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NCLB Outrages

When Childhood Collides with NCLB

by Susan Ohanian

From Part 3: Spring

Children emerge
From winter̢۪s icy grip
As trusting
As tulips,
Each bringing
A handful of spring.
Never looking back, today
Is their permanent address.

Today, olly olly oxen free
Is an elegy.
These children aren̢۪t safe
To come home free.
Olly olly oxen free:
Lament for a dead childhood.

In our data-obedient school,
Tulips must bloom as they are told.
In neat, tidy, compliant rows.

Hello Tom, hello Andy, hello Archibald Violet, and Clarissa Bluebell.
We mourn as the petals fall.
If a plant cannot live according to its nature,
It dies;
And so, too, our posy children.

Rosemary for remembrance.
For those old classrooms
Brimming with books, blocks, bottle caps, bones,
Cameras, caterpillars, Clorox bottle guitars,
Elmer̢۪s Glue, geo-blocks, gerbils, glitter,
Ice cubes,
Lumber for bridge-building,
Pattern blocks, paints, mystery powders, pendulums,
And curiosity.
And yes, laughter, too.

Like fresh ripe California apricots,
Eight-year-olds have
A short peak season and then opportunity is gone.
Freshness drilled away
Until only cold, clinical numbers
For a Standardisto bank.

Blame rules.
Blame Academics, Bear Market, Capitalism, Distar, Eubonics, Federalism, Global Economy, Helicoptery , Interruptus, Jujubes, Kill-for-Oilitry, Laziness, Momocracy, Neighborhoods, Oligarchies, Power Point, Quid pro guo, Red Dye Number 2, Standardistos, Twinkies, Unions, Video Games, Whole Language, Xanadu, Youth Culture, Zealotry
Blame your bad ovary, your evil sperm
People always blame the girl; she should have said no.
As if assigning blame settled matters.

But whomever you blame, remember this:
This child at four, knew grebes,
Grosbeaks, finches, buffleheads
And coots̢۪ velvet necks, white beaks.
At five,
Only DIBELS speed will count.

Phoneme segmentation fluency,
Hallowed be thy name.
Happiness no longer
In anybody's lesson plan.
Nor knowledge.
Data is all.

Look up the synonym for data
And you get "poop sheet."
Shakespeare said
The poop was beaten gold.
Send Education Trust the recipe.

The Business Roundtable
Education Trust, Bill Gates,
And New York Times editorial agree:
If you can̢۪t count it,
It doesn̢۪t count.

Where's the measurement device
For CEOs, politicos, media pundits,
Parents, neighbors, mothers-in-law?

What counts for
Actuaries, admen, airline attendants, archeologists, astrologers, auto mechanics,
Bakers, bankers, baccarat dealers, Bingo callers, boatswains
Candlestick makers, cardiologists, cartographers, chimney sweeps, clergymen,
Data miners, dentists, die cutters, door hangers, drafters, drapers, drummers,
Economists, editorialists, electricians, embroiderers, escorts, euphemists,
Farmers, fingerprint technologists, firemen, flagpole sitters, florists, forklift operators,
Gardeners, gazebo builders, glass blowers, graphic designers, grocery baggers
Handwriting experts, handicappers, home health aides, hotel clerks, hypnotists,
Ice cream makers, insulators, insurance agents, interior decorators
Jacks-of-all-trades, janitors, jewelers, journalists, judo instructors,
Kennel operators, keno runners, kitchen remodelers, knife sharpeners,
Labor organizers, lab technicians, landscapers, lawyers, legal secretaries, loggers,
Machinists, magicians, manicurists, milliners, ministers, morticians, musicians,
Naturopaths, necromancers, nuclear engineers, nursing home owners, nutritionists
Occupational therapists, oceanographers, oil tycoons, optometric technicians, orderlies,
Pest controllers, pharmacists, pianists, plumbers
pole climbing instructors, psychiatrists, puppeteers,
Quarry miners, quick draw artists, quilters, quiz show hosts,
Radiologists, realtors, recruiters, riggers, roofers, rubber stampers, rubbish removers,
Security guards, software engineers, sportscasters, statisticians, stockbrokers, surgeons,
Tattooers, taxi drivers, taxi dancers, taxidermists, telemarketers, tree surgeons, tutors,
Umpires, upholsterers, urban planners, urologists, used car dealers,
Ventriloquist, veterinarians, videographers, violinists, vivisectionists,
Wedding planners, wait staff, welders, Windows Explorer technicians, window washers
X-Ray technicians, xylophonists
Yacht builders, yeomen, yoga instructors, yurt builders, yes-men,
Zeppelin inspectors, zitherists, zookeepers, and Zoroastrians?

