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NCLB Outrages

A Disastrous Intrusion

Here is another fine letter, written in the Educator Roundtable Saving Public Education, Saving Democracy campaign.

Dear Mr. Olbermann,

First, I want to thank you for your work. Speaking truth to power has been far too rare in the last several years; the lack of it is allowing the unraveling of our democracy.

Just as you have dedicated yourself to journalistic integrity, my life's work is in education. I have been a teacher, counselor, administrator and, now, a teacher of teachers. I am also the mother of a child in eighth grade in our local public school. This gives me unique insight into the damaging effects of the Federal legislation called "No Child Left Behind" or NCLB.

NCLB has been a disastrous intrusion into the lives of our schools, our teachers, our children, our families. It has been lucrative for corporations that make their fortunes developing standardized materials and standardized tests. Some specific negative impacts I have seen are the following:

--In an effort to raise test scores, adoption of a "scientifically-proven" whole-class, scripted reading program which requires students, to read isolated chapters rather than whole books. Strong readers often progress at the pace of struggling classmates all take a test every Friday. It is said that this program creates students who can read, but don't like to. In the transition to middle school, the one question a number of these students had for their teachers about the curriculum was âdo we have to take a reading test every Friday?â

--Schools having less time, money and energy for attending to children's developmental, holistic, and diverse needs. Eliminating recess to have more time for academics, requiring even young students to stay focused on academics for blocks as long as 45-minutes. Schools and teachers, on daily basis, violating what they know and believe about children's needs in an effort to raise test scores among their lowest skilled learners. Often, the needs of stronger students are given short shrift; because they can be counted on to do well. All of this is prompted, again, by fears about test scores.

--Test rules which require English Language Learners who have only had a year or two of English language instruction to be tested with their grade level peers. Similar requirements for most students with learning disabilities. These create feelings of failure for those students, and measure them against unreasonable standards rather than measuring the real and positive growth from where they began to where they are now.

I could go on. However, if you want to understand the numerous outrages of this damaging and punitive legislation, they have been well-documented by a group of committed educators at http://www.educatorroundtable.org.

I can't choose which of their points to emphasize because all are valid and add up to an oppressive burden which has shifted the culture and purpose of schools from real learning to a one-size-fits-all skill and drill approach which deadens students' passion for learning and undermines the strength of our democratic society. In this particular approach to "educating children for a global economy" for some future date, we are creating schools where children's present needs for meaning and activity are ignored.

When you read our petition, I believe you will understand why we need your help in this campaign to eliminate NCLB. I implore you to join us in working to eliminate NCLB--it is too destructive to merely tinker with and try to fix. In some communities, I am seeing more supportive families who can afford other options who thinking about taking their children out of their public school. This has to potential to undermine our democratic system in a way which may be irreparable.


Susan Titterton
Elmore, Vermont

— Susan Titterton
letter to Keith Olbermann


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