What did #NCLB really mean? #education

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I’m a fan of the “mini-series”– covering a topic over a series of blog posts for a short period of time. Every Monday in the month of February I’ll blog about a topic related to #education (at least tangentially).

As a school-based speech pathologist, I rely on evaluation instruments including formal assessments to guide my work. Tests give me the ability to compare a student’s speech and language skills to their same-age peers. It provides me with critical data that determines whether or not a student qualifies for school-based speech therapy and if a student does qualify, I write the student’s IEP (individual education plan) goals and treatment plan for each child based upon what the assessment revealed. There is a time for testing and a time for instruction.

Sometimes when I enter a classroom to see or remove a student for speech, I often find the student taking a test. Usually it’s not a run-of-the-mill weekly spelling test or some kind of curriculum-based test. Most of the time I find that students are taking some kind of standardized test. There are the district-wide reading and math tests (I’m not going to list them because I’m not sure I’m allowed to) and, god forbid, the student is a second language learner because then they have to take additional tests. If you think it’s just the kids in 3rd grade and above who take the statewide assessments, think again. I see kindergarten and first graders taking lots of tests, too. Some parts of the tests can take one hour to administer to students. When a teacher has 30+ first graders in one classroom, then we’re talking weeks and weeks of missed instruction while the teacher takes each student aside to test him/her.

2002: No Child Left Behind is signed into law

When I read that No Child Left Behind is basically being scrapped in several states, I rejoiced. But what did No Child Left Behind really do? Why did we put students and teachers through all that? I applaud efforts to make education better and testing needs to be a part of what happens in the classroom. We need to be data-driven. However, we have gone beyond logic with the increase in student testing that I see at work.

What I would like to see is a measure of student engagement. I believe that when a student is engaged in the material, they are able to connect with what they are learning in a bigger, meaningful way. Many teachers are successful at getting students to respond to classwork. One of my colleagues who is fantastic at creating dialogue and engagement with her classroom is just a few doors down from me at one of my schools. She has been teaching for probably close to 20 years and is incredibly skillful in the classroom. What makes her a great teacher is that she understands the age group, she is incredibly organized and focused on the curriculum, and the students know she cares deeply about each and every one of them. She is the kind of person who was meant to teach for a living. In fact, most of the teachers that I know are talented and dynamic educators — I like to associate with people I admire and can learn from. I have found that even the “best” school has a couple “bad” teachers and even the “worst” school has some amazing teachers. The ones who are making a difference in the lives of young people are the ones who are able to engage the students in the work — and that’s how we boost student achievement.

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5 Responses to What did #NCLB really mean? #education

  1. Katie February 13, 2012 at 10:32 pm #

    We did get RTI out of it. That’s a MAJOR step in the right direction for education. I love that in RTI, we test the kids at least 3 times a year and evaluate whether it’s the students who are failing or the core curriculum. It’s great that we use RTI in Illinois to decide eligibility for learning disabilities now as well. We aren’t waiting for kids to fail anymore. We’re catching small problems early and can work hard to fix them before they turn into big problems. RTI also holds teachers accountable. We’re testing them several times during the same year the students have the teachers. We can’t just teach what we want to teach any more. We have to teach so that our students succeed and achieve the goals for the years. It’s also great that we have college readiness goals to work toward as well. Because of NCLB, as terrible as it might have been, we’re not working in the right direction to fix education. Everything has a purpose now and a set of goals that it all leads up to.

    • Katie February 13, 2012 at 10:34 pm #

      *now working in the right direction

    • Mrs Q February 14, 2012 at 10:44 pm #

      I think RTI is great, too. Thanks for the reminder! Duh, me! :)

  2. Stacy February 15, 2012 at 6:27 am #

    Good Morning! I have not written on your blog in quite some time… But I still read it every day and enjoy the articles you have been posting.

    This morning I found this on foxnews.com:

    http://www.foxnews.com/us/2012/02/14/preschoolers-homemade-lunch-replaced-with-nuggets/

    A preschooler’s lunch was thought to be unhealthy and “did not meet U.S. Department of Agriculture guidelines”. It was replaced with the standard school lunch of chicken nuggets. The mother was charged for the new lunch. If this happened to my child, I would throw a fit. The childs turkey and cheese sandwich, banana, apple juice and chips (a classic american lunch) was replaced with chicken nuggest. To be honest, I would rather have the homemade packed lunch. How are chicken nuggets better than a turkey sandwich? Further more, its the parents right to pack a lunch and decide what is allowable for their child. Are chips the best option? Maybe not, but breaded chicken is not either.

  3. Amanda Clements February 15, 2012 at 7:44 pm #

    Thank you for this. I am a first year 1st grade teacher and couldn’t believe the testing. I’m pretty effective when it comes to administering tests, but it is still so much time and pressure on the student. I have had students crying because they don’t understand the format of standardized tests. I can’t understand why we are still testing when the research is out there that it doesn’t fully work.

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