We only test the young.
Test ‘em until they move on
To the real world
Or are broken by the Standardisto hammer
Standards are the hammer the corporate-politico-media cartel uses
To crush children
Into submission,
Trumpeting with each blow
They've hit the nail on the head.

Media pundits call it cultural transformation;
Teachers call it the destruction of a generation.
It is not the business of eight-year-olds to search for scatological humor in their kill drill.
In days bygone, before Standardization
Usurped childhood,
Charles read Edward Gorey's Rumpelstiltskin
Sixteen days in a row.
Because he needed to.
Missing from State standards
And judged useless in the flat earth imperative
Of the Global Economy,
Rumpelstiltskin offered something essential
To one special boy.

In June, when writing
About his best book of the year,
Charles, mainstreamed from special ed,
Wrote nine pages.
He began,
"The Ugly Duckling show us
It's okay to be different."
Take note.
Differences exist.
More than that,
Differences matter.

U. S. Department of Education
Press Release, June 14, 2005
Margaret Spellings,
U. S. Secretary of Education
"Data is our best management tool. I often say that what gets measured gets done. . . . Teachers can adjust lesson plans. Administrators can evaluate curricula. Data can inform decision-making. Thanks to No Child Left Behind, we're no longer flying blind."

April 28, 2007
Question: Your anecdotes. . . .
Answer: "I'd like to call these data."
—David Berliner, co-author Collateral Damage: How High-Stakes Testing Corrupts America's Schools


Education: Class Dismissed
Psychology Today
May/June 2006
Hara Estroff Marano
Play--it's by definition absorbing. The outcome is always uncertain. Play makes children nimble--neurobiologically, mentally, behaviorally--capable of adapting to a rapidly evolving world. That makes it just about the best preparation for life in the 21st century. Psychologists believe that play cajoles people toward their human potential because it preserves all the possibilities nervous systems tend to otherwise prune away. It's no accident that all of the predicaments of play--the challenges, the dares, the races and chases--model the struggle for survival. Think of play as the future with sneakers on.


Stumbling on Happiness
Daniel Gilbert
Toddlers squeal with delight when they knock over a stack of blocks, push a ball, or squash a cupcake on their foreheads. Why? Because they did it, that̢۪s why. The room is different because I was in it.

The fact is that human beings come into the world with a passion for control, they go out of the world the same way, and research suggests that if they lose their ability to control things at any point between their entrance and their exit, they become unhappy, helpless, hopeless, and depressed. . . .


The Privilege of Teaching
Dora Chaplin, Associate Professor of Pastoral Theology, General Theological Seminary, NYC
Our Lord said, "Feed my sheep"; he did not say, "Count them."


Dr. Kinsey and the Institute for Sex Research
Wardell B Pomeroy
If this project had been undertaken in Europe or Asia, it might never have attracted any attention or even succeeded, but in America we like to count things.


One Minute of Nonsense
The Pulse: Education̢۪s Place for Debate
August 2, 2007
Ken Goodman
DIBELS is a set of silly little tests. It is so bad in so many ways that it could not pass review for adoption in any state or district without political coercion. Little can be learned about something as complicated as reading development in one-minute tests.


Petition to End NCLB
signer #20,335
Death to DIBELS.


Raising Your Child to Be a Mensch
Neil Kurshan
The beginnings of altruism can be seen in children as early as the age of two. How then can we be so concerned that they count by the age of three, read by four, and walk with their hands across the overhead parallel bars by five, and not be concerned that they act with kindness to others?


