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Commentary-CEA Concerned Over Funding For No Child Left Behind Act



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CEA Concerned Over Funding For No Child Left Behind Act

By Rosemary Coyle

HARTFORD — “Back to school” has always been a magical phrase for Americans. As summer draws to a close, we look forward eagerly to renewing school friendships, to exploring new worlds of literature, geography or science and to enjoying autumn activities like pep rallies, football games and drama club productions.

Our back-to-school excitement is lessened somewhat this year by a harsh reality in American education. Under the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act, the federal government is intruding in local educational affairs more than ever in our nation’s history. Bureaucrats in Washington have cast over our neighborhoods a tight net of complicated and sometimes contradictory regulations and massive standardized testing.

Connecticut teachers as well as state Education Commissioner Betty Sternberg have questioned this expanded testing. We have urged the adoption of multiple indicators of student’s progress. Currently, NCLB measures a class of this year’s fourth graders against next year’s fourth graders. However, this tells us little about the progress of individual students.

Wouldn’t it make more sense to follow the progress of individual students as they progress through school? We believe it is critical to measure students’ progress and see the real value added from instruction.

NCLB is a law in need of repair. Schools that miss any one of numerous requirements by — what is in essence — a point or two are labeled as deficient. Once schools are labeled, the law imposes a series of punitive measures.

If the goal of NCLB is to improve student achievement, shouldn’t schools offer tutoring to struggling students as a first consequence of being labeled deficient? We know from research done by the Center for Education Policy that tutoring is more widely used by parents for their children. NCLB, however, first allows a parent to change his or her child’s school; a year later, it provides for tutoring. It makes more sense to reverse this process.

Teachers are heartened that a consensus is emerging here in Connecticut and around the nation that NCLB is a law that must be fixed. Some members of the US Congress, state Commissioners of Education, including Ms Sternberg, local school boards, the state and national PTA, teachers’ and principals’ organizations, and numerous individual citizens realize this and are working diligently to make it happen.

Meanwhile, teachers, parents, students, and others have our work cut out for us. As back-to-school-time comes, we all need to refocus on what is truly important in education. We believe that it begins with the understanding that young people are individuals. True teaching and true learning come from individual attention to individual needs, interests and learning styles.

As teachers, we promise to make this truth the centerpiece of our efforts during the 2004-05 school year in Connecticut. We will work diligently to understand the potential and the problems of each of our students. We will succeed in piquing their interest in myriad ways from exciting problem solving to audio and visual presentations, hands-on scientific experiments, independent research, and class discussions. We will be especially attuned to students’ need for extra instruction. We will set high expectations for each student, rejoice when they succeed, and hold our helping hands when they struggle.

As teachers, we also know that our essential back-to-school partners are the parents of each child. Our best efforts will fall short without mutual support. As always, we will establish and maintain lines of communication, meet regularly at parent-teacher events and school activities and share our hopes and concerns for each student. Together, we can make certain that 2004-05 is an exciting and wonderfully productive educational journey, while continuing our goal to improve the NCLB.

(Rosemary Coyle is president of the Connecticut chapter of the National Education Association.)

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