Polski3's View from Here

Quote of some personal revelence: "Is a dream a lie, that don't come true, or is it something worse?"

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Letter about Re-Authorization of NCLB

Here is my letter to many of our Congressional representatives regarding the re-authorization of NCLB.

Dear Representative XYZ,

I am writing to you regarding the re-authorization of the legislature regarding “No Child Left Behind” ( sorry, I could not find a HR number for this legislature). I am writing to you as a parent of two children and as a teacher.

In my opinion, as a parent, my sons are being left behind by the Federal mandates of NCLB. My wife and I have two very bright sons who are entering grades 5 and 7. Both are super readers and have consistently brought home excellent reports on their report cards, are honored repeatedly as “students of the month” at their schools and are among the top readers in their school’s Accelerated Reader Program. However, they are being left behind because they are not being taught much about history, science, art, music or Physical Education at their public elementary school. We have always requested the best teachers for our sons, but their teachers are academically handcuffed by district office mandates to spend the vast bulk of their teaching time teaching only the Language Arts and Mathematics programs that the district office has selected. These fine teachers do not have the flexibility or freedom to teach in the best interest of the students enrolled in their classes. If they do teach any history, science, art, music or PE., they are limited to an occasional bit of left-over time. I have “complained” several times regarding this to school district officials; their reply has always been that “teaching these subjects is part of the curriculum for their schools”. This is true; on paper. The fact is, my sons are not getting the opportunity to learn the state curriculum for their grade levels in history or science or any other non-tested academic discipline. This is all due to NCLB requirements to only judge schools by their test scores in English and mathematics. We live in a high minority, low socio-economic part of California (Imperial County), and do not have viable choices of private school educational opportunities for our sons. Even though my sons are eligible for the GATE program, they do not participate in this program because that would require a change of schools; they would have to attend a school on the other side of town that has much lower test scores. The school district does this in an effort to boost the test scores of their lowest performing schools. And this is grossly unfair to my bright sons and the other bright children of this town who are denied educational opportunities because of their intelligence and because they live in a town with poor test scores.

As a teacher with over 21 years in public school secondary-level classrooms, I have seen a steady erosion of the basic academic knowledge my students possess when they arrive to my Grade 7 World History classes. . They know next to nothing about early US History, which they were supposed to be taught in Grade 5. They have never had the opportunity to learn about the Greeks and Romans in Grade 6 as directed by California State Educational Standards. When I ask them about this, their usual reply is “We only did English and Math.” I believe that this lack of Social Studies/History education will lead to more people with little or no knowledge of our own national history, of the many accomplishments and events that make up the history of our world and perhaps even worse, a generation of Americans who don’t care or who do not have any interest in their country or its government.

I also believe, "fairness" is supposed to be a basic tenet of America. I believe it is so unfair for NCLB to put the entire burden on the schools and teachers, to not including any accountability for students, their families or the edubureaucrats at the State Offices of Education. Schools and teachers can only do so much to alleviate many years of parental neglect and disinterest in the education of their children. It takes the school, teachers, parents, students and community to educate a child. In recent years, I have seen an increase in student apathy toward their education. For some, it is being bored with the constant hammering to pass the test and a curriculum limited to mostly English and Mathematics. For some, it is due to social promotion and increasing frustration that they are academically “behind” many of their peers. Yet, NCLB, like too many Federally mandated programs from Washington, is grossly underfunded in what it asks States/Schools/Teachers to do.

To sum up my letter to you regarding the re-authorization of NCLB, I would encourage you to include a more rounded academic picture of our students by including an emphasis in State Standards for History and Science. I would encourage you to include fair evaluation of test scores by judging students as they individually progress, not judging them by those who came the year prior to them. (FYI: Our 2007 seventh graders are judged by the scores of the 2006 seventh graders; in my opinion, this is like comparing apples to kiwifruits) and it is not fair or a true measure of student progress. I would encourage you to take measures to ensure that the brightest of our students are not left behind because of the constant emphasis on testing and a stifling, limited curriculum of English and Mathematics. Please note that I saw none of these concerns addressed in the January 2007, "Building on Results (of NCLB) document from Secretary of Education Spellings.

I am eager to hear back from you regarding your thoughts pertaining to this letter.
Thank You.



I am sending it to higher ranked Education Committee members in the Senate and House, as well as several representatives from here in California.

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