Happy Birthday, NCLB

By Stephen Sawchuk — January 09, 2009 1 min read

NCLB turned 7 yesterday. Teachers, for the most part, dislike the law for what they see as an overemphasis on standardized testing, the pushing of blame for school failure on teachers, and the punishment of schools with sanctions.

Underneath all that, teachers felt frustrated at not having been consulted during the law’s creation in 2001, when the unions were largely left out of the negotiations. There’s certainly a theme of teacher consultation and collaboration in the American Federation of Teachers’ press release on the law’s 7th anniversary:

“For the past seven years, NCLB has become a stand-in for real discussions about a robust education policy that prepares children for the 21st century. ... The AFT looks forward to working with a new Congress and administration to ensure that this law is retooled and reauthorized to provide real solutions for closing the achievement gap. Focusing on collaboration with teachers, parents and community partners; building capacity; and creating community schools ... are three great ways to start.”

On the other hand, over at Swift & Change Able, we have Margo/Mom’s take on the school- improvement planning process required of all schools that repeatedly fail to meet achievement benchmarks. She argues that NCLB actually creates opportunities for school-improvement collaboration and that parents, administrators, and —yes—teachers, are not taking advantage of them.

“In three different schools my family has been involved with since the inception of NCLB, the planning process has been obscure, unwelcoming or totally absent. ... What seems to be missing—and this is only apparent when one is close to a school—is a relationship to what happens in the real day-to-day life of the school. ... Teachers, we are to believe, live in fear of the consequences of low achievement within the context of NCLB, as well as being committed to learning. Yet, any school that reaches the dread point of “reconstitution,” or the consequence that moves teachers around (not out of employment, mind you, but out of a low-performing school to some other district school), presumably has five to seven years worth of such plans neatly filed away under ‘meaningless paperwork.’ ”

A version of this news article first appeared in the Teacher Beat blog.