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Jul-30-2007 01:33printcomments

Op Ed: No Child Left Behind
Now Demands Decent Fix:
Less-Threat, More Common-Sense

Millions of teachers “Tell It True” On Bush bonanza for test and text publishers, while deprived learners starve for realistic education.

George Bush
Bush's plan is now jokingly called "No Child's Behind Left" in educational circles. Photo courtesy: White House

(BEND, Ore.) - Who knows best what really happens in YOUR classrooms? Most parents will agree it must be the teacher and the kids, closest to that vital early-life experience so shaping for all-the-rest.

Most will also agree that their working relationship with the teacher(s) shaping those young lives is among the most essentially important they can ever build.

That makes exceptionally important what the learners and teachers can tell parents about NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND.

Unless you are a trained, dedicated, proven, experienced and still indomitable working-teacher, in an operating classroom; facing real kids every day with real problems; you really have no credibility on what should be done to make learning better and faster.

That learning environment teachers must shape is the most complex any U.S. professional person faces, making all-else pale in comparison.

You must be “a practicing psychologist, tuned tightly to ‘individual differences’ and skilled in decent teaching practice”; every day, in every way, for all of your classroom-full.

That pits “the teacher” --FACE TO FACE-- with “many distinctively individual, constantly demanding learners”; with each seeking satisfaction achievable in no other way.

It is strictly up to the teacher not only “to motivate this natural demand” but “to guide and shape all-things-involved” --and, unfailingly, produce results of which all can be proud: students and parents and school-board-members, too!

“Within budget”, too --no matter how depleted and deprived by decades of neglect, especially in Oregon. That means little or weak mentor-support and little help from supervisors, too --spread too thin and far-between.

That’s why, now, it is generally recognized that “teaching-skills development demands not only courage to perform-and-learn”; but also “close supervision, comforting and guiding mentor-support, and solid provision of all-demanded technologies” --far beyond the printed textbook.

Competency in no other profession is so beleaguered and maligned with less real reason than for education; this is true at every level from kindergarten through graduate levels.

That’s why what working teachers tell us is so likely to be true about NCLB --they recognize ”a basically good idea gone bad by distortion and perversion.”

They are doing so, by the thousands, right out in full-confession printed pages, nationally publicized by a very large confluence of reasonable, rational, authoritative organizations.

What has very direct impact on all teachers, with consequence for learners --and parents, too-- is “the threatening classroom-working requirements imposed” by NCLB; with “painful dollar-sanctions looming” if every single line-and-point is not precisely met:

“Too much paperwork”; “too strong emphasis on workbooks built by publishers”; “weird changes in what is taught”; and over and over, time and time again --”teaching to meet those tests”.

Authorities agree that “NO test is ever entirely trustworthy”. It is “the human-to-human contact with the teacher” which should supply “the most meaningful measurement of learning progress.”

The greatest educational danger - long professionally recognized, is “the easy-out of teaching to the test”; demanding “too-simple memorization of facts-only”; rather than “meaningful understandings leading on to the most essential learning of all: critical/thinking abilities.”

NCLB rewards “teaching to the test” and threatens absolute revocation of job and career if NOT achieved on a strict and rigid schedule, most authoritative sources agree.

That’s what teachers are telling their local supporting publics, loud and clear, in print and over the air-channels; long before Congress can act amid strong complaints from millions of other parents and from learners, too --as well as thousands of school board members stuck with the unfunded costs.

YOU, too, should know what teachers report, before our elected representatives undertake any rebuilding of this Bush program.

WHOSE CHILDREN are at stake here? YOURS, surely. Action is demanded to protect and preserve their learning opportunities.

The facts on the public record prove our educational system is really doing the job”, despite desperate longtime underfunding: There are “more high school grads, more college-participating learners, more graduate-school degrees, and more accomplished and well-trained workers now than ever before”; in any generation, at any time.

That’s why the very-large American overclass of citizens now solidly trained in their ongoing professions, creating their personal realization of “the American Dream”, has been made possible.

That’s where “the American ‘middle-class’ actually came from”, as famous historians insist.

This has been achieved in spite of long-continued lower-funding, and less real attention than nearly any other part of our society --except perhaps healthcare. Surely, in Oregon, we have “seen with our own eyes” what damage results when education is deprived by funds withheld or diverted over three decades.

