NCLB turns 10 and what it means for a pre-service teacher

As I was skimming through some Tweets yesterday, there was one that really stuck out. It was from Education Week and they were looking back on the No Child Left Behind Act, as it celebrated its 10th birthday. If you scroll a little further down on their NCLB page, you’ll come across a pretty intense and frightening word coud:

NCLB Word Cloud

The question that caused this sobering graphic: What word or words do you associate with No Child Left Behind?

As a side note, I did something similar when I was studying the future of  journalism at Pitt a few years ago.

But if you take a look at the word cloud, you see words like “flawed,” “failure” and “has to go.” But if you look hard enough you can see “goal is good” and “a wakeup call for parents and educators.” While I’m not here to debate one side or the other when it comes to NCLB – not yet, at least – I do want to look at what 10 years of NCLB means for me, a pre-service teacher (PST).If I was to respond to the question about what NCLB means to me, I thought process probably would have headed toward the word ‘accountability.’ I’m under the impression that everybody is being held accountable under the NCLB act. Public school districts are held accountable for what their administrators and teachers do all the way to how their students perform on standardized tests.  And because those tests have a lot of weight on how much federal funding, if any, a district may get, it seems like English teachers are in a struggle between teaching to the test and teaching for students to make meaning out of texts and other media.

I’m thinking this way because when it comes to teaching short stories or even excerpts of works that students haven’t seen before, I feel like there isn’t enough push to have students take into account different strategies like multiple perspectives and shared inquiry. Because of NCLB, I get the feeling that students expect to be taught for a test and not just taught to learn and make meaning.

I’d like to create an environment where class discussion doesn’t revolve around the question of whether or not it will be on the test. Instead, I’d like to see a class where students question, for example, whether or not the actions of a certain character were fate or free will. And in doing so, I’d like to have a classroom where students can question the teacher and form their own opinions rather than take my suggestion or response as the one and only true answer.

How can we, as teachers, combat the restrictions of NCLB?

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Filed under Education, NCLB, Personal, Student Teaching, Teaching

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