Rail Road Flat and NCLB, a place and an idea that created the perfect storm—a lost community adopts “drill and kill” as a means to an end [and] test scores as the sole indicator of school success [“One-Track Minds,” August/September]. I wonder what kind of lifelong learners these children will become because of this self- admitted grind? Who will then be blamed? The taxpayers and teachers in Rail Road Flat, the California Department of Education, or the students themselves?
If it is purely a financial matter, there are two options for this community: Take all of the money being spent on the school now and just give it to the children as a form of welfare, or close the school and “save” the money.
Learning is not an academics versus character education proposition. Its main function is to enable children to become citizens—requiring basic skills, a work ethic, and a sense of community, fun, and humanity. Robots that can fill in circles on a test answer sheet may satisfy NCLB, but will they grow up to be happy adults?
Oil City, Pennsylvania
The article “One-Track Minds” was the most depressing thing I’ve read in a long time. It was particularly disturbing to me to read about a school that has dispensed of student engagement strategies. In other words, students pay attention, “or else.”Although their test scores may be high, it seems to me that the students at Rail Road Flat Elementary are being robbed of a real education. Real learning requires student engagement and intrinsic motivation built over time. “Plowing ahead” may get a school into the state testing hall of fame, but how is it serving the lives of its students?
The teacher in the article called his work a “grind.” If this is really what is expected to succeed under NCLB, count me out. I’ll work at a failing school any day!
A version of this article appeared in the November 01, 2005 edition of Teacher as You Know the Drill