Friday, March 16, 2007

Burdensome and Demoralizing

AFT president Edward McElroy was one of those who testified at the senate hearings on NCLB held Tuesday. AFT has been rather supportive of NCLB, so some of the language in his testimony surprised me:
It’s demoralizing for students, parents, teachers and communities when they know that their schools are making solid academic progress, yet still see them listed in the local paper as “not making the grade.”

At one recent town hall meeting on NCLB convened by the AFT, the comments of a fourth-grade teacher from Boston reflected this demoralization: “The entire reputation of our school hangs on one test,” she said. “It’s not about balanced curriculum, enrichment or learning anymore. It’s all about avoiding that ‘failing school’ label.”
Educators also tell us they are required to administer test upon test upon test, including school, district and state tests. This layering of tests leads to an excessive amount of what should be instructional time being diverted instead to testing and drill-and-kill preparation, which results in a narrowing of the curriculum to only those subjects being tested. Students should have science, social studies, the arts, history—and recess.
Let me be clear: NCLB in its current form is burdensome and demoralizing to teachers, and yet they continue to teach and continue to adhere to requirements that allow them to teach because they have chosen the teaching of children as a career. But it is unacceptable to ask them to meet yet another unproven federal requirement.

Teachers want to be effective. And schools must be places where teachers feel they can be effective. We ask too many teachers to teach and students to learn in conditions that frankly are shameful—in dilapidated school buildings, without the basic materials they need, and in unsafe conditions that are hardly conducive to teaching and learning.
You can read the entire statement here (pdf).


Peter said...

This is good to hear, but seems in keeping with other rumblings I've been hearing. There seems to be less tolerance for NCLB, perhaps rooted in the general social dissatisfaction with most aspects of Bush's leadership in national and international policies.

William said...
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bill teale said...

It also goes along with the poll findings that in general schools in America are in the toilet except the schools in my neighborhood/that my kids attend are doing just fine.

AFT was pretty supportive of this general policy until it hit home in someone's (in this case McElroy's) backyard. When it becomes personal is when you see it for what it is. Otherwise, it's just what is going on out there, and highly qualified/meeting high standards--who can argue with that?

Don Zancanella said...

The area that concerns me the most in the reauthorization process (which some say is on a fast track right now and others say won't happen until 2009) is the way the highly qualified teacher issue is being reframed by certain reports and groups as "highly effective teachers." I think there's room for some unpredicable outcomes as well as some "we'll work out the details later" legislation.