What has “made it work” is the long working-record of all those dedicated teachers who faced up to working difficulties with real courage and determination to “do the best we can”; despite indecent “attack from those who ‘think they know’”; but have never spent a single day in brutal confrontation with learners demanded of any teacher.

Parents have a vested interest in their own offspring, with every right to discuss, declaim, even demonstrate for what they believe is needed --and why.

BUT actual observation by them within the classroom itself is few-and-far between. Even if it should frequently occur, they are still placed in the near-impossible situation of semi-understandings by their unavoidable, inherent, emotional individual-child interests alone.

Government has strong central responsibilities for education, surely demanding proper control of all teacher preparation, evaluation, certification and supervision. That’s why there IS an Oregon Department of Education, carrying out Constitutional requirements as in every state.

Given those prerequisites, why should parents NOT repose full confidence in what teachers themselves --surely the most-directly affected here-- have to report about NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND?

If you cannot do so, you have work to do in your own school district; NCLB funding may deprive YOU and YOURS of what you need.

That law is now recognized as a canny-and-controversial gambit, built on heavy reliance for highly- suspect “evaluative testing” for so-called “progressive success in subject-matter learnings”.

Many suspect it is really Bush’s beginning operation to take over education: It is, simply said, a direct and controlling “play our way or pay painfully” plan for reprocessing our educational system as just another privatized, corporatized, decentralized contributor to further damaging our democracy.

It is further marred by manipulative measures to force State action rapidly --if not too wisely and well-- in areas best left to Constitutionally-accorded responsibilities for each varying situation, in each of the fifty states.

Fortunately Oregon has an exceptionally well-experienced communicator at the controls in our State Dept. of Education, seeking what’s best for Oregon’s own unique --and somewhat peculiar--situation.

For your own full information --as well as in the best interests of your own and all other Oregon school-kids-- find out what teachers will tell you about NCLB --and why they tell their stories in completely revealing and distressing fashion.

Seek out for your own eyes the basic and realistic facts-involved here -easily available to you-- from our own Oregon Department.

National statistics firmly on the record over those last few decades of continuing neglect for education as THE essential component of democracy prove up that continued effective, efficient reality; despite all the propaganda milled out by the millions of words, on thousands of pages and on-air programs, by those who, very clearly, failed to properly-provide when at the helm of this nation’s ostensibly-controlling Congress.

Notable studies for more than 50 years prove up this proposition of far right cabal to convert due attention by parents into classical distorted-perverted impacts on education.

Those facts are tellingly provided by some who have progressed through all the political underbrush to providing personal-professional experience “on the record”; clearly revealing this malign set of circumstances and events, already recorded-now as our history.
(Full documentation available on request.)

Its purpose from the start has been to undercut one of the strongest tools in the democratic arsenal --universal public education; clearly providing protection against fascistic powers-to-be; built on the dollar-driven pressures of propaganda, with improper domination of both print and broadcast media; finally accomplished by corporate takeover of our once-democratic communications channels generally.

Will we now allow this denigrating distortion and perversion of our American education system to continue still further?

What parents hear and learn from their OWN teachers, shaping the lives of their OWN offspring, may well make the crucial difference with Congress.

Despite all the tons-of-money and the millions of words whipped up by distorted and perverted coverage of educational-fact in this country, the wit, wisdom and will of the people can still prevail --when it is exercised via democratic channels strongly applied.

Let YOUR voice be heard NOW about NCLB
BUT FIRST, talk with YOUR OWN teachers --and your children, too-- and “tune in” to what those millions of other-teachers are telling you, loud and open and publicly.


Reader’s Note:
Hundreds of local, regional, state and national organizations have joined with NEA to offer reasonable, rational change-suggestions to Congress on NCLB. Seek out this source for truthful information at: “See also” NEA’s compilation of teacher reports from their actual working experience with NCLB: “NCLB/ESEA: It’s Time For A Change!Voices From American Classrooms”.

Quotes are verbatim, summarized, shortened, from sources available on request. Disclosure: I am not now nor have I ever been a member of NEA.

I have taught at every level from K-12 through grad school; for corporate and college seminars in training and management; and was a Chicago-based learning media consultant/producer for 10 years.

Comments Leave a comment on this story.

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Henry Ruark August 2, 2007 6:58 am (Pacific time)

FYI, Texas has controlled the textbook market for years,since it's largest market except California. At least 20 states set texts for all schools. Publishers routinely change content to meet demands of longtime conservatives on "errors" and interpretation, "facts" and philosophy. Bush policies set there are not necessarily best for our nation, albeit now lucrative for publisher-pals in NCLB.

