Is No Child Left Behind Working in Park City?
Five years after President Bush signed the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 into law, Michael Petrilli, a former U.S. Education Department official under the Bush administration, is quoted in the educational newsletter edspresso, as saying "I’ve gradually and reluctantly come to the conclusion that NCLB, as enacted, is fundamentally flawed and beyond repair."
The law was enacted to hold public schools accountable for ensuring all primary and secondary school students meet a standardized level of performance, with all students attaining proficiency in math and reading by 2014, regardless or ethnicity, disabilities or family income.
Several Park City School District administrators, teachers and parents voiced their opinions about the effectiveness of the law.
McPolin Elementary School Councilor Hugo Meza says he thought NCLB is a great idea, but what teachers have to do to comply is unrealistic. "Teachers are given more pressure even though they are giving 110 percent," he said. "Teachers get burned out. They’re doing what the government wants, and then the government is asking them to do even more."
As to the tests used to measure NCLB’s effectiveness Meza adds, "The language in testing is not your usual every-day language," he said. "It seems like it is taken out of a scientific book."
Meza doesn’t believe teachers need to be forced to help all students.
"I think it should be something natural to look after every child," Meza said.
Ecker Hill International Middle School teacher Meri-Lyn Stark, a sixth and seventh-grade English-as-a-second-language teacher said, "I completely support the concept, but I would like to think I was already doing those things." Stark sees some good in NCLB. "It has focused attention on subgroups like special-needs kids," she said. "Because of NCLB, the education system has gotten more creative about serving those kids. It’s asked us to be accountable in new ways."
But she sees weaknesses in NCLB also. "It focuses on one piece of data for a student’s success. The report is based on one day of tests. If your dog died the night before, you’re going to bomb," she said. Stark doesn’t care for standardized rules applied to all 50 states.
"I think we should have less federal and more local control," she said, referring to Utah’s U-PASS, enacted in Utah to address Utah’s specific needs. "U-PASS is more relevant to us," she said. "I believe in U-PASS. It was developed by a Utah system that knows what our needs are far better than people in Washington, D.C., know."
Tim and Corinne Early have two children attending McPolin Elementary School. "NCLB takes away from the fluidity of teaching, Tim Early said. "Government becomes for more interested in test results, pitting one school against another. Corinne Early said, "Math and science are the only focus in NCLB."
From an administrative perspective, McPolin Principal Lori O’Connor said, "NCLB presented challenges to education never faced before but challenges that illustrated accountability for student achievement." She said the result was the strongest ever public and private school system. She referred to the saying, "If it doesn’t kill you it makes you stronger."
"The challenges to the teacher are outrageous, but the intent is positive and helps ensure success of all students."
O’Connor says NCLB’s Annual Yearly Progress school reports have the effect of natural selection. She said that the focus of NCLB is math and literature. "Twenty years ago you could teach to passions more," she said. "In this day and age we have x numbers of instructional minutes, driven by NCLB."
"You take the best of it and make it work for the students. I do not think they should throw the whole thing out with the demands for accountability put on teachers, in such a low paying profession, teachers not wanting to deal with the pressures move on,"
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