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    BEFORE THE FALL or how I see NCLB impacting me


    From a teacher in an Under Performing CA school:

    1. Before NCLB
    Reading was starting to be funded in CA with some freed funds for the first time in forever, so that material support to buy room reading materials, to match student need for this stuff, to get one to one help, to fund reading teachers for small group instruction, as well as training for teachers in reading ..it was buzzing.
    The term "at their level," early intervention, how does reading happen, ELI Early Literacy Intervention programs....at least in CA was a buzzzzzzzz.

    As a by-product early intervention was talked about, looking to become real and starting to take shape in so many ways even in summer school for K and 1st or programs to start students off on the right foot. And somehow i equated that with feeding the kids a lunch and breakfast something in a 100% free lunch school matters to me.

    (Our District withdrew from these programs entirely with NCLB saying we had no data to support 4 on 1 tutoring teaching summer school as "effective," we had readers and we had artifacts but it wasn't valued so it went).

    We even had cute little packs with crayons, glue and scissors as hello gifts, individualization, Reading Recovery, various localized solutions, and District developed opportunities to focus on this aspect of the learning. It was coming into its own. Let me say this clearly, where I am now if it isn't directly related to, or about an assessment or a test, it's gone. Even when we speak. I had a student very abused , my Principal said, "That's really going to affect her scores." Sure, if they don't beat her to death it will affect the scores, and affect a whole lot more. This dialog...it kills me. We are adults behaving as juveniles.

    So ....Reading Teachers get booted in our District and were replaced by Literacy Coaches who give NO support directly to students, which just amazes me, and they function as the Police to be "sure" you are doing the PROGRAM SCRIPT; most of the time they don't know what the hell they are doing. It's not even clear if this "works," or what it is. Called Mentors, mine don't know a third of what i do when i try not to listen...so it appears they mostly work on teacher compliance. I find it hard to believe it's that much better elsewhere.

    Opps , sorry.

    All the small group reading instruction was torpedoed. I'm a first grade teacher with no reading groups. It's absurd.
    Students are a homogenized, everyone learns Long A today, bunch of chanting monkeys. Thanks...

    What changed:
    Directed Instruction: It has mandated the form by going to the State decision making political forums and successfully mandating this approach into the texts and practices in Reading instruction (and all else) that can be used, at least in CA. Not only this, but especially this wrestled the ART of teaching reading away from the instructor. Hooked onto Phonics and playing the phonics scripted tape, even if you read at the 6th grade level and sit in a 1st grade room. We are doing LONG A today kids. No one is special, you are all robots and I know what you need. Open up that worksheet.

    2. Before NCLB:
    Art , Music, Science, Social Studies could be taught, even in a poor neighborhoods, even to 2nd Language students. In fact it was often the basis for language-rich environment construction with the dual and very specific purpose of project building for increasing experiences with materials, literature, vocabulary and real things to hook students to "meaning making" in the 2nd language. A scaffold to meaning. Children were integrated together to hear natural language, all levels, to meet peers and work together. Instructors used multiple intelligences and modalities to evolve understanding of content. Content was highly prized.But , then, how can I explain, the value of social community and understanding, big ideas, concept was high.

    What Changed:
    Districts are now, if Under-Performing, paying agencies to "audit" them as they must file state plans to "improve." These auditors make money and are consulting through County Offices for big buck returns where their Direct, Explicit, Science-based jargon dictates.

    A District could self-design or seek a wide variety of ways to "fix" scores, but the poor schools get the security net of the BIG BASIC SKILL DRILL through these agents that sell you a report that might even, as Hathaway's did ,have another school's name written all through it 'cause, opps , forgot to cut and paste in your name in our scientific process. We said it was "just for you" and proscribed a scripted day EXACTLY LIKE everyone we go to.............audit for profit.

    Well....there is a surprise.

    Here DISTRICT leadership or lack of the same is the real fault.
    They must stand up and for ONCE CREATE SOMETHING.

    NCLB can be modified and it can be done more dignifying to teachers, unless your DISTRICT is lead by followers.

    Then you are dead in the water.

