All children left behind

A letter to the editor in today’s N&R was as compelling as any I have ever read about the quickly degrading ‘climate’ in our public schools.  Making the case that “learning has become painful“, 25-year veteran teacher William Toth says…

Guidance counselors and curriculum coordinators cannot do the jobs they’re trained for because they are overwhelmed with prepping for, evaluating and giving those legions of practice and end-of-grade tests.

Administrators fear for their jobs, and the weaker ones put terrible pressure on their teachers, staff and students, effectively turning everyone against one another in a struggle for “survival.”

The perception of involved parents and most teachers I have spoken to is that our public schools are going to hell in a handcart in the name of not leaving any children behind.  All that high-stakes and constant testing accomplishes is the leveling of a public education to serve the needs of the lowest common denominator.

We hear plenty of outrage from parents and teachers and you would think such concerns would translate into outrage emmanating from our school board.  But all we hear is… nothing.  Things are fine… we are making progress…

Well, no we aren’t.  I for one will be very relieved to finally get my children out of the mess that has been created by people who believe and legislate that testing scores actually trump actual, real-world based, engaging, creative, teacher-inspired, learning.

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14 Comments

  1. Posted March 4, 2008 at 4:50 pm | Permalink

    Keep your kids in the arts programs….Kids in music used to average 100 points higher on SAT scores…I’ve heard that is true today

  2. Doug
    Posted March 4, 2008 at 4:55 pm | Permalink

    Every educator I know (and my wife is one) has nothing but disdain for NCLB.

  3. Beau D. Jackson
    Posted March 4, 2008 at 5:33 pm | Permalink

    Well, no we aren’t. I for one will be very relieved to finally get my children out of the mess that has been created by people who believe and legislate that testing scores actually trump actual, real-world based, engaging, creative, teacher-inspired, learning.

    Come on HOGG you know that test scores are a measure of learning, both for the student and the teacher. My grandchildren go to private schools and I’ll sell my soul before I’ll let them go to public schools. Public schools stint the growth of kids that want to learn while kissing the behinds of those that don’t, and not only that, but public schools are institutions of drugs, crime, and violence. I nwas no whimp in school, but I’d be scared shitless to go to a public school today.

  4. Posted March 4, 2008 at 8:47 pm | Permalink

    Robert is correct. A 1997 GCS study revealed that students who participate in visual and performing arts have higher grades, higher SATs, fewer disciplinary problems and lower absenteeism and drop out rates. A 2007 statewide study in Texas produced similar findings. So why did GCS drastically reduce instructional time in middle school and so many of our elementary schools last year? Why is GCS considering a block scheduling plan that could cut 6 music, 6 art and 6 PE classes from elementary schools?

  5. Old Casey
    Posted March 4, 2008 at 11:02 pm | Permalink

    It’s simple, folks. If NCLB is an instrusive mandate to test, then the school board can say enough. Schools only have to follow the mandates of NCLB if they take federal funds. So, let’s kick the addiction to federal money, and fund the schools with state and local money as it should be. The feds only get a hand in public schools when they take the feds’ money. Make no mistake, the schools are addicted to federal money as surely as a junkie is addicted to crack cocaine. And, in truth, the federal money is generally wasted on Terry Grier’s innovative programs that do not work. So, let’s get back to educating, and give the taxpayers and parents of the county a say in the education of their children, as they are paying for it. It would not be easy, but kicking an addiction is never easy, but critical to the life and health of the body.

  6. Ann Stringfield
    Posted March 5, 2008 at 8:35 am | Permalink

    Many Greensboro/Guilford County primary decision-makers tend to be too comfortable with easy money, whether it be federal funds or local foundation funds. When it’s waved directly in front of them, they reach for it; the easiest choice which requires little research, analysis, or challenged reasoning.

  7. Dick
    Posted March 5, 2008 at 8:43 am | Permalink

    Can somebody out there tell me exactly how much federal funding we would lose if we kicked NCLB to the curb? And, how is that federal funding currently used?

    Seems to me we should know that information before we can make a prudent decision on NCLB.

  8. Jeff Belton
    Posted March 5, 2008 at 2:03 pm | Permalink

    Hello David,
    I understand your disenchantment with the public schools.
    We have been given a goal which we can not possibly reach. All children, on grade level, 100% proficent in all courses by 2014. Students with profound disabilites and non English speakers included. Or else, our federal funding goes away. I do not know how the 45th largest school system in the country can afford to decline federal funds. But, I am open to the discussion.

