Posts Tagged ‘ No Child Left Behind ’

Teacher Quits Due to Frustration with Standardized Testing

Wednesday, March 26th, 2014

Standardized TestingOne teacher in Massachusetts has taken a bold stand against standardized tests. Susan Sluyter was a teacher for more than 25 years before she quit last month due to the school system’s growing emphasis on standardized testing. Sluyter stated in her resignation letter that teaching for the tests was taking away from developing a healthy learning environment for her students. More from the Today show:

A teacher in Massachusetts who has spent more than a quarter century in the classroom is drawing attention after she quit her job over her growing frustration with the school system’s emphasis on standardized testing.

Because of “so many things that pulled me away from the classroom and fractured my time with the children,” kindergarten teacher Susan Sluyter quit last month.

“It takes the joy out of learning for the children,” she told TODAY. “It takes the joy out of teaching.”

In her resignation letter to Cambridge Public Schools, where she has taught for nearly 20 years, Sluyter said she was leaving “with deep love and a broken heart” but felt her job required her to focus too much on teaching to standardized tests rather than to the needs of her students.

“In this disturbing era of testing and data collection in the public schools, I have seen my career transformed into a job that no longer fits my understanding of how children learn and what a teacher ought to do in the classroom to build a healthy, safe, developmentally appropriate environment for learning for each of our children,” she wrote in the letter, which was published by the Washington Post.

The “No Child Left Behind” set of education reforms signed into law in 2002 by President George W. Bush brought sweeping changes for schools and teachers, holding them accountable in new ways for the academic performance of students. But complaints quickly followed that too much focus was being placed on test preparation, rather than actual learning.

Sluyter said she has seen that emphasis has resulted in the suffering of students, whose confusion in the classroom often gets mistaken for disruptive conduct.

“I recognize many of these behaviors as children shouting out to the adults in their world, ‘I can’t do this! Look at me! Know me! Help me! See me!” she said in her letter.

Sluyter told TODAY her decision to quit was not an easy one to make.

“When I think about all of the children that I know in the school that I have been in for years who I never get to see anymore,” she said tearfully. “And they don’t even all know why I left.”

Jeffrey Young, the schools superintendent in Cambridge, Mass., said educators are working to finding a solution to the problems Sluyter addressed.

“I suspect that in time we will find the right way to achieve that balance between strong academic instruction and high-quality learning,” he said.

Michelle Rhee, president and CEO of, agreed the nation places “an overemphasis on testing” but said that doesn’t discount its usefulness in the education system.

“We can use standardized testing to measure whether or not kids are actually learning what they need to learn,” she said.

She pointed to a recent international survey that ranked the United States 26th in student math scores out of 34 developed countries.

“The bottom line is that the kids who are in school today in America are going to be competing for jobs against the kids in India and China, not against the kids in the state next door, so we really do have to make sure that our kids can compete in the global marketplace,” she said.

TODAY viewers expressed sympathy for Sluyter’s stance. They overwhelmingly voted against the idea in a Facebook survey that asked whether standardized tests were the best way for kids to learn. Only 43 agreed it was, while more than 6,000 voted against it.

“As a parent, I have to say no. Schools are simply “teaching to the test” as so much rides on students scores. There is so much creative, “outside the box” learning that is sacrificed in the process,” said Michelle Swart Neely.

Kerry Murphy tried to compare it testing adults at work: “Can you imagine if we scored employees on how well they performed on their job throughout the year on a test taken in 2 days? Adults would be having nervous breakdowns left and right. But for some reason it’s totally ok to do it to kids?”

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What Kids Like (And Don't Like) About School
What Kids Like (And Don't Like) About School
What Kids Like (And Don't Like) About School

Image: Yellow pencil on multiple choice test computerized answer sheet via Shutterstock.

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Obama Frees 10 States from No Child Left Behind

Friday, February 10th, 2012

President Obama announced Thursday that he has granted waivers to ten states, releasing them from the tough requirements of No Child Left Behind, the 2001 education reform law.

These states—Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Oklahoma, New Jersey, and Tennessee—are now free to pursue their own plans for raising educational standards.

No Child Left Behind has been unpopular for many reasons, including the fact that it uses yearly standardized tests to evaluate students; educators complain this has led to “teaching to the test.” States also say the law is unrealistic for requiring that all students reach proficiency in reading and math by 2014. From The Associated Press:

The states excused from following the law no longer have to meet that deadline. Instead, they had to put forward plans showing they will prepare children for college and careers, set new targets for improving achievement among all students, reward the best performing schools and focus help on the ones doing the worst.

New Mexico applied for waiver in this round, and didn’t receive one, but is working with the administration to get eventual approval. Twenty-eight other states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico have said they also plan to apply for waivers. No Child Left Behind has been up for renewal since 2007, but Congress has been unable to agree on how to update the law.

Readers, what do you think: Are these waivers the right step to help schools?

Image: Teacher and student at blackboard via Shutterstock

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Obama to Allow States to Opt out of ‘No Child Left Behind’

Friday, September 23rd, 2011

The education law known as No Child Left Behind has some new flexibility, President Barack Obama announced today, in that states can now opt out of some of the law’s elements if they meet certain requirements.  The Elementary and Secondary Education Act’s Flexibility program will allow states to receive waivers protecting them from federal sanctions if their schools do not perform up to the law’s standards.

Ultimately, Obama said in a statement, the changes are meant to free troubled schools to find ways other than standardized testing to raise achievement levels in their classrooms, if those schools do not meet the law’s rigorous standards.  “The purpose is not to give states and districts a reprieve from accountability, but rather to unleash energy to improve our schools at the local level,” he said. reports:

Under the plan Obama outlined, states can ask the Education Department to be exempted from some of the law’s requirements if they meet certain conditions, such as imposing standards to prepare students for college and careers and setting evaluation standards for teachers and principals.

Despite allowing states to do away with the approaching 2014 deadline, Obama insisted he was not weakening the law, but rather helping states set higher standards. He said that the current law was forcing educators to teach to the test, give short shrift to subjects such as history and science, and lower standards as a way to avoid penalties and stigmas.

To qualify for a waiver, states would have to show they had a plan to help low-performing schools. A majority of states are expected to apply for waivers, which will be given to qualified states early next year.

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