[Susan notes: Strong and informed, this is a terrific letter.]
Submitted to Education Week but not published
re: NEA President Goes Beyond Party Line in 'No Child' Critique
Reg Weaver may "go beyond (Democratic) party line" in his critique, but he does not go far enough. If the NEA/AFT really mean to listen to teachers, then my comments will interest them. As a bilingual and ESL teacher in NYC public schools, and a member of the UFT, I am very disappointed at the response of the unions to this bipartisan assault on our children's education. The NCLB law not only results in the problems of "too much paperwork, bureaucracy, and testing" as stated by Weaver, it also has resulted in the federal enforcement of the use of reading programs completely unsupported by research in the name of science, and the full frontal attack on the rights of children to learn English as a second language, in the form of testing those students for academic proficiency after only three years of US schooling, when all the research clearly shows this takes 8 years to develop, on average.
Not satisfied with the elimination of real opportunities to learn to read, or learn a second language competently, NCLB also tries to make sure any and all research which supports programs against which NCLB proponents have taken a stand, is purged from the databases, or erased from the historical record through the dismantling of the databases, such as the ERIC database. Now, with these anti-democratic censures in place, the public cannot even look up the research in order to defend their children's rights.
Across the country, we have already seen the disturbing trends toward increased "push-out" as reported by Ed Week, in high schools attempting to avoid poor AYP results due to test results of ELL students and others in high risk categories. Other school systems look for ways to reduce the demands of state standards to improve their AYP. Meanwhile, NCLB is leaving students behind in record numbers. Students held over once are more likely to leave school before graduation, and more likely to be held over again. When students are 12, 13, and 14 years old in the fifth grade (which describe 3 of my students this year), tell us: How old will they be in 7th grade? What grade level of education will they have if they leave school at the age of 16? How exactly is this law supposed to be keeping them from being "left behind"?
This law is a hoax and a brutal fraud which will result in the degradation of the entire public school system, everywhere in which the federal money is accepted (the majority). It has to be scrapped altogether. The worst thing that could happen to this country's educational system would be to see it "fixed and funded".