Should No Child Left Behind Act be reauthorized? - NO/We need a new definition of accountability
Ohanian Comment: Talk about giant traps: It is worse than dangerous to claim authority on the promise that you can deliver higher test scores. One must ask, "Higher test scores" and "great gains" on what? Of what purpose is teacher collaboration and new methods of assessment when the curriculum has been corrupted beyond repair? The California standards are at the center of the rot.
Great change doesn't come from people waiting to be asked to lead. It comes about when people take charge:
They didn't drink the tea!
They didn't ride the bus!
Here is a hopeful sign. CalCare is organizing a Student/Parent/Teacher revolt:
Don't give/take the test!
For information, contact Susan Harman.
by Anthony Cody
America's schools have fallen into a giant trap. This trap is epic in its
dimensions, because the people capable of leading us out of it have been
silenced, and the initiative that could help us is being systematically squashed.
Policymakers and the public have been seduced by a simple formulation. No
Child Left Behind posits that we have troubled schools because they have
not been accountable. If we make teachers and schools pay a price for the
failure of their students, they will bring those students up to speed.
But schools are NOT the only factor determining student success. Urban
neighborhoods are plagued by poverty and violence and recent reports in
The Chronicle show that as many as 30 percent of the children in these
neighborhoods suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. Fully 40 percent
of our students are English learners, but these students must take the
same tests as native English speakers. Moreover, a recent study provides
strong evidence that family-based factors such as the quality of day care,
the home vocabulary and the amount of time spent reading and watching
television at home account for two-thirds of the difference in academic
success for students. Nonetheless, NCLB holds only the schools
Teachers are realizing that this is a raw deal. We can't single-handedly
solve these problems, and we can't bring 100 percent of our students to
proficiency in the next six years, no matter how "accountable" the law
makes us, and no matter the punishments it metes out. But if we speak up
to point out the injustice and unreasonableness of the demands on our
schools, we are shouted down, accused of making excuses for ourselves and
not having high expectations for our students. Thus, teachers have been
silenced, our expertise squandered.
The fatal flaw of NCLB was that it assumed that teachers were obstacles to
change; that we had to be coerced to set higher standards for ourselves
and our students. As a result we have state-mandated standards,
standardized tests - even scripted curriculum to tell us what to say in
class. All of this has demoralized teachers by making us into the problem,
rather than a big part of the solution.
But educators have not been completely immobilized. We have been learning
in spite of the hostile conditions, and have discovered that:
-- Although student success is heavily influenced by other factors, an
effective teacher can make a huge difference.
-- Teachers who are able to skillfully assess student learning on a daily
basis can promote rapid growth by giving timely feedback and tailoring
instruction to meet students' needs.
-- Teachers who collaborate together to develop common assessments and
share techniques can build powerful learning communities that allow them
to push their students to make great gains.
-- Teachers are capable of developing assessments that reflect the values
and skills desired by their local communities - and this yields a much
higher level of student and teacher engagement, as can be seen in Nebraska
( www.nde.state.ne.us/focusstars/ index.htm).
-- Teachers must be deeply involved in educational policy decisions -
without our insights and support, policies on paper will not translate
into real-world solutions.
While the recent proposed revisions of NCLB contained some improvements,
the law remains fundamentally flawed, and does not deserve to be
reauthorized. We need to step back and create a new vision of
accountability - from the classroom up. Teachers are willing to be
accountable for making a difference - that is why we entered this
profession. But we must have reasonable goals that reflect the realities
we face. We need to be given a much bigger role in designing the measures
by which our students and schools are judged, and we must have the
conditions and resources in our schools that allow for the high quality
collaboration we need to succeed.
When we are asked to lead, we will be ready to help show the way. We are
still teachers, after all.
Anthony Cody, a member of the Teacher Leaders Network, is a National Board
certified teacher who works as a science coach with the Oakland Unified
San Francisco Chronicle
INDEX OF NCLB OUTRAGES