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NCLB Outrages

Children left behind with act’s mandate

Ohanian Comment: This is a good tactic: Warn parents about what their 9-year-olds have already lost because of NCLB.

By Joyce Hulett

Q: What can be done about limiting the curriculum that all this testing in schools has caused? As a parent, this concerns me.

This should concern you and all parents. The schools are forced to teach students to pass tests instead of teaching them to become intelligent thinkers.

Congress is ready to OK No Child Left Behind (NCLB) for another five years. Children who are now in fourth grade in the public schools already have had their schooling adversely affected by this act. If this act is continued, it means those students will be in the ninth grade before the act can be repealed.

Most legislators seem to think the act is working. They say we just need more funding.

But in truth this is not working for most students. Advocates of the act point to the increasing numbers of students who are passing state tests. But they are forgetting the number of students who are not reaching their highest potential. They might be passing tests, but many students are not being stretched to the limit of their intellectual ability.

Children do not learn at equal rates. Some children need more time to learn the same thing that it takes others very little time to learn. When legislators ignore this fact, they are ignoring the well-documented idea that learning is developmental.

Some children are ready to learn to read at 5, but others are not ready until they are 7 or 8. That does not mean that we wait until children are 8. It means teachers read to those children, read along with them and keep them interested in books. Teachers give those students opportunities to write, which might just be scribbles. We know that writing is a process, and children write by scribbling first. Then they write strings of letters. And then they write words and sentences. Reading and writing go hand in hand.

Reading and writing cannot be rushed. When we push children and make them feel like failures, then they do fail. Although state tests are not given until the third grade, kindergarten teachers are expected to push all their students to read no matter whether they are ready.

Some people think itâs an accountability issue. They think the act is good because it makes teachers accountable; few teachers mind being held accountable. But they do mind impossible expectations of NCLB. Teachers know that one size fits all works no better for learning than it does for shoes.

Some great teachers are leaving the profession because of these impossible expectations.

Teachers are losing control of what they can teach in the classroom. Passing of tests is the main mandate. Teachers are frustrated because student-learning time must be spent on passing the tests. There is little time left for inquiry or critical thinking.

In an article in the March 21 Education Week called "The New Anti-Intellectualism in America," Nel Noddings objects to the elimination of intellectual content in courses. She also is concerned that the specific learning objectives in all subjects work against intellectual learning. Noddings is professor of education at Stanford University. For more information, read her book "Critical Lessons: What Our Schools Should Teach."

Inquiry learning is vital in all subject areas. When we tell students exactly what they are to learn, then we take away the mystery they might discover on their own.

Tell your legislator you want schools to become intellectual places of learning. It is important our young citizens be taught to think critically.

Passing these narrow tests will do little good in the workplace. We must expand the curriculum to allow each student to achieve as much as possible.

Joycelin Brown Hulett, Ph.D., is an educational consultant and has been an elementary teacher and a principal. She was language arts consultant for 17 years with Columbia Public Schools. Send questions to Hulett in care of the Tribune, P.O. Box 798, Columbia, Mo., 65205, or e-mail them to editor@tribmail.com.

— Joyce Hulett
Columbia Tribune


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