Archive for Friday, April 6, 2007

Parents criticize school testing

Lawmakers hear complaints about No Child Left Behind law

April 6, 2007


Nancy Boyda and Dennis Moore 'on tour' investigating 'No Child Left Behind'

While the rest of congress is on their own version of Spring Break, US representatives Nancy Boyda and Dennis Moore are on a 'tour' to find out what all of us think about a particular piece of legislation called 'No Child Left Behind.' Enlarge video

No Child Left Behind forum - Boyda

U.S. Representatives Dennis Moore and Nancy Boyda were in Lawrence today to take part in a "listening tour", a public forum meant to allow members of the public to speak their mind about the No Child Left Behind Act. After being implemented in 2002, the legislation is up for reauthorization this year. Enlarge video

No Child Left Behind forum - Moore

U.S. Representative Dennis Moore offers his thoughts on the No Child Left Behind act. Enlarge video

U.S. reps. Dennis Moore, D-Kansas, center, and Nancy Boyda, D-Kansas, talk with Blake West, president of the Kansas National Education Association before Thursday&squot;s community meeting to address problems and concerns with the No Child Left Behind law at the Lawrence public schools administrative office, 110 McDonald Drive. Local educators, administrators and parents attended the meeting to voice their ideas on education in Kansas. The event was part of Moore&squot;s districtwide "No Child Left Behind Listening Tour."

U.S. reps. Dennis Moore, D-Kansas, center, and Nancy Boyda, D-Kansas, talk with Blake West, president of the Kansas National Education Association before Thursday's community meeting to address problems and concerns with the No Child Left Behind law at the Lawrence public schools administrative office, 110 McDonald Drive. Local educators, administrators and parents attended the meeting to voice their ideas on education in Kansas. The event was part of Moore's districtwide "No Child Left Behind Listening Tour."

Rebecca Moody, of Eudora, has a beef with the federal No Child Left Behind law.

"I think it needs to be rethought, re-evaluated and redone," she said.

Earlier this year, her daughter, a fifth-grader at Eudora West School, lost interest in her favorite school subject - math - after her class had spent so much time preparing for a standardized test, Moody said.

Moody's concerns fit in Thursday morning as dozens of area parents, school board members, administrators and teachers asked two Kansas Democratic members of Congress to change the education law.

The 2001 federal law created a national policy that every child will pass state standardized tests in English and math by 2014.

"We want to either make it better or try to do something because there's a lot of problems with the current law," said U.S. Rep. Dennis Moore, of Lenexa.

Thursday's event was the third of four forums Moore is having on the federal law, which is up for renewal this summer. Moore's district includes eastern Lawrence. He was joined Thursday by U.S. Rep. Nancy Boyda, Topeka, whose district includes western Lawrence and a wide swath of eastern Kansas.

Moore said he and Boyda would relay comments from teachers, parents and school administrators to their colleagues in Congress.

Several panelists said they would favor reauthorization of the law with "dramatic changes," such as using a growth model, which measures student achievement over time.

"We need to leave it up to individual states and school districts to determine qualifications of teachers, except when the federal government is paying salaries of teachers," said Kansas Senate Vice President John Vratil, R-Leawood.

Many panelists and audience members blasted the law and blamed it for driving teachers out of the profession and discouraging development of gifted and other advanced students. Teachers and parents said the law also put too much pressure on teachers and students.

"We're asking kids to put all of their eggs in one basket on a multiple-choice test that they take one time a year," said Barb Thompson, a sixth-grade teacher at Quail Run School.

And she said the law forces teachers to "teach to the tests."

Andy Tompkins, a former Kansas education commissioner, said the law meant schools and school districts had to deal with a new level of federalism.

"To say you are going to have everybody in the same place on the same day - guys, that ain't going to happen," said Tompkins, a Kansas University associate professor in education leadership and policy studies who will become education dean at Pittsburg State University.

Moore also has written a letter critical of the federal government for underfunding the law that was passed in 2002.

