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No Child Left Behind: The Teachers' Voice

February 27, 2008 By John Fitzgerald, Education Policy Fellow

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Survey conducted by Paru Shah, Ph. D.
Assistant Professor of Political Science, Macalester College, Minnesota 2020 Fellow

Macalester College Political Science "Empirical Research Methods" class, Fall 2007

No Child Left Behind is a federal law that requires states to test students and hold schools accountable for student scores. The law, passed in 2002 and up for reauthorization in 2008, is roundly despised for its inflexibility and unrealistic expectations.

Teachers are on NCLB's front lines, yet research shows they have grave and pervasive doubts about the law. No Child Left Behind: The Teachers' Voice reveals those deep reservations are shared by Minnesota teachers.

In October 2007, researchers asked 87 elementary school teachers in Chaska School District 112 about their thoughts on No Child Left Behind.

Key Findings


  • Sixty five percent say identifying schools that have not met Adequate Yearly Progress will not lead to school improvement.
  • More than 65 percent say NCLB increases teacher focus onto students just under the passing score at the expense of other students.
  • Only 13 percent say sanctions improve teaching.
  • Almost 90 percent say they were under unfair pressure to improve student test scores.
  • About 88 percent believe NCLB has caused teachers to ignore important aspects of the curriculum.
  • Almost 90 percent say NCLB unfairly rewards and punishes many teachers.
  • More than 90 percent say they are more likely to stay at a school designated "In Need of Improvement" if factors such as class size, having experienced teachers on staff and more money for materials are important.

Recommendations


  • Money spent on NCLB to improve student performance at underperforming schools should be reallocated to create innovative education programs, improve facilities and increase professional development and training for teachers.
  • Standardized testing is inflexible and does not accurately measure student ability. Current efforts to determine student progress using multiple criteria and growth models should be increased and implemented as soon as possible.
  • AYP goals need to be changed to challenging yet realistic levels. While teachers welcome accountability, the goal of 100 percent NCLB compliance by 2014 is unrealistic.
  • Flexibility in testing English language learners and special education students must be increased. It is unreasonable to hold these students to the same standards as mainstream students.
  • There must be more input from teachers in NCLB's reauthorization. NCLB should reflect their ideas, concerns and suggestions.

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