One of the problems of teaching to No Child Left Behind standards is the risk of teachers becoming nothing more than their students’ test scores.
Via Eduwonk.com I found one such teacher’s story:
I teach in an inner city school where inequity is apparent. The neighborhood has a high poverty level. Violence and poor housing conditions tuck my students in at night!
Underemployment, unemployment, lack of health insurance is the norm. It has only been of late that a “real” grocery store was available for residents to purchase fresh foods.
We are locked into teaching reading practices that are driven by federal governmentís bad research. I witness a lack of all that made school a joy for my students. Literally the things that helped to build community and self-respect and self-esteem for children have disappeared. In their place is rigid schedules and long periods of disjointed phonics, and disjointed language practices.
One of the reasons many teachers are not fans of NCLB is that it’s a one-size-fits-all solution. That “one-size” is often, as this teacher comments, “disjointed.”
This teacher writes of her students’ lack of satisfactory achievement according to the NCLB-mandated state testing.
My Unsatisfactory “grade” was followed by the comment:”This teacherís students made minimal growth in her classroom this year.”
Most of my children are reading on or above grade level. The amount of “progress/growth” made this year by most of my children was no where near minimal.
I asked my principal if she believed that statement that appeared on my evaluation. She said “Yes, I do, based on your DIBELS scores!”
Her statement hurt me because I know the amount of work I did this year with my precious students. The amount of growth the children had in all areas was in no way “minimal.” I mentioned that the reading levels of some of my first-graders were equal to the end of second grade. She said the district didnít recognize non-standardized test scores. (susanohanian.org)
Having worked with at-risk kids, I can understand (to a degree) what this teacher is going through.
Such “teaching” turns both students and teachers into little more than cogs in some great bureaucratic machinery. No one is working toward “learning” in any real sense here, and as far as teaching critical thinking, it’s probably non-existent.
Very often, kids coming from such backgrounds need so much more than simple reading and writing instruction. They step into school with huge disadvantages to begin with, and to some degree, reading and writing alone will not help them. They need work with social skills and an understanding of the social framework that exists outside the inner city.
This is not to say that I am advocating a sixties-style “go where the students take us” type of teaching, and I am not suggesting that all standards are a bad thing. However, NCLB’s cookie-cutter approach seems to do little for many students and teachers.