Find your next job fast at the Jan. 28 Virtual Career Fair. Register now.
Education Teacher Leaders Network

And Now, a Word of Praise for NCLB

By Dayle Timmons — January 17, 2006 4 min read

As part of a new partnership, is publishing this regular column by members of the Teacher Leaders Network, a professional community of accomplished educators dedicated to sharing ideas and expanding the influence of teachers.

It was eight years ago—one of those years when I was trying to be super mom, super wife, super teacher. My husband, out of desperation, finally decided to hire a housekeeper to come once every two weeks to relieve some of the pressure at home. What a gift!

For months the housekeeper slipped quietly into my home while I was at school. I couldn’t wait to get home. I would take in the smell of Pledge and Pinesol as I opened the door. On this particular day, she came while I was working at home. When she was finished working her magic, she walked in softly and stood by my desk. When I looked up, her eyes were on the floor. She stammered, “As I’ve been cleaning your house, I guessed you was a teacher.” “Why, yes!” I said, quite proud of my profession. “Well. … I was wondering. I graduated from high school here in town but I didn’t never learn to read. Do you think you could teach me to read?”

I was appalled. How was it possible that in this day and age that a child could graduate from high school and not learn to read?

At that same time, my own son was entering 9th grade with over 800 peers—but only 380 of those students would graduate four years later. What was happening to all those kids? When I asked teachers, counselors, and principals, their eyes glazed over. They had no idea what was happening and no one was asking that question. There was something wrong.

Gradually, I began to read about dismal graduation rates, often on page eight of the local paper. Then I read that only 35 percent of area students were reading at grade level. A light began to dawn. As I watched school board meetings, I heard about inner-city schools that lacked the same resources that I enjoyed in my suburban school, but the conversations were more like postscripts.

The system was obviously broken, but there was no uprising among parents or teachers. I often wondered, why not? Finally, finally some brave souls stood up and said, “We’re not going to take it anymore. We will not stand for mediocrity and students graduating who cannot read. We will make education our number one priority and we will hold states and schools and teachers accountable.”

The No Child Left Behind Act was ushered into the new century with bipartisan support. It held the promise of improving student achievement and changing the culture of American schools in a single generation. Soon the names of “failing” schools were splashed across the headlines—those same schools that we had sporadically heard about for years. We had always known they were failing, but now they were priority Number One on the school board agenda.

They received intensive “research-based” professional development, resources, and community attention and support. Many of the elementary schools led the evening news with their successes. Student achievement and graduation rates were meticulously charted and followed. The system became transparent—both our successes in elementary schools and our continuing challenges in middle and high schools.

I am proud of what has been started. Professional development, at least in my school, has never been better. Many elementary schools have turned the corner and problems in middle school and high school are now taking center stage. We have identified many of the problems and there has never been more mainstream conversation and discussion about possible solutions.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think we have “fixed” the system. I hate this whole notion of directed instruction that stifles creativity and thought. I hate the idea of everything depending on one high-stakes test. But I do admire those who were willing to call attention to our educational quagmire at the turn of the century and take risky steps to do something about it.

I am looking forward to the reauthorization of NCLB in hopes that many of the more difficult aspects of the legislation will be tweaked and that it will come closer to what we as educators dream is possible. Maybe now “the brave” will be teachers who will stand up and say, I can still teach the whole child. I can make learning exciting and fun. I can teach to the highest levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy and guess what, my kids will ace that test because I am brave enough to do what I know is right. I am imaginative and creative enough to take what has to be done and work collaboratively with my colleagues to prepare lessons that meet those goals with depth and discovery.

Today, it’s just hard for me to see the brokenness of the system because what I see is a firm foundation rising out of the ashes—a foundation that has been built on the lessons learned these last few years. From where I stand, everything seems possible.


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
School & District Management Webinar
Branding Matters. Learn From the Pros Why and How
Learn directly from the pros why K-12 branding and marketing matters, and how to do it effectively.
Content provided by EdWeek Top School Jobs
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
School & District Management Webinar
How to Make Learning More Interactive From Anywhere
Join experts from Samsung and Boxlight to learn how to make learning more interactive from anywhere.
Content provided by Samsung
Teaching Live Online Discussion A Seat at the Table With Education Week: How Educators Can Respond to a Post-Truth Era
How do educators break through the noise of disinformation to teach lessons grounded in objective truth? Join to find out.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Director of Information Technology
Montpelier, Vermont
Washington Central UUSD
Great Oaks AmeriCorps Fellow August 2021 - June 2022
New York City, New York (US)
Great Oaks Charter Schools
Director of Athletics
Farmington, Connecticut
Farmington Public Schools
Head of Lower School
San Diego, California
San Diego Jewish Academy

Read Next

Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: January 13, 2021
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Obituary In Memory of Michele Molnar, EdWeek Market Brief Writer and Editor
EdWeek Market Brief Associate Editor Michele Molnar, who was instrumental in launching the publication, succumbed to cancer.
5 min read
Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: December 9, 2020
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: Stories You May Have Missed
A collection of articles from the previous week that you may have missed.
8 min read