory of information the results from quality learning will not be seen for another year or two. NCLB promotes teaching the breadth not to the depth of a subject. It also promotes immediate cramming of information rather than quality scaffolding of a child's education. All of these factors have downgraded the education system here in the USA. Unfortunately I believe that the aim of some of the creators of the bill is to down grade the quality of education in the US. My belief is supported by Ronald Duncan and his pushing to evaluate teachers using the test scores, which ignores the fact that the teacher should not be teaching specifically to the test if doing quality education.

    I teach first grade, use Maximilian Valenti as my Nom de Plume if you wish to use anything ; )
     
  4. janney

    janney Cohort

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    May 21, 2011

    I feel that NCLB has put some teachers, administrators, and districts into a panic to "make the grade". This has lead to some schools not trusting the process of quality education and focusing more on test prep rather than attempting to push them beyond.
     
  5. Hifiman

    Hifiman Rookie

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    May 21, 2011

    It's Demeaning

    This is going to be long so I don't blame you for not reading it. The race is also on so I’m not even going to proofread.

    I'm a fairly new teacher. I started in elementary in 2006. I first taught 2nd grade and then two years of 5th. I sat out the next year because in my third year of being RIFed it finally stuck. I was out of work for an entire school year. During that time I earned my single-subject credential in biology and I am now just wrapping up my first year of middle school life science. In my short experience as a teacher it's been quite a ride.

    I have attended countless meetings to discuss color and numbers. Not kids, just color and numbers. The meetings are generally all the same. We're told the kids in dark green (advanced) are basically on their own. They're high and they'll do just fine. Then a slightly longer discussion (just slightly) of the light greens (proficient) takes place. These kids are high, but we are strongly cautioned not to let them slip back to yellow (basic) because "We'll really take a hit in the AYP." So far the entire discussion has lasted less than three or four minutes.

    The meeting then turns to the real heart of the matter. The basic kids. Well, not all of them, just the high basics. The ones who have a shot of making it to proficient. the bulk of the hour-long meetings center on this color - not kids, but the color. On one campus teachers are called into the principal's office one by one to discuss the year's focus. The last time I did this was with my SEI class. They were all low. Their state scores from the previous year were pulled and together the principal and I were to identify fourteen students to focus on to bring their scores up. Of course we looked for the yellows. She picked out about nine yellows that were high yellow - just a few points from making it to light green. Then there was silence. Then after a while a sigh. Then another sigh. "Well, you just don't have any others that are high enough to focus on. If you have any standouts that you think you can work with do so, but as it is these nine will be your focus students for the year."

    The other teachers had similar outcomes in their meetings on this mostly Hispanic campus. We had a relatively small list of focus students on campus. The light and dark greens will essentially take care of themselves and the oranges (below basic) and reds (far below basic) are just too far down to spend resources on. They won't help with the AYP. The words of many different principals, not mine.

    I've written about this sort of stuff before. I had a blog for a while. I don't remember the title of one particular entry of mine, but it was something like, Hello, my name is Basic, 325. My rant at the time was that we should just cut to the chase and treat the students as the game of testing has forced us to refer to them in these faculty meetings. Forget the school uniforms of the last elementary campus I worked. Tan, white, and blue should have been replaced by red, orange, yellow, light green, and dark green shirts. On the fronts and backs of these shirts in large print should be each child's state test scores from the previous year. This way when we address a child we don't need to go through the formality of calling them Silvia, Bob, or Jesus. We can just call them by the only names that administration cares about, names like Basic 325, Basic 315, or Below Basic 299. It would be a nice way for parents to understand just what's going on in schools these days.

    As I said I'm currently in middle school. Presently, seventh grade science is not tested by the state. Can you guess how important seventh grade science is in the grand scheme of things on campus? Well, even so, it's a new campus for me, a new grade level, but oh so many similarities to elementary. The list of those highly important high basics is still the centerpiece of our professional lives. It's just a whole lot bigger on a middle school campus. We also stop or slow instruction in the month prior to testing in order to focus solely on testing strategies. The kids are begged to do well on the tests too, though there is no expectation of intrinsic motivation. Instead, the schools purchase bikes, iPods, TVs - flat screen, Wii gaming systems, laptops, to name a few, in hopes of enticing these kids to care about their scores on the state tests. In classrooms we have data walls with students' names showing their placement on a wall-sized color band of red through dark green with their score boldly stated (I skirted around this requirement by not posting names, but rather just a private number that was assigned to each kid (this was back in elementary) so they wouldn't be embarrassed. Then of course the high school down the street at the time did one better. The electronic marquee listed the names of all the students scoring proficient or above for all to see.

