How the ‘No Child Left Behind Act’ can result in no teacher left standing
The best thing about January is the Holiday cards that arrive in your box a bit late. Smart people must be behind those cards because they actually get read and appreciated due to the lull that happens in most of our lives in January. The busyness of the season seems to subside, and we can appreciate some last-minute notes from distant friends.One such card hit a chord deep within me the other night. To this day, my high school counselor is still teaching and coaching – and he sent me a Christmas card. His card deeply troubled me, however. It isn’t that he wasn’t happy struggling with the opportunity to retire because he “loves his counseling job; along with the people he works with, so deciding whether to retire is difficult.” He also coordinates all of the college recruiting for athletes.The sadness in the card is a quote from his wife, a gifted elementary education art teacher. It read, “Since ‘No Child Left Behind’ I am now at two Bettendorf schools the students are great but without planning time, teaching is not as enjoyable.”I was stunned. Iowa tends to lead the country in outstanding education and support of learning. What we have been dealing with locally, in Eagle County, is a national epidemic. The “No Child Left Behind Act,” intended to improve education, is stomping out the very core of who delivers the instruction. In reading this card, I remembered a comment my dad made months earlier in a conversation about the president. At Rotary, he had heard that a new irony loomed: that the No Child Left Behind law would result in no teacher left standing. These eerie words rang true when I read this card.Local papers are filled with banter of how CSAP is affecting our children and teachers in Eagle County. I can perhaps offer insight into the “teacher’s” day. The teacher’s quote above, with no time to plan and being split between two schools, is important to hear and to understand. Imagine the president going to a meeting regarding giving aid to victims of the Tsunami without a moment to plan how that aid would be funded. I would imagine that he not only had time to plan, but also had aids helping in the process.The president molds our world; but teachers mold our future.My old high school councilor makes a difference in the lives of kids every day. He strives to not leave any kid behind and is most likely insulted that a law now exists which finitely calculates what he tries to do with his heart and soul. Education is not a mathematical equation. Teachers can guide students within the parameters of the student’s pure will to learn, the system’s resources, time, and often just pure fate.More helpful to all of us would be a national law requiring more of parents, students and school boards in the partnership of education. I see lots of finger pointing in Eagle County and not so much ownership of the problems. What if we all set aside the enormous baggage that we have acquired with the No Child Left Behind act and did something to correct it? No, I do not have a solution as to how to fix this mess, but I do suggest that we all start on the same path to correcting it.As in my card from far away Iowa tonight, I see our own teachers at home in Eagle County feeling that the enjoyable connection to teaching is fading away into the entanglement of the law’s requirements. We need to voice strongly that we want our teachers to enjoy their jobs. The Leave No Child Behind Act is interfering with that enjoyment.Here’s an example of what I’m talking about: The news is full of horrific views from the Tsunami in Asia. I know many teachers who would certainly like to be doing a huge current events study about the Tsunami with their students. But there’s probably not much time in the school day to discuss such items the Tsunami most certainly won’t be on the CSAP too current.Will schools be built differently now, too, due to this law? Back in the glory days when I was at Bettendorf, my grandfather was instrumental in the planning of our new high school. Known for excellent school funding, Bettendorf High School was built with a planetarium, an indoor Olympic swimming pool, and a state of the art theatre. No one was thinking about a sterile exam such as CSAP driving what mattered in the education of students. I would gamble a handsome penny that test scores will drive these schools of the future. Whether a child can see and understand the stars or swim an Olympic mile seems irrelevant to the laws of No Child Left Behind.Such a waste.When I was growing up there was no law to encourage teachers not to leave kids behind. America believed that a teacher’s heart would do all that it could to carry each child into tomorrow. I still believe that this is true today. The law only impedes this process. Do not let the words of No Child Left Behind confuse you. The law itself is stomping on our kids and our teachers. VTEdwards resident Elizabeth Chicoine writes about matters of the family for the Vail Trail. She can be reached for comment at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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