Commission on No Child Left Behind

My colleague Marsha Ratzel–who I consider to be brilliant–left me the following comment on a recent post on measuring accomplished teaching:

"Bill, I hope you really don’t see yourself solely as this number. I am haunted by these numbers myself…wondering how I will ever keep true to what I believe most deeply about being an effective teacher….Who is going to be brave enough to ask their teacher, their school, their district to forgo the numbers in the newspaper in favor of an excellent education? I hope that revolution is coming. The sooner the better."

I really don’t see myself as just a score—the contributions that I make in the lives of my students are incredibly complex and varied–but it seems like decision makers continue to move us closer and closer to the point where that is all we’re going to be. 

Consider the recommendations released in the recent report of the Commission on No Child Left Behind led by Governor Roy Barnes of Georgia and Tommy Thompson suggesting that teachers and principals should be judged based on their students’ test scores. “We believe our recommendations will help improve academic achievement for our nation’s students and, most importantly, quicken the closing of the achievement gap," said Barnes at a news conference announcing the release of the report.

How will educators adjust to working in a world where their effectiveness is determined by test scores?  Will instruction change, drifting away from constructivist learning opportunities that engage children in deep and meaningful exploration of content and becoming more and more focused on the curricular outcomes measured by standardized tests?

Is that a bad thing?

Will the "soft" elements of teaching which are so much a part of what it is that we do each day disappear, making schools cold, mechanical places where inspiration is replaced by mental automation?  Will we continue to see the arts pushed aside by schools unwilling to "waste" time on elective experiences when they are being held accountable for reading and math results alone?

Is that a bad thing?

Will teachers who give passionately of themselves to the lives of their children—those who are remembered for decades–yet don’t produce tangible results on standardized tests be chased from our classrooms, replaced by administrators looking only for results?

Is that a bad thing?

I agree with my friend Marsha when she writes:

"I say this and yet I see many good things that the high stakes testing have brought. There is more accountability and widespread attention to curriculum. I have confidence accomplished teachers know how to balance these two opposing needs to the benefit of their students."

Standardized testing has brought a much needed dose of accountability and focus to our classrooms and accomplished teachers can find a balance between these two opposing forces that consume education in today’s America.

I’m just not sure that policymakers will give us that opportunity. 

One thought on “Commission on No Child Left Behind

  1. Barnett Berry

    Bill. Your brilliant observations need to be heard and embraced by policymakers and parents alike. They need to hear more.

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