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The Damage Done


The remaining supporters of NCLB-type accountability still seem to sincerely believe that the law has encouraged "best practices" in the classroom. An increasing body of research shows that NCLB has damaged the quality of classroom instruction, and that so-called "research based" practices are just the latest incarnation of the "policy churn" that damages children, as well as teachers. The Center on Education Policy demonstrating its typical balance, shows that six representative schools in Rhode Island have increased their focus on data and the achievement gap. The study further explains, however, why schools with higher numbers of English language learners and poor children were more pressured and responded with more destructive methods.

The three elementary and three secondary schools focused more attention on the "bubble kids," narrowed the curriculum, imposed excessive test prep, and reduced instructional time in order to increase testing. Younger students lost socialization opportunities through reduced play time and field trips were cut. "Teachers at all school levels expressed concern over the loss of depth and richness in the curriculum," and parents also complained that the quickened pace of instruction resulted in "lower levels of understanding, rather than teaching to mastery." Administrators acknowledged the negative effects of excessive testing on teacher morale and the development of the whole child.

Innovative educators reported feeling like "square pegs in a round hole." And in one school, teacher turnover has increased to 40% per year, and resulted in increased use of long-term substitutes. Because of all of the subs, explained an administrator, "I have one group that didn’t get math last year; I have another that didn’t get math the year before."

My nominee for the worst idea to grow out of NCLB-type accountability is "curriculum pacing." If it's Tuesday, then everyone must cover the same page on the Renaissance; Wednesday everyone covers the Reformation; and so on. Pressured to follow pacing guides, teachers reduced their interactions with students, used more "closed questions" with one "right" answer, rushing through the content, not teaching for mastery. I will further address the absurdity of curriculum pacing guides in a subsequent post. - John Thompson


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As a future educator and student myself, I have come across many issues with NCLB. I am NOT a supporter of the NCLB Act implemented by President Bush. I agree with the above statement that says that teachers have expressed concern on the richness of education. As talked about in my Education in Democratic Society class, teachers employ the method of "Teaching to the Test" to ensure that school funding stays in tact.

I remember going through High School and being taught towards a test. I have always struggled in Math and it became clear to my teachers that I would likely not do well in the up-coming Standardized Test and the ACT's. But because of the slow pace that we were moving, teachers had to continually move forward and not go back for 3-5 students. We all fell victim to being left backstage in the wings while classmates excelled on stage and received a standing ovation.

From an educator's point of view, I can see why it is a hassle. I never realized how many long term substitutes there were within school systems. This arises a problem for me. Students are NOT getting the education they deserve. NCLB is a disgrace to the educational family. It's like a pesticide that feeds off of our crops and kills the offspring that was produced...

Since this study was completed, new "Jeanneau" superintendent "Matt Cassel's" administrators have been putting a full court press on "Vare High School" to drop its "atypical, nontraditional curriculum" as part of an overall drive to align district curriculum. Given the overall weak position of the school due primarily to the aformentioned turnover and other structural problems (e.g., missed dropout targets due in part to 5 year graduates and transfers who never show up at the school), it looks like "Vare" is well on its way to regressing to the mean, notwithstanding a remaining core of excellent, if dispirited, teachers.

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