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NCLB Outrages

Parents, teachers criticize education test act at forum

FYI: Larry Hedges chairs the Technical Advisory Group of the U.S. Department of Education’s What Works Clearinghouse, so it is no surprise that he would defend NCLB. Few people bite the hand that feeds them.

By Kimberly Reishus

Teachers and parents were not shy about expressing their dissatisfaction with the federal No Child Left Behind Act at a forum Saturday at MU’s Donald W. Reynolds Alumni and Visitor Center sponsored by the National Academy of Education.

Congress passed the act, designed to hold schools accountable for educating all students by tying education funding to annual standardized test scores, four years ago. It is up for reauthorization next year.

For parents like Nicole Hackett, the legislation sounds great in theory but doesn’t work in real life. Hackett said her children spend months preparing for the Missouri Assessment Program test, which the state uses to measure the yearly progress of students.

“Children are learning how to take the test, not necessarily how to comprehend what they are reading,” Hackett said about the communication arts exam.

Instructors are also frustrated with MAP. Russ Crane, a social studies teacher at Jefferson Junior High School, spoke on behalf of the Columbia Teachers Association.

“Tests don’t improve student learning,” he said. “Teachers do.”

The act’s penalties don’t make sense, he said, but he values the way it has motivated schools to take action for improving student achievement.

Panelist Mary Davidson Cohen, a regional representative for the U.S. Department of Education, said each state has a different plan to reach No Child Left Behind’s goal of 100 percent proficiency by 2014.

Hackett is concerned about accountability beyond teachers and schools.

“What about the parents and the children themselves?” she said. “So many factors go into a child’s growth and accomplishment.”

Carolyn Herrington, dean of the College of Education at MU, was a panelist at the forum.

“Once a teacher goes to a classroom, they need some degrees of freedom to adjust instruction to their students,” Herrington said.

But panelist Larry Hedges, a professor of education at Northwestern University, gave legislators credit for No Child Left Behind.

“The goals of this law are things that few Americans can disagree with,” Hedges said. “The devil is unfortunately in the details. This law, like most laws, is not perfect.”

— Kimberly Reishus


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