Teachers Speak Out Against NCLB

Quotes from classroom teachers about the impact of NCLB.

By the Editors of Rethinking Schools

Get rid of NCLB. Perhaps we should have a No Person of Federal Government Left Behind act and test our legislators according to standards. If they don’t pass, they should be replaced immediately.

— Mary L, former teacher, Pennington, Ill.

Over the course of this school year alone, my students have taken the Connecticut Mastery Test (8 days), the Stanford Test (3 days), District Math, Science and Social Studies Assessments (24 days so far), the 4-Sight Reading Test (10 days so far) and the SRI Lexile Test (10 days so far). This totals an approximate 55 days of testing. To this date, my students have spent an overwhelming 30 percent of their school year testing, and the academic year is still not over. That’s one-third of their academic time not being spent on instruction but sitting in a desk taking a test.

— AFT member, Hartford, Conn.,
during public hearing on NCLB in May 2006

I had a third-grade student who was far below grade level in all subjects. I placed this child on the list [for extra help from the Reading Recovery teacher], but the teacher said that she could not accept this child because she was so far behind that she didn’t have a chance of catching up enough to pass any standardized test. She said that our school’s and our principal’s goal was to only work with students who needed a little extra help to pass the tests. The rationale I was given is that it is better to have a few students fail badly than to have many fail by just a little.

— Vella Trader, elementary teacher, Battle Creek, Mich.

You do not need think-tank “experts” or corporations to tell professional educators how to teach. You need to support the schools with adequate funding, smaller class sizes, parental support and accountability, maintenance of safe and clean working environments, and enough resources to get the job done. When the media inform us that the billions spent on the war in Iraq would be enough money to build 700 new schools in every state, we need to stop and rethink what we are doing.

— Karen Maitland, New Hampshire

NCLB is the main reason that I left the classroom (I taught science and math) because I was unable to be the kind of teacher that I wanted to be. Instead of teaching my students to think, I was required to drill them endlessly, filling their heads with information that has little meaning in order to perform well on tests that they did not respect.

— Elisheva H. Levin, New Mexico

I was a secondary school teacher for 28 years and am now an adjunct at Cabrini College, teaching elementary social studies methods to local teachers. The most common complaint is that social studies time has been cut. In some schools, it has been eliminated. The social studies curriculum has been bastardized by making it the stepchild of language arts and just another way of teaching reading.

Doesn’t social studies have value in itself?

— Richard Erickson, Media, Penn.

There was a time when kindergarteners loved school. There was a time when they could play and learn at the same time. When their teachers could teach them how to tie shoes and be kind to each other. When they didn’t know what a “reading level” was. There was a time when they didn’t worry about learning how to take a multiple-choice test. Back in this time, I dreamed of being a teacher.

— Danette Gauger, kindergarten teacher, Sun Prairie, Wis.