Henry Ruark August 1, 2007 7:25 pm (Pacific time)

Since my original check on, some time ago, I find they now offer extensive (13-part !!) story from authoritative sources on "Bush Profiteers collect billions from NCLB".

Henry Ruark August 1, 2007 3:56 pm (Pacific time)

To all: We would be remiss if we did not inform you that many citizens believe NCLB should be dismantled. For details on a 16-count indictment, "see also:"

Henry Ruark July 31, 2007 8:36 am (Pacific time)

Working Note: Several readers have sought attribution for some of the quotes contained in our Op Eds recently. Due to the sensitive nature of realistic Op Ed background exploration, where one often encounters authoritative persons reluctant to identify themselves via direct attribution, it is standard journalistic practice to list and identify those sources in writer’s documentation --but to “combine” and sometimes “characterize” the quotes involved, as used in the content-produced. This is long-practiced protocol especially for investigative reporters, where content is often published in a series, and the succeeding issues often demand such quote-procedure to protect sources throughout the publication of the series. I used this practice extensively in a ten-year series on Annual Report Photography, published in three national professional trade journals during the ‘70s to ‘90s, because the sometimes caustic comments of leading practitioners in that very difficult art-form were willing to be entirely frank in their statements only if we could protect their ID's. (See “Quote Usage” note, p. 24, PHOTOMETHODS, July 1991) That series. still unique in its field, could not have been written without this protocol for quote-usage. This practice supplements and supports use of summary and shortened quotes as standard practice in producing Op Eds, with full dependence, unovoidably, on the integrity of the writer. ALL quotes are fully recorded verbatim, with full attributioin to source available in our writing documentation.

Henry Ruark July 31, 2007 6:53 am (Pacific time)

To all: Further consideration of M.C.'s thoughtful comment demands reality-statement that the needs he illuminates could well ALL have been remedied in large part by our wasted funds via wars-and-empire building. In Oregon, much could be done simply by rational share of corporation piracy over years and years, and via tax breaks accorded some "very special" business interests. With stronger effort and oversight from Dept. of Education demanded, too...

Henry Ruark July 30, 2007 6:47 pm (Pacific time)

M.C.: You demand too much of education alone...the problems you illuminate are economic and social, not educational alone, and solutions can never be reached by education alone. Force by money-power will only force separation and segregation that much further and faster; history has taught us that already, painfully. It is a myth that one can't fire teachers; it may be hard but can and is done. It is a myth about the overwhelming power of teacher unions, too. They deserve the impact they do hold, and can be curbed like any other one. NCLB has its good points, but force, threat, sanctions, and manipulation to build the dollar returns for publishers, in lieu of real answers for these problems, demands close and clean consideration in depth and detail from Congress and every State legislature.

Michael Cowan July 30, 2007 3:39 pm (Pacific time)

Your points are valid only for classrooms that have motivated teachers who believe in their kids and are supported by a community that puts children first. The problem is when you get to the broken communities. Where kids are not put first, where parents don’t care about their kids and where teachers have given up and are simply doing the least amount of work they have to until they get their pensions. How do you improve a local school system when generations of educators have given up? When the superintendent doesn’t care, the teachers don’t care and the community doesn’t care? Because of the grossly overpowered (imo) teachers unions, it is impossible to fire incompetent teachers. So you can’t get good teachers to replace the ones who have given up. What else is there? Money. The only thing the Federal Government has to use as a stick is money. And because we can not actually point out that this is an issue affecting mostly low income minorities, we are stuck with applying it equally to all schools. So given the fact that we can’t fire bad teachers, and we can’t focus on just the schools that need it. I support the no child left behind. Set a minimum for every child to reach and then parents that can afford it will send their kids to the schools that help them excel.

Henry Ruark July 30, 2007 11:33 am (Pacific time)

To all: Re understanding complexity of realistic testing, see this longtime educational classic: "Measuring Instructional Intent: Or, "Got A Match ?", by Robert F. Mager, long world-famed in education: ISBN 0-8224--4462-3

Leonardo July 30, 2007 6:31 am (Pacific time)

Well said, Hank. For anyone who has the time: shadow a teacher for three contiguous days. That will dispel any myth about the profession.

S.LaMarche; July 30, 2007 5:26 am (Pacific time)

thanks Henry.

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