Literacy Educators and the Public Deeply Concerned about NCLB (The Council Chronicle Online, Sept. 6, 2006)
This piece reports on a survey of English teachers in the United States regarding NCLB. 76% of the respondents believed that NCLB has had a negative impact on the teaching of English and literacy in the US. The only thing that is surprising about this number is that it is so small. Here is the real problem as I see it. NCLB strives toward differentiated instruction based on data that is carefully and systematically analyzed by instructional teams within schools. So far this is a good thing. The danger arises when districts, both large and small, begin to provide teachers with mandates for teaching with little or no support. Furthermore, NCLB restricts what counts as data to “sound science” which is a buzz word that data that does not rely on teacher input or judgment. Testing results are all that count as data.
Teaching is a profoundly human activity. Well trained, competent professionals must be expected to make judgments about students, curriculum and the like. Of course testing results must be considered but so must student produced work, journals, reflections, projects as well as teacher observations and student teacher interactions. Without the human factor at play teaching and learning is reduced to a mechanistic, profoundly undemocratic activity that is uninspiring at best.
So let’s use data to drive instructional decisions, but let’s make those decisions based on the broadest data set available.