    So I get to expect for the children and "teach" hour long sessions added into the day on leveled ELD (English Language Development) the most canned and poorly suggested thing I've ever seen at my school even for EO kids....in something called Avenues, which reminds me of a text program written by aliens observing children and school from Mars, "We think this is what they do tolearn English and it looks nice in the book"......or other pieces of DI.... this means time used to either integrate these subjects (art, science, social studies, music, PE) with literature and experiences, lessons, activities or to God help us "teach them" at the best become scripted Direct Instruction chant-a-thons with no student making, experimenting, experiencing, researching, absolutely not in groups, or at worse (my case) there is no art, music , science and what you have is, for those who are poor and in areas of low socio-economic need, yes, that great savior, BASIC SKILL instruction. Lots more of it..a day of it.

    Let's highlight .....say the definition of a term in isolation , now you repeat it.

    Or as Mr. Hollingsworth in all his never taught genius suggested as a way to teach 2nd language learners as very essential big news, "Talk slower and more clearly. . ."
    ....This creates no opportunity for even exposure to the "ideas" of the elite.
    Hey, these kids shouldn't get notions like that, that's liberal and that's a social agenda. They need to be "fixed."

    In short..after NCLB students are effectively prevented from content in meaning-filled contexts, if economically deprived and engaged in the discourse of control their job is to learn their role.

    3. Before NCLB:
    Students were considered at least in the dialogs of our jobs special, unique, with emphasis on their issues of culture, race, this entered into the learning. It could be said that their unique backgrounds, families, perspectives were valued. They could be "heard." You were not a "low scoring" pathology, or blight on the school, nor were the "close the border" sayings and other amazingly xenophobic remarks hurled at kids as truth.

    I've heard more directly insulting remarks about who I teach and how worthless that is to be doing in the last 5 years to make it clear to me that prejudice is alive, well, breeding and multiplying. It's remarkable what I see and hear now. Even in peer teachers who are buying into NCLB truth.

    Now this is disparaged as "special interest" thinking.
    Students are now "punished" for not giving me scores and "right" one-size answers. Management systems are now underscoring who can , who cannot, further shaming enters the picture. Ah, a world based on the model we are all lazy and must be forced to perform. Nice.

    What Changed:
    Teachers who worked on social issues, on caring, on striving to see all as gifted or able, on talents, multiple intelligences, designing in layered ways to create success are either hounded out of business, struggling to defend themselves as rhetorical argument kicks their knees out, or required to read a script doing none of the above.

    Then they have to deal with all the fall-out of increasing parental belief they truly are worthless. Teachers are forced into systems that shame, compare, create winners/losers and the parents feel great alienation from the instructor. There is no team. There is the all knowing teacher paper god and everyone must bow....Students that do well, no matter what school, in what neighborhood, feel really great, superior in fact, everyone else now knows dis-empowerment. Failure. Scores on the walls, please.

    Now, a culture of fear is in place. Or at least the structure. This is so yesterday, so limiting, so about the past and not about building future. This is a system built on greed and opportunistic shove. Good grief, can it be necessary to repeat all the mistakes of our past.

    Questioning, thinking, inquiry is discouraged.
    If you go around on the WEB on some blogs its made into an insult fest joke to imply a student might do well with it. With the opportunity to seek happiness, to become a critical thinker, to make a decision. Further, as James Herndon once wrote so well, what really happens is no matter what school, this structure of winners and losers is accepted as a system wide praxis in America. That suits a kind of corporate commerce well. It creates acceptance of wealth, power, ruthlessness, or a competitive world. NCLB was a short track to reinstating something I knew young, I called it then going to "Darwin school." A time when having the "poor" was a necessary vehicle for the engine of the economy. Nice.... I think that might be unfair to Darwin but the point is understood. It's really Skinner school.

    A few sad and very pathetic people who had a very hard few years like Anita Archer Queen Bee of Directed Instruction could pull out of trying their tricks on somewhere like Singapore and surge back into the dollars again here at home. Here we are funding a sorry bunch to "Save the Schools" in poor areas for really lusty fees, without attending to any societal issue that built them into existence, amazing. And these consulting beings had time to aggressively build their data sets. It's all in the data. Must use that.

    5. Before NCLB:
    Teachers were able to select a piece of literature to support their children's learning and they built thematic, cross curricular units using their training.

    What Changed:
    Do as we say.....you are not given permission to design, you might "do your own thing."
    just as we see Survivor on the airwaves--the culture is now very OK with doing mean things to even their Motherly old white-haired teachers. "Kick them in the pants" I really heard a Fed. Rep. say, "light them on fire," regarding forcing a script on a teacher. They must. "It's time," he said.