    I'm tired of "The Test." It has ruined education. It has ruined staff morale. It has burnt far too many children out because not only do they have the test looming over their heads all year long, but also the endless barrage of district benchmark tests to monitor student readiness for the state testing all year long. That's another rant all it's own. I also don't like how it's turned parents against us. In my second year teaching elementary there was one child with very vocal grandparents. She was a bright child and the caretakers felt she should not attend our school, which had such low test scores. The district had to pay to have her bused to another school in the district. She was dropped off at our campus each morning by the grandparents and then picked up by the bus and off to another school. Sad. They took her out of the classroom of probably the best teacher I have ever seen. They realized their mistake too. The higher numbers at the other school did not translate into a better learning environment for that child. They wanted back in our school, but were denied.

    I could write so much more, but this has gone on far too long already. I wonder when the madness will end.
     
  6. EMonkey

    EMonkey Connoisseur

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    May 21, 2011

    It's all a ploy-if we keep them running around like chickens with their heads cut off; maybe they will not notice us remove worker rights, tenure, safety rules, and funding. Maybe they will not notice us give our buddies billions to open a few charter schools and sell these garbage tests to the schools. I finally heard a superintendent in the state of California say he believes they are trying to gut education in our state especially because we have such a high percentage of minority students. Why educate those second rate people who are not white and upper class... That would take money from the precious prisons in our state.
     
  7. mollydoll

    mollydoll Connoisseur

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    May 21, 2011

    Yeah, I got some variation of that color coded crap too: focus on the kids who have it right within reach and to hell with the rest.

    To some extent this did happen on it's own, since the Earth Science test isn't that difficult, so in general Ed classes, it's mostly, but not always lazy or absent students who don't pass, but the idea of being told to focus on the kids who are close repulsed me. Especially considering the catch phrase is 100% pass rate.

    Are there any teachers who really LIKE and support NCLB?
     
  8. EMonkey

    EMonkey Connoisseur

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    May 22, 2011

    I have talked to hundreds of teachers in the area I live and I have yet to find one who likes it and supports it. There are a few who are not as anti-NCLB as others. That does not mean they like it though.
     
  9. INteacher

    INteacher Aficionado

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    May 22, 2011

    IF you looking for something positive, NCLB has worked to ensure that every teacher teaching is qualified to teach the grade/subject they are teaching.
     
  10. Hifiman

    Hifiman Rookie

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    I agree with INteacher

    I am perfectly fine with this portion of NCLB. I wouldn't fuss if they made the requirements to teach even stricter. I also like that it has really made us look at our teaching strategies, although that too has been twisted many times. But that's it with NCLB. For me the rest of the legislation is an epic failure.
     
  11. mollydoll

    mollydoll Connoisseur

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    May 22, 2011

    I don't know that I even agree with that: does passing a Praxis II exam really mean a teacher is qualified? I passed the physics Praxis, but would not consider myself qualified to teach it, though my original endorsement plus the addon means that I meet HQ criteria. I could most likely pass a big stack of liberal arts Praxis exams too with a little brush up, but I certainly wouldn't be very qualified.
     
  12. INteacher

    INteacher Aficionado

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    It's better than if was before. My second year teaching I was assigned 2 sections of Soc. and I wasn't certified to teach Soc. Nor was I asked to teach Soc. Teachers teaching out of their certified area happened often up until about 10 years ago in my district.
     
  13. tchr4evr

    tchr4evr Companion

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    :thumb:

    I agree. I have found all the Praxis exams to be very easy, as I have all other teaching exams (I also took exams in NY). I could pass the science ones, I'm sure, but I couldn't teach it. It takes more than a test to prove you are highly qualified. All of our teachers are highly qualified, but I've had to work with 1 of our 12th grade teachers so that they could understand Macbeth.
     
  14. Pisces_Fish

    Pisces_Fish Fanatic

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    Huge disservice to kids. We got our scores back last week and started making remediation groups for the retest. As a team we decided to make two groups, the "right there" group who would likely pass the retest and the "way off" kids who frankly won't pass. I realized later that we cast off the "way off" kids as (dare I say it) a waste of time. :( NO ONE on my team or in my school treats kids as a waste of time, however, when your AYP and evaluations are on the line we sometimes go to extreme measures.

    I also am miffed that we're told to make flexible groupings, hone in a each child's skills, make learning relevant and individualized, but then we sit 9 year old down for a 4-hour test that's standardized, not always relevant to them, and label them failures when they can't pass the Big Test.
     
  15. Hifiman

    Hifiman Rookie

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    I agree

    That's why I said I wouldn't fuss if they made the requirements even stricter.
     
  16. MissCeliaB

    MissCeliaB Aficionado

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    May 23, 2011

    If they made requirements stricter in many area there would be a major teacher shortage.
     
  17. a2z

    a2z Virtuoso

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    May 23, 2011

    Not exactly. It required the teacher pass a test. Better than before, but not completely indicative of true knowledge of the subject matter.

    When it comes to students passing a test the test is said to be not indictative of what they know. So, failing the "state tests" is seen as not a true representation of the abilities of the students and many suggest the problem is the test and not what the student knows. Even when students pass it is said it doesn't show the students have mastery of the subject. Not to mention that these tests test the bare bones basics of the subject.

