Letter to Members of Congress
California teacher Joe Navarro sent this letter to his Representative Farr and also to Rep. George Miller, Senators Barbara Boxer and Diane Feinstein. In his words, "I don't know whether anything will come of it, but it gets more difficult every day to be a teacher. I am just a small voice from a small city trying to change things."
Kudos to teachers like Joe Navarro who speak up. Joe has also signed The Petition.
I am a Hollister, CA resident and teacher at Sunnyslope School , and would like to express my opinion in regard to the subject of the reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind Act. My hope is that Congress will repeal the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act.
As part of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), the NCLB was supposed to create education policies to assist minority and low-income students to increase their educational success and close the “achievement gap.” Instead, the NCLB has enacted policies that continue to widen the achievement gap, leaving many students behind.
The NCLB has failed to provide appropriate funding to support local schools with meaningful resources like increasing school and classroom libraries, increased school staffing, newer facilities, extra support for students who are struggling academically, increased enrichment in the curriculum. Funding should be available for teachers to learn about creative educational theories that give students wider learning opportunities and expose them to greater amounts of literature, science, social studies, physical education, music and art.
The NCLB has created a system of punishments for schools, teachers and ultimately students. The focus of education has become to subject children to endless testing. High-stakes standardized testing has become the centerpiece of our education system. We have created unreasonable standards, substituting toughness for quality. Instead of ensuring that students are mastering subjects, we simply expose them to disconnected information that will appear on tests and teach them to fill in bubbles.
Much of the school year is spent preparing students for tests. School budgets are spent on test preparation materials. Instead of developing creative analytical thinkers we are “dumbing-down” the curriculum and over-exposing children to phonics and rote-memorization.
California schools are evaluated yearly by two measurement tools known as the Academic Performance Index (API) and Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP), which are used to determine which schools will be rewarded and which will be punished. Eventually, no school will be able to reach the federally mandated AYP benchmark, since the benchmark is raised annually.
Schools that struggle the most, where low-income and minority students attend, are the schools that face sanctions and threats of losing certification. Low-income and minority students are then subjected to more drill-and-skill instruction and are being deprived of more creative and enriching academic subjects. The current emphasis on high-stakes testing and the drive for more drill-and-skill instruction, memorization of disconnected facts has led to the worsening of our education system.
Are high performing schools, which are attended by mostly white affluent students, restricted to learning phonics instruction? I think that public education is under attack and the No Child Left Behind Act functions as Trojan horse, which sets ridiculous standards and creates an educational focus that undermines learning in order to discredit public education.
The NCLB is demoralizing to students and teachers. Many teachers are opting out leave the profession prematurely. Classroom learning has become uninteresting for students, and quite frankly, is not fun. The effects of the NCLB can be felt in school districts where experienced teachers are scrambling to leave low-performing schools and find schools with high test scores.
I am first grade teacher with twelve years experience. I became a teacher because I want to serve struggling students who need a little extra motivation and exposure to rich learning experiences. But my options are being narrowed down by a restrictive curriculum and a scripted phonics-limited reading program. I feel as though I am becoming a learning technician instead of a teacher. I spend hours testing kids, when I should be instructing them.
Accountability is important. There are many ways in which students can be meaningfully assessed throughout the year. Authentic assessments, such as running records, brief weekly assessments where students can demonstrate their knowledge and problem solving skills, classroom observations and portfolios that give teachers useful information that can be used to guide teaching. A big end of the year test should not be the only way to evaluate student progress. Testing is supposed to give us useful information, not used as means of collecting data to determine who should be punished.
Another significant tragedy of the NCLB is the pressure to exit children from learning in their first language and mainstreaming them in English only classrooms, even if they do not possess sufficient English language skills, including academic language abilities. They are forced to take high-stakes tests in English, even if they do not understand the academic language of the tests. As you know, the NCLB modified the ESEA and eliminated Title VII (bilingual education) and replaced it with Title III, which only funds materials for English Language Learners (in English).
The NCLB contradicts good educational theory. Highly respected scholars, such as Alfie Kohn (alfiekohn.org) and Stephen Krashen (sdkrashen.com) along with Monty Neill (fairtest.org) and others have written volumes of well researched work disputing the theoretical foundations and research findings of the No Child Left Behind Act. I think that Congress needs to pay attention to what education scholars think.
I share a common hope with many people that Congress will be headed in a new direction. One important step would be to repeal the No Child Left Behind Act, create reasonable and meaningful educational standards and properly fund our education system. If our government funded education at the same levels that it has funded the invasion and occupation of Iraq , the quality of education would be greatly improved.
If you have any questions please feel free to contact me (at the above contact information). I would greatly appreciate hearing from you on this matter. Thank you for your consideration.
INDEX OF NCLB OUTRAGES