"In fact, since 2002, funding for NCLB has fallen nearly $55 billion short of the amount that the president and Congress originally agreed to provide," Moore said in the letter he wrote with Rep. Jim Ramstad, R-Minn.

Moore predicted bipartisan work on making changes to the law, and Boyda said members of Congress will listen to educators and "get rid of parts (of the law) choking" the education system.

Rich Minder, a Lawrence school board member who was re-elected this week, suggested even the law's name can create a negative effect.

"We need to know that as a partner in education, we are saying something positive about all children rather than something negative about our administrators or teachers," Minder said.


Dorothy Hoyt-Reed 10 years, 9 months ago

NCLB has mandated that children with severe learning disablitlities must perform like other children. These students need to know how to read well enough to funtion in the world and know enough math to balance their checkbooks, but do they really need to know the difference between a simile and a metaphor? Yes, they need to know how to figure area, but do they need to know probablity? I'm surprised they allow tests to be put into braille for blind students. After all, shouldn't they perform as well as the sighted students? Maybe the law should be rewritten by educators who are the professionals.

prioress 10 years, 9 months ago

NCLB is poorly crafted and clumsily administered. If educators are true professionals, they will work their collective butts of to make sure all kids learn as much as they possibly can in a rigorous environment. Really good teachers take it personally when they cannot get through to some of their students and keep looking for new ways to get the job done. I am tickled that the 10th amendment Republican types support this massive federal intrusion into local control. Don't scrap it, but fix it and get off the testing kick as the only measure of an organization's success. By the way, most of our legislators probably could not answer 90% of the questions on the middle school state assessments, particularly the mathematics portion.

mom_of_three 10 years, 9 months ago

NCLB isn't just for children with severe learning disabilities, but for all children with any type of learning disability. I know the act wasn't written well, but the heart was in the right place.
It did help ensure kids with dyslexia and other disabilities weren't left behind and ignored. But I still find myself fighting with teachers who don't understand that each learning disability is different and each kid is different, and what may work with one doesn't necessarily work for the other.

Rationalanimal 10 years, 9 months ago

"And she said the law forces teachers to "teach to the tests.""

As opposed to teaching to...? This mindset is evidence of why teachers need standardized structure. Without it, they teach whatever they want (rather competent in, which often is not the desired subject), and the kids suffer. If you want uniform results, you need uniform curriculum. The intellect of American children will continue to suffer as long as we allow the teaching profession to be a safe harbor for incompetent teachers. If you can't teach and get results from your students, its time to move on to another profession.

Dorothy Hoyt-Reed 10 years, 9 months ago

She is talking about teaching to just take a test. How many multiple choice tests have you taken since you have been out of school? Students should be taught to think, to work in groups, to be creative, not to memorize the facts, instead of to take a test, then promptly forget what they learned. Learning the difference between a simile and a metaphor does help people analyze what they are reading and become better writers, but we are creating a nation of children who just want to know "What's on the test?". They won't know how to apply their knowledge. These tests only show what knowledge they have memorized. It doesn't show real life thinking skills. They measure only lower level thinking, which is what the government wants. Lower level thinkers are easier to control. And other subjects are suffering. Class is geared only towards math and reading. I guess if you don't teach the kids Social Studies, you can take their rights away. They won't even know they had the rights to begin with. Good little robots.

Dorothy Hoyt-Reed 10 years, 9 months ago

shirinisb In which private school did you get your education? Why was it better?

compmd 10 years, 9 months ago

teaching to tests emphasizes getting a result rather than focusing on a process (learning).

just ask a kid what they want to do when they grow up. I've gotten startlingly large numbers of answers like "I want a good job and make a lot of money." To which I respond, "but what do you want to DO?" and I don't get very thoughtful answers to that.

sure, make sure kids can pass standardized tests. but make sure they haven't lost sight of what is is to be creative, to explore, and to learn.

prpltoes 10 years, 9 months ago

The fifth grader referred to at the beginning of this article is reading at a high school level. She is upset every May because she has to endure 3 whole months without school. She voluntarily joined an after school math club. Her favorite subjects are math and science, but for the past two months she has been having math class at least twice a day every school day. Some students even have to stay after school for extra tutoring in math.

