Posted In: Canonical Categories, Educator Voices, ESEA/NCLB, Wisconsin

Students deserve a fair, flexible, and innovative No Child Left Behind Act

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by Brian Washington

In 38-years of teaching, Pat Schmidt, an educator from Wisconsin, has never missed the last day of school—until now.

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This week, as students said goodbye to friends and school personnel at Riverview Elementary in the Wautoma Area School District, Schmidt, who teaches general music to grades 1 through 5, used her last personal day to travel to Washington, DC to talk to lawmakers about the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA)—the law otherwise known as No Child Left Behind (NCLB).  She made the trip on behalf of her students.

Wisconsin educator Pat Schmidt stops by Education Votes offices.

Wisconsin educator Pat Schmidt stops by Education Votes offices.

“I think the whole focus of the last No Child Left Behind was on punishing schools that didn’t do well but not offering them the help so they could get better,” said Schmidt, who visited the offices of Wisconsin lawmakers U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin and Representative Tom Petri.

“I think that schools tried their best, and sometimes when you are dealing with children, there are things that are beyond your control. I think that you need to meet each child where they are.”

Schmidt’s visit to Capitol Hill coincides with the release of several bills designed to begin the process of rewriting the K-12 law—including proposed legislation from Iowa U.S. Senator Tom Harkin [ed note: pdf link], the chairman of the Senate’s Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee.

NEA Student Program Chair David Tjaden meets with Sen. Tom Harkin

NEA Student Program Chair David Tjaden meets with U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin

Following the introduction of the Harkin-backed bill, Arizona math teacher and National Education Association President Dennis Van Roekel, who represents 3 million educators nationwide, issued a statement calling on Congress to craft a “fair, flexible, and innovative” law that leads to real sustainable change for students while maintaining the legislation’s original focus on equity and shared responsibility.

“We believe all children deserve great schools, and Congress must make the investments so that we are ensuring opportunity for all children, not exacerbating current inequities,” said Van Roekel. “ESEA must address existing inequities in public education that harm students and communities, particularly students and communities of color.”

Other ESEA-related bills have also surfaced on the Hill, including one in the U.S. House of Representatives, House Bill 5, and another introduced by Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander along with several of his GOP colleagues in the Senate entitled, the Every Child Ready for College or Career Act.

Schmidt meets wtih Wisconsin U.S. Rep. Tom Petri

Schmidt meets wtih Wisconsin U.S. Rep. Tom Petri

Schmidt believes that the new NCLB law must empower educators—who are deeply committed to the success of all students—and give teachers and education support professionals the flexibility to make the necessary decisions to meet the needs of students.

“If legislators want to be our partners in education, then they have to realize that the people who do it every day are the ones who should be empowered to make certain decisions,” said Schmidt, who hopes Members of Congress will seek out the opinions of educators in their home districts—similar to the way Baldwin and Petri have sought her input. “Hearing from the people who are actually doing the jobs, to me, if I were a legislator, would be invaluable.”

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Reader Comments

  1. Stewh

    No matter how they rewrite it, NCLB doesn’t take into account the fact that all children don’t learn at the same rate. It doesn’t mean they can’t learn; some just need more time and support, and some lack support at home or just lack motivation, period. The reasons why students don’t succeed are endless. There are ways to improve our education system, but our social and political systems are too entrenched to consider the possibilities. We don’t seem to have money for smaller class sizes or more student support, but we seem to have it to spend on all kinds of testing and for new curriculum materials (that aren’t all that different from the ones we’ve had). The old adage holds true: You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink. As educators, we can only do our best to provide all the learning opportunities we can, but students have this thing called agency, and the more we try to force them to learn, we take away their innate love of learning. There has to be a balance of accountability, and when someone figures out the magic to get everyone’s brains to work the same way, so all kids learn at the same rate and have the same desire to learn, then we can expect to have a 100% student success rate.

  2. Ron Floyd

    I am a 45 year old student seeking a degree in Secondary Mathematics education. I have observed extensively in the classrooms of local school districts and am married to an educator. I see the current legislation in action in one school after another. Students are not challenged due to the inability of their classmates and the demands of NCLB. I am of the opinion that most of our current teachers were educated under old fashion models of instruction where students were expected to perform. Those who were unable to meet the demands of the regular curriculum were separated and educated on the level of their abilities. This system has produced the majority of professionals currently making decisions in the US and the world. Why is it that we are unable to use a proven and effective method of educating our most valuable assets? I submit that it is not a problem of student ability, but one of student discipline and the failure of society to offer the guidance which has been the hallmark of America for generations.

  3. Dan Burzynski

    NCLB has had left an indelible mark on a generation of students. We have lowered the bar on our craft to be certain no one is left behind; while our best and brightest breeze through a water downed curriculum that lacks imagination and wonder. They are truly left behind in a global economy. They are ill prepared.
    Perhaps it is time to return to the old ways of education and teach to the highest standards to let our best rise to the top. But unlike the old ways, add remediation to pick up those who didn’t make it the first time.

  4. RC

    How about this, the younger grades, especially K-2, have at least 2 adults in the classroom helping the students. It could be 1 teacher and 1 paraprofessional for at least a couple of hours. When you have all different needs with 20++ children, it is humanly impossible to truly meet all their needs with 1 person/adult. Why is this always overlooked and seemed not possible? So we blame that 1 adult in the room? Hello? Support is needed. Resources that go with Common Core organized and thought about ahead of implementing during the school year would be a good idea. Last but not least, bring the parents back into Education. Parents do not get involved like they should and I believe it is the way they are treated and they do not feel welcome in the schools. Get Parents saying they are taking education back. The school should not have all the power. These parents are the tax payers paying for all that executes the school day. Let’s remember this! It takes all of us together, truly. We can’t slide on huge pieces to the puzzle and just blame a few pieces. We all have to be in it together to be effective!

  5. Shien Khin

    How about this…

    Anything that has to do with “accountability” actually holds the STUDENT accountable for their effort or lack thereof?

    Holding teachers (and schools) accountable for students that we are unable to realistically hold accountable for ANYTHING (depending upon the district) is not a viable solution.

  6. Dan Kinczkowski

    The real title of NCLB is NCLB in a Public School. And that is what is slowly happening. There will be no public schools in which there are children.


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