    When it comes to being highly qualified in the subject matter the teacher will teach, they pass a test. So, if the test isn't a good measure for students it certainly isn't a good measure for teachers. Although I believe that passing the tests shows the teacher has at least some BASIC knowledge of the subject being taught even if they don't completely know the subject. Before an English teacher screaming they have weak math skills could be stuck in a room teaching Physics. Heck, anyone with any type of teaching credential coudl be teaching any subject matter.
     
  18. EdEd

    EdEd Aficionado

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    Alright, let me be the one to voice the other side :). I support the big intentions of the act, which I see as promoting highly qualified teachers, and a system of accountability within the public education system. I think our technology to measure student progress, and the rewards/punishments we have associated with such measured progress, are not serving to promote a healthier education system.

    I've used this example before: when a baby first learns to walk, she falls a lot. However, those falls are important in the overall progress toward walking. We would never not teach a baby to walk because they might stumble in the process.

    Same with NCLB: lots of problems? Yes, but a step in the right direction. People that I know that truly understand assessment, accountability, and believe in professionalism within the teaching community support improving what NCLB stands for, not removing any structure of assessment or accountability from the system.
     
  19. Major

    Major Connoisseur

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    May 23, 2011

    I'm not sure about NCLB, janney ......... but I do know your Avatar has hypnotized me....... When I shut my eyes I still see it.... :help::help:...:lol:


    (Actually, I like it)
     
  20. janney

    janney Cohort

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    Oh, I've always wanted to be able to hypnotize people! Okay, when I count to 3, I want you to cluck like a chicken. 1..2..3... :lol:
     
  21. Major

    Major Connoisseur

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    I tried it!! It didn't work .......... :help::help::help:....:lol:
     
  22. mollydoll

    mollydoll Connoisseur

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    May 24, 2011

    I think that is possible to "truly understand" assessment, accountability, and professionalism without supporting NCLB; suggesting otherwise seems rather condescending. I've also not heard (many, if any) teachers criticize NCLB in terms of not wanting structure or accountability.

    I'd venture to say that most teachers support standards based curriculum. I support it even though I think that some of the Earth Science standards are ludicrous. We are required to cover more with our freshman than is covered in a typical college intro to Earth Science course. The long overdue revision for 2012 includes some concepts that are actually verging on GRADUATE level conceptual understanding of the material. The only way to teach that to most kids is to spoon feed it. Personally, I would throw out 30-40% of it in favor of time for inquiry based activities and depth rather than breadth.

    I'm not even against the standardized test. What I am against is using the data as the final word. When the test counts for so much, it is nearly impossible to avoid pressure to make every action inside the classroom correlate to test success. Who cares if a kid can tell granite from gneiss in the field (and know what that implies) as long as they are able to properly bubble in a test question about the definition of an igneous rock? (I do!)

    I was talking to my research professor (he is a geophysicist) last week and he said that the department much prefers foreign students because they will be much more confident that the incoming students will be capable of independent research. He said that even many of the brightest American students need so much scaffolding and support to get to that point that it can be a drain on time and resources (and a significant percentage will drop out before attaining their phd).

    That is what I see as the biggest issue with NCLB: the guidelines aren't holding anybody accountable for teaching kids creative or critical thinking skills because those are so difficult to measure using standardized assessments.

    I finished my paper a few days ago, and had trouble finding anything in the literature that was positive at the high school level for NCLB--this is why I was hoping to get some discussion going here. The literature starts to sound one-sided after a while. I did find more positives when I skimmed through material for lower grades, but since that isn't my focus, I didn't dwell much on that.

    I do feel a bit ridiculous criticizing NCLB when I have nothing to offer as an alternative. I haven't taught long enough to know what works (isn't it always easier to see what doesn't?).
     
  23. EdEd

    EdEd Aficionado

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    I think it's possible too - just saying the people I know that do happen to understand those concepts also support NCLB in general principal. Most arguments I hear against it are in the details, or how the general principles are actually operationalized - not the big picture - seems like we're on the same page there.

    Yeah, that's more my focus - the lower grades. It's also hard to really analyze NCLB from a research perspective because it's hard to isolate that policy as an independent variable in all of public education. There have been other major and minor policy shifts, as well as a host of other educational changes, that confound the equation. So, I'm not sure it's possible to derive an actual effect that NCLB would have supposedly had directly on student achievement. I'd be interested to know how the research studies you've read were structured, and how they purported to measure the effectiveness of NCLB?

    I think it's fair to know something isn't working when you don't know what could. For example, if I told you I was going to try to fly off a ten story building using a sheet as a sail to help me fly, you could probably tell me it won't work, but also probably couldn't tell me how to build an airplane from scratch. So, I think it's valid to be against it.

    My main issue with people who are against it is when they don't understand it. I think when people make specific statements restricted to things they know and understand, it's easier to have a conversation that's on point and helpful.
     

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