    Sure...sounds like the Cultural Revolution to me, but if we aren't allowed to teach it, I suppose students won't realize that there are plenty of times historically when shutting a teacher up served someone in ways with very broad and very certain political ideas. At some point I don't understand why teachers tolerate this perception and rudeness.

    In this case, in the case of NCLB going into areas of poverty talking big about the achievement gap.......... teachers , creativity, social justice all must be silenced.Even proof it's failing hits the trash. And that should count.

    One wonders why, of course, to promote the corporatization of schools.

    Just today looking through Education Leadership, a journal,I counted 24 ads with children holding up signs or in the picture to promote money making school consulting people/figures who "consult" on "scores" and raising them for a big fee.

    They want to be the next multi-millionaire.
    They surely aren't donating their work for the greater good of America or working on a parson's or a teacher's salary. So they have a lot to say, money affords them a voice, we listen to money, we respect that. They are making their play. I can't understand Superintendents and Ed Leaders seeing this in their journal and not finding it sick. Eating America's young. Advertising away their students rights in public ed...far more worrisome than a Coke ad....anyway you see we all are accepting after NCLB that now we can and we should make our money going global in the schools "market". Eat the young, there is money to be had. And we can call it the "greater good." What?

    6. Before NCLB:
    Classroom had artifacts, models, stuff , decoration, literature, books, displays, messy learning...paste , markers, play dough, kitchen sets, blocks, sand tables....

    What Changed:

    Put up a focus wall , post a Standard , call them "Kid Friendly" put a white board in every hand and chant all day. Art is dead. Thought is dead. Making is certainly dead IF you are too poor to move to where it's still "allowed." NCLB has destroyed school culture, arts and practically childhood for many students.

    7. Before NCLB:
    Most children regarded school as friendly, happy, a place to grow.

    What Changed:
    NCLB is about school as a place to be controlled, tested, used, turned into a commodity. Fear rules. Maybe you think I overstate. My own children just spent 14 hours studying this weekend for the Monday exams. As all year. I see at least 5 hours of this a night, I suggested two days in Monterey with us missing a day, they cried in terror over what the school would do to them. Sure that's a happy relationship to learning. Umm. Read Nell Noddings.

    8. Before NCLB:
    You had PE. Or at least maybe you had PE.

    What Changed:
    Someone ought to give Kennedy some basic news: due to NCLB and the lovely the scripts there is no PE going on really, as there is no time to do it. So, umm, how's that working for you, Ted? Oh yeah, you already have your truth, nothing in my room dents your beliefs. What a political sell-out ...

    He might, prior to a renewal, spend some time in the classrooms where scripts rule, enough time to walk in the shoes of a poor student, the ones where fun outside games, uncompetitive and charming integrating activity, with math, science and other concepts are gone...gee, thanks for listening, Ted.

    9. Before NCLB:
    Your teacher was not ever told to do something as a "mandate" and treated to an alarming amount of brute behaviors. They might have even been asked for their views and supported as leaders. Sure we changed approaches and styles but we were allowed to do this with polite, kind and often reasonable behaviors.

    10. BEFORE NCLB:
    Technology was reaching the poor.

    What Changed:
    I'm in a fully "wired" place where all the kids do is one workbook in a can
    Called CCC(Successmaker).
    It's to get "data," so....no blogging, no 2.0 Web, no access to on-line wiki's and other amazing things.

    In effect, due to poverty, they can't get it at home and they aren't allowed it at school.
    BASIC SKILL DRILL is the only "scientific" thing they are allowed.

    How can they be a part of the future. Answer me that?????

    11. BEFORE NCLB:
    Teacher morale and cooperation, trust and spirit was higher.

    What changed:
    Well among soooooo much, when the Secretary of Education calls your union a group using "terrorist tactics" after 9-11 pretty much everything was a snowball ride into hell.
    Teachers are not valued (as they are in countries whose education the Bush claims he regards highly, which seems ridiculously insincere). Teachers here are publicly and formally hounded..I think mostly to get higher salaried older teachers out to be replaced and turned over cheaply (save the money) and to stop effective criticism from teachers who have developed voices and passions about their work and sophistications, but whatever ...the result is horrible teacher stress and the denigration of their leadership and frankly, we need this positive, helpful, daily leadership to get over the next years. Teachers are entrusted with our children; they need to be happy and the children certainly need to be. All I can say is read Nell Noddings.

    Well there is a whole lot more, but these were on my mind.

    2007-01-23 11:59:35


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