During this time science class has been suspended. I witnessed this child repeatedly say "I hate math, it is so boring." The reason is that she, like everyone else in her class is being taught what she needs to know to take this one test. She is doing the same math work that she has done before in math enrichment. Consequently she is not being challenged and not moving forward. Her two favorite subjects have been taken from her. She "hates" math and she doesn't get to have science class.

This child can maintain her current level of education for several years and still be considered a success with the current testing system. She is not evaluated from where she was a year ago. She is only evaluated as part of the group. This testing system only wants to know how the group is doing.

There are parts of NCLB that are brilliant and should be held onto, but the assessment tests need to be completely overhauled.

Instead of calling it No Child Left Behind, maybe it should be Moving Every Child Forward. Every child is able to advance from where they are today but not every child can advance at the same rate and not every child in the fifth grade is in the same place. Those at the top are being taught down and those at the bottom are being unrealistically challenged. This system is not good for any child.

We constantly hear that the United States is falling behind in math and science. Force feeding children extra math only makes them resent it and ignoring science altogether is simply unacceptable. In my opinion the requirements of this assessment system that forces our schools to "teach the test" is leaving the whole country behind.

dagopman 10 years, 9 months ago

Luckily and wisely former Congressman Ryun voted against NCLB.

leigh 10 years, 9 months ago

If you're interested in the informed perspective of special education professionals on NCLB, check out this statement by the National Association of State Directors of Special Education: Rationalanimal, a uniform curriculum does not produce uniform results because people are not "uniform input." When good teachers are freed from teaching to the test, they teach to students wherever and whomever they are.

Janet Lowther 10 years, 9 months ago

A more accurate title for the "No Child Left Behind Act" would be the "No Child Gets Ahead Act:" The teachers spend so much time working with the dummies, they have no time to challenge the average students, never mind the gifted.

All things considered, I believe the whole industrial model of education needs to be re-thought, and I am saying that as the son, grandson, great-grandson, brother and uncle of public school teachers.

My father was a great advocate of individualized instruction. This can be a lot of extra work for teachers, especially in elementary school: Probably a half dozen lesson plans in each subject, to allow for the variations in ability of the students. The burden could be eased by having several teachers for a larger group of students, with the kids flowing between teachers according to their needs.

In some ways, the old one-room school was superior to the modern school with a single age of students in each class room: If a kid didn't get the first grade math in the first grade, he could easily try it again in second. Likewise, older kids had the chance to consolidate their learning by helping the younger kids with the material.

I do know that in many cases the public schools as they exist today are broken. Anywhere the objective is other than to make the most of each child, the school is broken, and I reckon that includes most of 'em nowadays.

More than ever we need to make the most of our intellectual capital, an area which we are falling sadly behind. This is not so much because the schools are so much worse than they used to be, but because we now have to compete not only with our traditional rivals in Europe and Japan but with the best minds of India and China.

300 million Americans vs a couple billion ever-better educated Chinese and Indians. Think about it. We need to do better.

JayCat_67 10 years, 9 months ago


I would certainly hope that "dummies" is not some form of teaching jargon that you learned from your teaching family members. If so, I'd feel sorry for any child who has to endure even one day with any of them. I'm at least relieved to see that you didn't say that you are an educator.

Godot 10 years, 9 months ago

I went to grade school in Iowa many, many moons ago. We had to take standardized basic skills tests, and, yes, the teachers taught the test; it was called teaching the subjects of math, reading, writing, geography, civics and science. And we learned.

prpltoes 10 years, 9 months ago

I took the Iowa Basics too. Math, reading, writing, geography, civics, and science. Thank you for making that point so eloquently. I remember seeing my improvement from year to year.

The NCLB assesment tests are reading and math only. And they don't track individual students.

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