Beyond No Child Left Behind

Deborah Barnes

But, as an educator, I believe there is still a lack of foresight into what I want to accomplish in my classroom every day.

Let's begin with the obvious, educators want to know if their students are learning. We provide formative and summative assessments on a regular basis. We encourage our students to share what they learn in front of the classroom, through completing projects and essays, by working in teams to share their learning with those they work with. This week, Oregon received a waiver from the adequated No Child Left Behind mandate. That law required proving students were learning math and writing skills or states would lose funding. The new system still requires proving students are learning math and writing skills with test scores. But, as an educator, I believe there is still a lack of foresight into what I want to accomplish in my classroom every day. And, without following through with the promised QEM funding, our classrooms are still overcrowded, there are fewer educators, and fewer days in class.

I am fortunate enough to teach broadcasting and digital media, an elective class at Oregon's largest career and technical education center. I have completed addititional classes enabling me to teach writing and math in CTE . However, the idea that my students should focus their learning on math and writing misses real opportunities for life and the expectations after high school.

Under this new plan, I and all Oregon educators, will face new evaluation criteria. Those evaluations will be based, in part, on how students do on their standardized tests. My students often don't realize they are learning writing skills when they prepare scripts for radio or television. They don't see they are actually learning math when they prepare rate cards to sell commercials. What they do see, and what the new law won't be testing, is they are learning to work in teams, they are meeting deadlines, they are learning professionalism, and the ability to manage their own learning. Students won't be taking those tests in my classroom but at their comprehensive high school. I am part of the team of educators focused on each of our students in our district.

Educators do more than teach to tests. We hope to encourage personal growth and learning in a variety of ways with a variety of students. We have the over-achievers and the kids who come from broken homes where they are anxious about their homes and families. We have students who have come from different countries who are still learning English. We have students with ankle-bracelets who check in with their parole officers. We have students who require special assistance. We want all of those students to succeed because they have to in this world.

The Governor wants every student to graduate high school. Educators want the same thing. However, when we focus solely on math and writing we forget it is sports, music, art, drama, and career and technical offerings that often keep our students motivated and in school. As this new mandate rolls out in Oregon my hope is we don't forget that children are more than test scores, that educators want students to have all of the skills that will help them succeed, and that politicians who make these decisions actually celebrate the work public educators do with students everyday in schools across Oregon. Testing students and educators is not the only way to prove success.

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    Great piece Deb! I am trying to wrap my head around what else they will evaluate us on. I fear that all they can understand and will focus on are test scores. I have started to notice teachers feeling much more fearful of their jobs now as we all know that test scores don't tell us everything about a student's success. This waiver is not a relief especially when funding and the voice of parents and teachers are continually igorned. Now that the state has bought into corporate ed reform and policies, maybe now they will focus on funding....or maybe this is good enough for them. Oregon could have done so much better. Thanks for standing up for our profession and students.

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    Way to go, Deborah!

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    Thank you for speaking out Deborah. Too many Oregonians are blindly assuming the State education reforms are actually going to improve the quality of educational opportunities in our public schools.

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    The day we accepted the waiver was a sad day for Oregon's school children. We now have more years of teaching to the test, narrowing the curriculum, and forgetting in the elementary and middle grades about all the things which go into a solid and useful education. We also now have a system of education which degrades teachers by evaluating them with measures which don't work and are inaccuarate. A sad day indeed.

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