To the Editor:
It is interesting that while lawmakers originally set certain standards of achievement for students under the No Child Left Behind Act, they now are seeing that teaching only bare academics is not enough (“Bush, Others Want Law to Go Beyond Basics,” Oct. 17, 2007). This is what educators have been trying to tell legislators for years.
When students facing personal problems at home come to school, they may or may not be able to absorb the material teachers share. Even adults have trouble facing personal problems while maintaining a job, so why do we expect young people to be capable of focusing on reading, writing, and arithmetic when confronted with the daily challenges of life?
A teacher of 7th and 8th grade social studies once told me he makes clear to his students that learning the life skills of appropriate interaction, problem-solving, and common courtesy is as important as learning dates, names, and places. I’m concerned that now that legislators have seen, statistically, that even when educators are teaching every core subject, their students’ academic and behavior problems are continuing, they will turn to us and add, “By the way, while you’re at it, could you please also teach life skills, such as getting along with others?”
Have teachers not been trying to do this all along? To ask any one group in society to solve entire multigenerational problems is expecting too much.
To lawmakers, I say, “Be reasonable.” Keep the standards realistic and attainable, and then build on success. This is a sensible, achievable goal, and will produce better results than covering the problem with a Band-Aid of even more rhetoric.
Southern Wells Junior-Senior High School
A version of this article appeared in the October 31, 2007 edition of Education Week as NCLB, Teachers Need Reasonable Expectations