Law Needs New Name: No Chance of Looking Better
Note: This is in response to a virulent Free Press school-bashing editorial.
I'm not one who typically responds, in writing anyway, to Free Press editorials especially when the newspaper addresses the area of student performance in Vermont's public schools. But the Nov. 17 editorial headlined "Better, but not enough" was just too tempting to pass up.
I'm now thinking after reading the editorial that we should rename the federal legislation, No Child Left Behind or NCLB, based on the Free Press' opinion that Vermont's students are "five feet under" -- even though Vermont as a state is ranked above the national average in both math and reading. The law's new name, No Chance of Looking Better, is a much more poignant moniker now that schools are expected to be more than simply "above average."
Fortunately in this case, for most parents, the "Voice of the Free Press" doesn't represent the voice of their community; communities that place a high value on education and recognize the complexity of helping all kids reach high standards within an era of diminished resources and increased expectations. Being above the national average actually feels pretty good to most people even school personnel.
Moreover, often times many things are overheard when we listen to parents and students talk about the incredible contributions teachers make in the lives of children including -- teaching kids how to make good healthy decisions, how to navigate within a diverse global information system, solve problems in peaceful ways, teach the value in helping people who are less fortunate and lest we forget, teaching students to value the effort that has to go into reaching high standards.
These student performance targets cannot nor should they be quantified by NAEP or any other national testing program. Parents and students don't need to measure the attainment of these goals in quantifiable terms even though they know how important they are to measure.
The national testing agenda is clear to those of us who recognize that politics is inextricably tied to education reform. By suggesting that above average performance is 5 feet below the water's surface, in hopes that the pressure will make teachers and administrators work harder, does nothing more than irritate communities that believe their schools are doing a fabulous job meeting the needs of their kids.
Helping students reach high academic and social standards is important -- very important. If the Free Press would occasionally write about the complexity of helping students reach high standards and support the school's efforts by acknowledging the hard work teachers, support staff and administrators are doing rather than continually pointing out that schools aren't perfect, it would be a welcome change to the rhetoric that is spewing out across the country thanks to the emphasis that NCLB has placed on testing. In this current reality, schools in Vermont will have No Chance of Looking Better.
Mark Andrews, Vermont Principal
Teachers, Schools Deserve Credit
Burlington Free Press
INDEX OF NCLB OUTRAGES