Wednesday, December 12, 2007

No Child Left Behind Reauthorization Bill

I received two communications about the "No Child Left Behind Reauthorization" which was supposed to happen in 2007 and now has been put off until 2008. This is something which should be of interest to everyone parent, grandparent, and single. How are children are educated reflects on the future of our economy and our political future. How many times have you called someone about a problem and when you finally got a human on the phone, that person was unable to give you any other answer than that which was printed on the sheet in front of him/her. They might have been in a call center in India but even if they were here in the USA students are not being taught to think outside the box. This is the result of standardized testing where teachers spend all their time teaching to the test and not exploring the thoughts of students. Some teachers jobs depend on the students performance on these tests. Schools in New York City are being closed and reorganized because of the "poor" performance of the students.
Science is not one of the subjects being tested and the American Chemical Society's position is that if you can't fight them, join them and want science to be one of the "optional" subjects to be tested. As a chemist I do not agree with this as I would like to do away with the tests and find other ways to "test" student knowledge of a subject. These other methods do exist as I learned them when I took some courses with WestEd in Teacher Leadership, but it involves training the teachers to be able to do this. It is simpler for a teacher to teach by rote to the standardize test.
But enough of my soap box I will copy below the e-mail I received from the Rev Jan Resseger the UnitedChurch of Christ minister whose sole job is to study Public Education in this country. She is the only minister of any denomination to have this job and as such sits on some important education commissions.
On December 5, author Jonathan Kozol finally was able to meet with Senator Ted Kennedy about the reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind Act.
Kozol has made the overwhelming injustices in the federal education law a primary subject in presentations during a recent national promotion tour for his new book, Letters to a Young Teacher.
He has also spent the summer and fall engaged in a partial fast to protest Senator Kennedy's unwillingness to meet about the No Child Left Behind Act.
Here is a link to Kozol's report about his December 5 meeting with Senator Kennedy: .
As you know, the law will not be reauthorized in 2007, as scheduled. Jonathan Kozol's fast was a powerful witness to bring attention to the injustices not just in the law's mechanisms but also in its educational philosophy of test-and-punish, a strategy that has increased pressure to intolerable levels for many teachers and children, and that has increased so many unfunded demands for the most vulnerable schools that there is less funding remaining for instruction.
As we enter 2008, it will be up to all of us who care about public education to reflect on ways we too can witness to keep the focus on the need for reform in the No Child Left Behind Act, even during this presidential election year when politics might push the reauthorization even farther into the future.
Wishing you peace in this Advent season.

Jan Resseger, Minister for Public Education and Witness
United Church of Christ Justice and Witness Ministries
700 Prospect Avenue, Cleveland, OH 44115-1100

Not to get political but I also received a letter from Senator Lautenberg in reply to my "form" letter that I sent to him advocating the American Chemical Society's position along with my own. --------------

Dear Ms. Brown :

Thank you for contacting me about the reauthorization of the "No Child Left Behind Act" (NCLB). I appreciate hearing from you on this important issue.

The "No Child Left Behind Act" was enacted in 2002 to increase accountability and raise educational standards in our public schools. While I support the principles upon which NCLB is based, I have concerns about the way this law has been put into practice.

First, I am concerned about the emphasis on standardized testing. The law requires annual math and reading tests in grades three through eight, and once in high school. Schools that miss the set benchmarks face increasingly tough consequences, such as loss of funding or having to replace teachers or principles. While useful in some cases, standardized testing can measure only a small sample of what is learned in school. We should not rely solely on a single test to reflect the achievement of a student or the realities of their school district. I support changes to No Child Left Behind that would grant states flexibility in measuring schools' progress.

I also support implementing a "growth" model when assessing schools. Under this method, changes in test scores are measured over time to determine if students are making strides in their learning. Thus, schools will get credit for student progress. This model is particularly useful when measuring the achievements of schools in poorer districts, which face a more difficult set of circumstances than schools in more affluent areas.

Finally, I believe the reauthorization should place a high priority on a wider number of academic subjects. As it stands, many schools have begun to neglect subjects like science, social studies, and the arts in favor of increased instruction on reading and math - both of which are assessed by standardized tests. While reading and math are important subjects to learn, they should not be taught to the exclusion of other important fields of study. It is imperative that students receive a well-rounded education that will prepare them for a wide variety of professions.

Congress is set to reauthorize the No Child Left Behind law within the next year. Please be assured that I am closely monitoring the progress of this legislation, and will keep your views in mind as this issue comes before the Senate.

Thank you again for writing.
This letter appears to be a personal note maybe I am wrong, but we have met because he is also involved with the Amtrak appropriation but that is another soap box.

Happy Holidays

1 comment:

Jeannette Brown said...

I noticed your recent posting on the North Jersey ACS Blog, and appreciate your efforts to update people on the reauthorization of No Child Left Behind (NCLB). I would like to make you aware that ACS continues to work tirelessly to include science as part of the AYP in NCLB, and does not promote science as an “optional” subject as stated in your blog. I would be most grateful if you could update your blog to ensure that it accurately represents ACS’ efforts in the reauthorization of NCLB.

Many thanks Jeannette and I hope you enjoy a wonderful weekend!

Mary Kirchhoff
ACS Education Division