Who's Really Left Behind?
by Cindy, a Virginia teacher and parent
I am a teacher. I have taught for 12 years. I survived my first couple of years with just one standardized test added to the end of year, testing writing. Before I knew it, NCLB was being jammed down our throats, and was always talked about as "a good thing". Testing went from 1 at the end of 5th grade to all subject areas in 3rd and 5th grade, and reading and math in 4th. We also have quarterly testing in all subject areas that some teachers put just as much emphasis as the end of year tests.
I used to teach children in a classroom that had lessons created by the students. One such lesson I remember well was creating a made up country complete with religion, language, customs, traditions, cities, capitol, race, food, etc. The students worked beautifully together and came up with the most amazing ideas.
I also directed my students in plays performed for the entire school. They worked on scenery, costumes, direction, self-esteem, cooperation, timing, patience, self control, and holding their heads high to address their audience, which I believe are many of the necessary adult skills we need in the real world.
Anyway, I don't want to ramble on, but now I teach facts. I teach students how to find quizzes on the internet, encourage them to take these quizzes for extra credit, I teach them information that they are to copy down and study, I teach them to remember facts that have little or no connections to one another. I only teach them the objectives that have been handed to me, because there is no time for anything else.
These facts are abundant in volume, 100's of facts, and I need to make sure ALL my students know ALL these facts because I don't want to leave any children behind. While spewing these facts, I have left teaching behind along with a room full of children. But they'll pass their tests, and when they don't, the tests will change making it impossible for any child to fail. Well, I'm not sure I gave myself enough credit, I'm still creative in my approach, but the students are limited, and that's the sad part.
By the way, I'm also a parent of a child who is LD. Her teachers don't want to leave her behind either. So they pile the work on her (the more work she does, the better chance she'll have of passing the tests). My child was happy, not a care in the world, sweet, kind, funny, beautiful, and not at all a test taker. And now NCLB has forced accademics as the only real value of education or of children's self-worth; it has turned my child into a self-doubter, with low self-esteem, who is worried, fearful, self loathing (at times) and doesn't like school anymore.
She'll be just fine, because I am her mother, but I wonder what kind of a student she would be if she weren't "a duck, being forced to climb a tree and gather nuts for winter." I'm not saying these tests or teachers do this to all children--some adapt quite easily, some thrive on knowing the facts--however, isn't it ironic that the child NCLB advocates for, my child, becomes the child left behind? And all the others not being able to create their own countries, working in a group, coming up with ideas that would amaze you. Our loss, or theirs? I think both.
Cindy, a Virginia teacher and parent
INDEX OF NCLB OUTRAGES