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NCLB Outrages

A School Administrator Testifying to Colorado Senators

by an educator who is also a parent

I come in front of this committee as a career public high school teacher of 16 years and now a school administrator. In 2004... I took time to interview public school principals along the front range.... I was investigating the viability of a move from teacher to administrator for my career.

... The summary was that they used to be the visionary leaders of their respective schools and, as of late with NCLB, CSAP, AYP and the like they have become the middle managers between effective, professional educators and well intentioned but scared district level administrators. My enthusiasm for the change began to wane. None the less I continued to pursue and earned my licensure.

Subsequently, I began to apply and interview for admin positions. Another common theme emerged, in the vast majority of the interviews that I had for Principal or Asst. Principal positions, I was handed some form of a large white binder and was told that primary to my responsibilities would be the management of CSAP testing and data in these various schools.

* ..it would be an up hill battle to truly find the level of innovation, quality pedagogy and thoughtful best practice that I seek in the face of this pervasive focus on one misguided, inaccurate measure of accountability for our schools.

In my disenchantment I took a break and went to work for Boys and Girls Clubs of Metro Denver, where I spent three years directing a summer camp effort, and was reminded what young peoples faces look like, even kids in poverty, when they are having their hearts held and their brains activated by meaningful experiences. But I missed schools.

So this past year I decided to jump back into the school gameâ€Â¦.but this time in a private setting. ... when I interviewed for the position, no one handed me a white binder, in fact, the interview looked and felt more like a deeply rich and thoughtful conversation about best practice between two impassioned educators who want to see what a school that is truly preparing young people for the 21st century looks like. I was offered the position and I took it.

In this same year, my good friend was hired as the superintendent of the local public school district. I did dream and do dream of someday working for himâ€Â¦but not now. Not in this climate with the focus being on these tests and the insanity that ensues. No thank you, I would rather focus my energy on students and the joys of learning.

* Will eradicating the penalty to school for students who opt out of the CSAP change my mind, not likely, but it will give me and many of my fellow educators some hope that sanity is returning to the system.

Secondly, I would like to tell you the story of my son Reilly. He is 9 years old, a third grader and is in school in the small mountain community of Gold Hill.... Reilly and my wife and I love this school. Reilly has Down Syndrome. The services that are provided, the supports that are in place and the education that he is receiving is, in our well educated opinion, second to none... But I am sorry to report that in the past three weeks we have been profoundly disappointed.

Reilly, against our best judgment, has been taking the CSAP. His routine has been disrupted, his OT sessions canceled, his speech sessions rescheduled, and significant amount of time has been spent trying to make him feel better and proud of himself for not doing what he knows was not a good job on these tests.

He is developmentally delayedâ€Â¦he is not stupid and he knows that he has not done well. Imagine hearing from your child’s teacher when you call to inquire how it went today, that your child had to be prompted to “turn the page” every once in while because he had lost focus on what he was doing. My child does not lose focus when he is doing something that is useful and meaningful, that is what is great about Down Syndrome, he can’t fake it, either it is worth while or it is not and he will let you know.

But we let him take it, we allowed ourselves to be swayed by public opinion by parent and school pressure. We have been used as pawns in a political game of school accountability. No one has learned anything about anything, not him, not you, not us. This is not accountability, this is a mess. Today, because Reilly and his classmates are so exhausted, they are off to see the Frog and the Toad in Arvadaâ€Â¦fun yes, is he learning, yes, I should have taken him to the Frog and the Toad while the others were taking the CSAPâ€Â¦I am convinced he would have gotten more out of the experience.

* Next year, we will opt out, penalty or no penalty, and so would you. I would like to respectfully request that you go ahead and leave my child behind. Don’t worry, I will be standing there to help him.

— educator and parent
Live Journal/Raising Awareness


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