by Colleen Flaherty
Steve Eklund is a retired California teacher who has seen what overzealous testing can do in public schools.
“I used to love teaching,” said Eklund. “Four words drove me into retirement—No Child Left Behind. I could no longer attend to the needs and wants of my students. All I was supposed to do was to get them ready to take tests.”
Take Action ›
Tell Congress a new Elementary and Secondary Education Act must mean more opportunity and learning for students. Click here ›
Educators and public education supporters across the country are speaking out, emailing their legislators, sharing their stories and signing the ESEA petition to let Congress know one important message—the current Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), also known as No Child Left Behind, is not working.
Rather than closing achievement gaps and providing equal opportunities for all students, the focus has shifted from student learning towards testing, labeling and punishing schools.
Here are more stories of what No Child Left Behind has meant for teachers and their classrooms:
“I am a high school art teacher of eight years. It is amazing to me how significantly standardized testing has negatively impacted the learning environment in that relatively short time.
“Ultimately, kids that do not perform well on standardized tests come from low-income homes or in live poverty. Any teacher can tell you that if a student is hungry, or is not receiving proper sleep or medical care, or has no computer at home, or has to work outside of school to help keep a roof over the family’s head, grades are going to suffer. Roughly 50 percent of students nationwide are now receiving free and reduced lunch.
“These things need to be addressed outside of standardized testing. Inclusion is not allowing these considerations to be adequately addressed. NCLB is not successful legislation. Let’s think about the future of our young people and the future of our country and do the right thing. Educators have been trained to create meaningful assessment, which should include strong emphasis on applying what a student knows to meaningful project-based assignment. Stop the madness of NCLB and the ridiculous amount of standardized testing associated with it. It is time to do the right thing for our children and grandchildren, and for the future of this country.”
– Leslie O., Virginia
“I have seen my students drained by the weekly testing used to ‘prepare’ them for the state tests. Their love of learning that all children are born with is being diminished by the drills and worksheets used to get them ready for the big test. It is sad that they can’t enjoy and explore their interests in school, whether that be art or civics.”
– Ashley B., Texas
“I am 29 years old and I have been teaching for 7 years. I got into teaching because I care about kids. I believe that being excited about learning is important, and I believe that all students should be shown that they can achieve their own goals and their own success if they put their minds to what they want to accomplish.
“My class time has been cut in half this year. I am told to teach to a test. I am told that they need to just be exposed to what they will be tested on, and that mastery doesn’t matter. At the same time, my students are being held to the same standard as the honor students in the school. The test they will be taking is on grade level. My students are not on grade level. They are far below, and giving them a test that they cannot do yet because they haven’t been given a foundation is unfair.
“As I look at the second half of the year, all I am seeing is test after test, after test. I have only been teacher 7 years. I am burnt out. I don’t know what else to do. I don’t know what fight to fight. I don’t know who to turn to. I don’t want to give up on my kids because they are the ones that I feel like are being cheated, but I am tired and I do not see an end in sight. Our system is broken. It needs to be fixed. Not a temporary fix, but a real one.”
-Samantha M., New Jersey
“Last year my entire classroom was filled with students who struggle academically—25 percent on IEP; 60 percent less than proficient in reading and math; and 80 percent less than proficient in writing. They were fifth graders. All their academic lives they were told they didn’t measure up to some standard.
“Over 70 percent of my classroom were on the free and reduced lunch program. Many came from homes that had been disrupted due to a variety of economic, social and medical reasons. These students brought me to tears when I saw how hard they worked and how much they grew the year I was blessed to be their teacher.
“Reducing children (and teachers, too) to data points and numbers demoralizes us. Children (and teachers, too) are more than a number or a rating on a rubric. It is time to reclaim the whole child (and the whole teacher). It is time for legislatures to wake up and stop this toxic testing which is destroying both children and teachers. Education is about the whole child. Accountability, yes! Reducing people to numbers, NO!”
-Kathleen B., Colorado