Petition to End NCLB
signer #17,788
NCLB breaks children's hearts.


Petition to End NCLB
signer #15,462
I would be willing to give up part of my salary to help cover the Federal money lost if our district told the Federal Government we are not going to comply with the onerous NCLB standards.


On White Preferences
The Nation, April 14, 2003
Jay Rosner
On the October 1998 SAT. . . every single one of the 138 questions (sixty math and seventy-eight verbal) favored whites over blacks. . . .Each individual SAT question ETS chooses is required to parallel the outcomes of the test overall. So, if high-scoring test-takers—who are more likely to be white—tend to answer the question correctly in pretesting, it’s a worthy SAT question; if not, it’s thrown out. . . .


No Child Left Behind as an Anti-Poverty Measure
Teacher Education Quarterly
Spring 2007
Jean Anyon & Kiersten Greene
For more education to lead to better jobs, there have to be jobs available. However, there are not now, nor have there been for more than two decades, nearly enough jobs for those who need them. Labor economist Gordon Lafer demonstrated that over the period of 1984 to 1996—at the height of an alleged labor shortage—the number of people in need of work exceeded the total number of job openings by an average of five to one.


Mad As Hell
Patrick Shannon
American competitiveness in international markets does not suffer from an unprepared work force. Rather it suffers from corporations that put their own immediate profitability over the welfare of the nation and its citizens. . . .In fact, employers desire most punctuality, sobriety, and compliance in their employees and value least knowledge of mathematics, natural science, and foreign languages. Companies are not clamoring for high academic standards, nor are they eager to pay high wages to anyone but executives.


Define Mitosis, Maggot! The Case for Educational Bootcamp
Washington Post, June 17, 2003
Jay Mathews
It was a very cold and wet eight weeks of basic training, that long-ago autumn at Fort Lewis, Wash. The mud on the obstacle course was loathsome. The other recruits were younger and stronger than I was. Getting up at 5:30 a.m. was hard, and keeping my equipment clean and orderly was torture. But after a while I saw the sense of it. In fact, I grew to love the scatological humor of our big-city drill sergeant and admire my company commander, who had so many wounds from Vietnam.

It was a cultural transformation, much like the one that American public schools are attempting as the No Child Left Behind law seeks to bring scholastic rigor to children who have not been asked to do much in school.


Sacramento Bee. April 4,2000
Boy Rayborn, Harcourt Educational Measurement
I've seen where kids have thrown up on the test. Kids do get sick at school. In those instances, teachers might have thrown the test away. The appropriate way to deal with that would be to put [the test] in a plastic bag. And send it back to Harcourt.


Testing from Cradle to Grave
Waco Tribune-Herald, Aug. 30, 2007
John Young
We see that those who talk the talk of "less government" and "local control school" inevitably walk the walk of top-down control and corporate-style directives from afar.

What is with these people? Why do they trust government so? . . . Somehow we have decided to hand more and more power to far-off educrats and executive-branch power mavens. In the process we've taken something--teaching--that ought to be personalized and creative and made it into something mass-produced, programmed and copyrighted.


Fourth Grader Suspended For
Not Answering A WASL

KOMO-TV Seattle, May 12, 2005
Keith Eldridge
ABERDEEN - A fourth grader has been suspended for a week because he refused to answer a question on the statewide test known as the WASL. . . .

Tyler Stoken, 9 years old, says, "I couldn't think of what to write the essay without making fun of the principal."

Tyler was given a 5-day suspension. In the letter that went home to his mother, the principal writes, "The fact that Tyler chose to simply refuse tow ork on the WASL, after many reasonable requests in none other than blatant defiance and insubordination."


Notable Quote
McGraw-Hill's tests
Poison the nation.
They're the Halliburton
Of Education.
--Stephen Krashen

When Childhood Collides with NCLB, Vermont Society for the Study of Education
Susan Ohanian
Box 26
Charlotte, VT 05445

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Vermont Society for the Study of Education


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