No Child Left Behind Critic a Hit with Teachers: Conference Speaker Draws Ovation with Plan to Lobby Against '02 Law
Ohanian Comment: This was an exhilirating experience. As I walked through the Food Court the next morning, teachers stood and bowed.
Teachers are ready for the resistance! We are going to fight! I will get the $71.40 plan posted soon.
By Natalia Mielczarek
Susan Ohanian has a $71.40-a-person plan to stop the federal No Child Left Behind act.
That's the sum that thousands of teachers would have to shell out to finance a whirlwind lobbying effort aimed at abolishing the 2002 law, which is up for reauthorization next year.
Ohanian, a longtime teacher who writes and speaks about educational issues, spoke Saturday at the National Council of Teachers of English annual conference in Nashville, which drew about 7,000 people. Her talk got a standing ovation.
"There comes a time when you can't participate in a system that's harming the children," said Ohanian, a senior fellow at the Vermont Society for the Study of Education.
The law "declares that 100 percent of children must be reading on grade level by 2014. I taught children with learning difficulties for 20 years. That's not going to happen.
"It's a formula designed to declare public schools bankrupt. It's setting schools up for failure because there's a concerted movement to privatize education," she said.
The "resistance movement," as Ohanian called it, would include collecting and submitting 1 million signatures to Congress, organizing a march on Washington, buying ads in national publications and supporting existing groups that are working to repeal the law.
No Child Left Behind went into effect Jan. 8, 2002. It sets achievement goals for various subgroups of students in public schools and tracks their yearly progress by rigorous testing. Schools that miss the benchmarks are put on notice and face sanctions up to state takeover.
When passed, the law was based on the idea that scrupulous testing gives parents a way to see how their children and schools perform and allows them to choose other options if students aren't learning.
NCLB proponents say that the measure holds educators and students accountable and is designed to eventually close achievement gaps among some groups of children. It also promotes high teacher quality and tracks safety statistics, they say.
But since its authorization, scores of NCLB's harshest critics, including teachers, have said the measure isn't adequately funded, doesn't acknowledge progress unless it meets certain benchmarks, and creates a pressure cooker for teachers and kids.
David Schultz said Saturday he knows this firsthand. An educator of 33 years, Schultz has spent the past six teaching kindergarten in New York state. He said he doesn't like that the federal government dictates what local teachers can do in their classrooms.
"It's a bad thing because people are making decisions about my children who haven't met my children. … Because of this great-stakes atmosphere, it's focused on just a few curriculum areas, in particular math and reading, which are important, but the rest falls by the wayside." •
INDEX OF NCLB OUTRAGES