    In regards to your charge that we say and accomplish nothing, I invite you to accompany our legistlative committee on one of their trips to lobby our senators and Congressional representatives in Washington to appeal for reform of NCLB or full funding of its mandates. GCS is about 24 million behind now. But I will get you exact figures. It is federal funding, not local dollars. However,it is the taxpayers money, and I have no qualms about accepting it other than the strings. NCLB was predicted by educators and public school supporters as having the potential to kill the public’s confidence in the public schools, rather than aid all students in reaching their fullest individual potential. Which is a reasonable and noble goal.
    It’s federal dollars, David. Not local, not state. The BOE is dependent on these funding bodies. I suggest your outrage towards me and the rest of the BOE should be at the least be shared by Howard Coble, Richard Burr, and Elizabeth Dole.
    During a recent conversation with Senator Kennedy, NCLB sponsor, our representatives conveyed to the Senator our concerns with the real damage being done to the public schools by NCLB. His response”
    We would not be where we are in public education without NCLB”

    Exactly our point, Senator!

  9. Posted March 5, 2008 at 7:29 pm | Permalink

    Well said, Jeff. I would LOVE to go. Just let me know when the next meeting is.

    I DO know where the problem is and I’ve heard your position on this before. Perhaps the BOA could do a better job of expressing the position that NCLB (and to a lesser extent, NC’s ABC’s) is killing education. You guys are the advocates for our school system so if you and other members realize the damn thing is broke, then express your outrage… daily, loudly. Others will understand, get pissed, and feel the call to action

    I sense no widespread local consensus that the reason our schools are experiencing an extended bout of suckiness is because we have to conform to onerous and unreasonable federal guidelines. If your opinion is representative of a majority of our the BOA, then you’ve got a ‘failure to communicate’ going on from my perspective.

    How’s about you get the BOA to draft a resolution denouncing, or even condemning, NCLB for what it is: a terrible mandate that is killing public education? It might make the local news… perhaps statewide. At the very least you guys might feel better after you have called the thing out for what it is before we go back to suckling at a teat that we can’t do without.

    Where is Kay Hagan and Jim Neal on this? They might have a shot at beating Dole on this issue alone.

    Raise hell, Jeff.

  10. Posted March 5, 2008 at 9:01 pm | Permalink

    Dave and Jeff hit the nail on the head. According to the Center on Education Policy, art and music instruction has declined by 35% in the 16% of schools reporting any decrease since NCLB was implemented. This percentage represents an average of 57 minutes per week of arts instruction that have been removed from those schools across the country. Follow this link to an article about the study: http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/local/harford/bal-te.md.classtime21feb21,0,4395777.story.

    Fortunately some of our School Board members like Jeff are trying to reverse the cuts and restore music and art classes every 5 days in our elementary schools and restore music and art instructional time cut from our middle schools. Hopefully a majority of Mr. Belton’s colleagues will join him in this effort!

  11. Old Casey
    Posted March 6, 2008 at 12:20 am | Permalink

    Mr. Belton,

    You allow yourself to be in your own Catch 22. You have to meet certain goals or your federal funding goes away, but if your federal funding goes away, you are not bound by the rules any longer. So, stop taking the federal money, and you aren’t bound by them. Why can’t the 45th largest school system in the country afford to decline federal funds? Much of the money you get is used to chase meeting guidelines and mandates because you take the money. And, once you no long have to chase the federal mandates, you can allocate resources as parents want; such as arts and music. The BOE is allowing itself to be controlled by the feds. You can’t prostitute oneself and than complain about the job duties.

  12. Posted March 6, 2008 at 9:24 am | Permalink

    The Washington Post picked up on the same study. Here’s a bit from their article:

    “I’m all for accountability, but I just think things need to be loosened up a bit to add music and art back into core subjects,” Moore said. “Teachers feel so pressured. If they’re not always doing test preparation, they think someone is going to come take their job.”

    Montgomery County Council member Marc Elrich (D-At Large), a former fourth- and fifth-grade teacher, came to observe. He said he had felt Moore’s frustrations.

    “It’s gotten to the point where everything has to have an objective” based on the curriculum, Elrich said. “I used to take my kids to the Phillips gallery, and [school system officials] would say, ‘What’s the objective?’ I’d think, ‘How about imagination and exposure to the world? How about that for an objective?’ ”

    The entire article can be found at Coloring Outside the Curriculum, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/03/05/AR2008030503695.html?hpid=topnews.

  13. Furniture
    Posted March 6, 2008 at 8:24 pm | Permalink

    This is a very good read that gives a very clear message of how our teachers feel.

    Jeff Belton. When are you going to stand up for our children and our teachers?

    http://www.guilford.k12.nc.us/boe/2008/2_25sc/M.%20Green%20Attachment%201.pdf

  14. Posted March 6, 2008 at 11:22 pm | Permalink

    Furniture, that *is* a good read. There are several themes that run through the teachers’ suggestions. I didn’t tally them all up, but perhaps the most often repeated recommendation is for less emphasis on “teaching to the test” and more focus on instructional areas that foster critical thinking, innovation and creativity.

    In this area, several Board Members *are* standing up for our children and teachers. Mr. Belton is one of them. Other Board Members who have gone on record supporting full restoration of art & music instructional time for our middle and elementary schools include Darlene Garrett, Garth Hebert and Kris Cooke. Other Board Members may also plan to vote for full restoration but have not yet made their intentions public.

    Let’s hope that these developments are a harbinger of greater things to come.

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