Education Letter to the Editor

Knowing Is Not Liking

July 19, 2007 3 min read
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To the Editor:

I am troubled by your recent article “To Know NCLB Is to Like It, ETS Poll Finds” (June 20, 2007). If my high school students displayed a similar lack of critical thought in something they wrote for me, I would be appalled.

Here are some questions I wish had been asked before the story—and particularly its headline—was written:

• Who “knows” the No Child Left Behind Act best? Might teachers and students be important people to consult before writing such a broad headline?

• Who stands to benefit from the renewal of and support for the federal law? Might the Educational Testing Service have been motivated to write a biased description of the law for its survey?

• Was the description of the No Child Left Behind Act given in the survey sufficiently accurate and detailed for one to be able to say that those who heard it “know” more about the law than those who didn’t?

I do appreciate, however, two aspects of your report: that ETS was in the headline, and that the exact wording of the survey questions was included. That enabled me to evaluate the facts and evidence for claims.

It seems clear to me that the results from this survey do not show that those who know more about NCLB tend to like it more than those who know less. I am disheartened that this perspective was presented in Education Week.

Sarah Bertucci

Boulder, Colo.

To the Editor:

When I mentioned the results of the recent Educational Testing Service poll on the No Child Left Behind Act to my wife, a public elementary school teacher, she became very upset and walked out of the room.

Like her, I too believe that the federal law is the worst thing that has happened to education that I can remember—and I am 65 years old.

Every school day, my wife arrives home upset, not with the concept of teaching but with the inability to do so. Every day spent testing is a day not spent teaching. In my wife’s school, art and science are no longer taught. Educators need to teach reading, reading, and testing. Nothing is really fun for the kids except the last couple days of the school year.

This system is ridiculous and corrupt because our children and the country are not a priority—testing is.

Carl T. Zmuda

Sandpoint, Idaho

To the Editor:

Most Americans believe the federal No Child Left Behind Act needs a comprehensive overhaul if it is to help and not harm schools and schoolchildren. Even the Educational Testing Service’s seemingly positive survey data confirm this fact. More than half of respondents agreed that the law requires “major changes” or “should not be reauthorized.”

The ETS poll initially found that more people have an “unfavorable view” of NCLB than a “favorable view.” The organization was able to obtain positive reactions to the law only by offering a one-sided summary that ignored a long list of negative consequences. Moreover, the share of ETS survey respondents with unfavorable views of No Child Left Behind has increased over the past three years. Other polls confirm this: The more people know about NCLB, the less they like it.

Public school teachers, who know the law most intimately, are most critical, according to the ETS survey, with less than one-fifth supporting reauthorizing it without major changes. The public, parents, and teachers agree that the law’s focus on testing narrows the curriculum and distorts educational priorities.

Both the “Joint Organizational Statement on No Child Left Behind,” signed by 136 national education, civil rights, religious, disability, civic, parent, and labor groups, and the recommendations for implementing its principles prepared by the Forum on Educational Accountability offer Congress guidance on how to implement the comprehensive overhaul of NCLB that voters clearly desire.

Monty Neill

Co-Executive Director

National Center for Fair & Open Testing


Cambridge, Mass.

A version of this article appeared in the July 18, 2007 edition of Education Week as Knowing Is Not Liking


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