Based on evidence collected from two years of classroom experience around the nation, FairTest documented a series of basic flaws in NCLB, such as:
- The law falsely assumes that boosting test scores should be the primary goal of schools, an approach that has not improved education when implemented by individual states;
- Widespread school “failure” is an inevitable outcome of NCLB’s one-size-fits-all design because of rigid “adequate yearly progress” provisions, which set unrealistic goals for academic gains, punish diversity, and ignore measurement error;
- NCLB’s school transfer policy undermines ongoing reform programs and disrupts the lives of students and teachers. Heavier sanctions required for schools that do not boost test scores have previously been shown to be counter-productive;
- The requirement that limited English proficient students score “proficient” on English exams is self-contradictory, as is the provision that most children with special needs demonstrate competency in the same manner as other students;
- Education is being damaged as students are coached to pass tests rather than taught a rich curriculum that will help prepare them for life in the 21st Century.
Being a classroom teacher who was fortunate enough to begin teaching four years before NCLB became law, I experienced teaching before the law was enacted.
Pre-NCLB there was much more freedom to develop lessons to meet the needs of all students, now cookie-cutter lesson plans are demanded that scientifically researched results. Pre-NCLB teaching was FUN thus learning was fun because specific ways to teach were not mandated to meet pre-determined test scores, Post-NCLB fidelity to the curriculum has trumped meeting the needs of students because students must be taught exactly what the tests required by NCLB assess.
It has pained me to use a set curriculum with pre-determined weekly tests. Previously all I ever needed to teach were exceptional fiction and nonfiction books, writing and drawing materials, and I only used worksheets for developing math drills. Every classroom or group of students I taught made extensive literacy and math gains and I never second-guessed my classroom practice because my students made significant gain in my classroom.
My students have continued to make significant gains since NCLB became law yet I have been constantly at odds with the administration at our school, which is still on probation. My admin have felt they need to emphasis fidelity to the scientifically researched curriculum prescribed at the district level as a result of NCLB law. In addition, there are specific criteria laid out by the NCLB for schools on probation and administrators must ‘follow the letter of the law’ determined by testing, which seems more important than actually teaching.
Of course this is all my opinion, yet teachers where I have taught the last four years all feel the same way. Moral is incredibly low as we near the spring season of high stakes standardized testing: fear of not measuring up to the impossible Annual Yearly Progress (AYP) of NCLB looms over all of us. Failure for our school could mean closure and if our school is closed we all loose our jobs – EVEN THOUGH OUR TESTS SCORES ARE HIGHER THAN MOST SCHOOLS IN OUR CITY! This is due to the way NCLB calculates AYP of schools and this aspect of NCLB will be addressed in a future blog.