Classroom Controversy

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Remember when new math, phonics, and rote learning were in vogue? These flawed systems fell by the wayside, just as the No Child Left Behind program will also fade away ["Room to Improve," November 12].

Schools are microcosms of society, and in the real world, individuals are required to be adaptive, character-driven critical thinkers. Therefore, state tests ought to be just one of several variables used to assess knowledge and progress. Currently, test results are the primary factor used to measure school performance, which sets schools up for failure. These arbitrary tests are poorly aligned with state and/or national standards. Most schools aren't failing; rather, the government is failing the schools with incessant tinkering and a dogmatic definition of accountability. Officials should be asking teachers what they need to help students succeed.

Christian P. Milord


Fullerton, Calif.  

As a 10th-grade student in public school, I believe that the United States will not be able to compete in the future global economy, especially against China and India. The main reason is not the government but the students. I came to this country in third grade with no English but after two years enrolled in a gifted and talented program. It all goes back to parental discipline. If parents do not start making their kids appreciate education, I'm afraid we will become a very fragile country. Also, I believe that teachers should be respected more and paid higher salaries.

Alvin Tsao


Houston  

In colleges and universities, we are seeing the devastation of No Child Left Behind. Students are taught for an entire year how to pass just one or two tests. Teachers can't take time to teach their students how to think. Schools cut art, music, and foreign languages to have money and time to teach to the test. Assessment for the sake of assessment has replaced teaching. By the time we get these students in college, they don't want to read, and they sure can't think. No Child Left Behind is a failure to everybody but the educational bureaucrats who make money administering tests.

Richard Schellhammer


Dept. of History and Social Sciences
University of West Alabama
Livingston, Ala.  

Ask most urban educators for one single reform that would dramatically generate immediate results, and most will reflexively reply "reducing class size." Next time, interview at least one of the 31,000 teachers, parents, and concerned citizens who have signed the online petition to dismantle the misdirected No Child Left Behind Act. Like most Detroit public schools, our high school suffers from the Faustian bargain of an $8,104-per-pupil allowance from the state's limited coffers, hence the predictable result of persistent overcrowding. NCLB pays lip service to smaller learning communities because politician authors know the cost of real educational progress. Requiring classroom capacity to max out at 20 pupils would mandate hiring new teachers, especially in cities where they are needed the most.

William Boyer


Social studies teacher
Oak Park High School
Detroit  

As a young person beginning her career teaching in public schools, I continually hear from seasoned educators that it's a really tough time in education. Countless teachers and families are working very hard to influence positive change in the lives of our students. What has NCLB accomplished in bringing meaning and enrichment into the lives of young people in this country? We shower our nation's wealthiest children with hands-on science, literature circles, and out-of-state field trips. We leave our poorest children with basal readers, high-stakes testing, and enough standardized work sheets to fill up every moment of the school year. I hear the message loud and clear—some people are worth our government's funding, and others need attend school only during assessments.

Christa Henderson


Berkeley, Calif.  

It is time to use corporate property tax along with personal property tax as a means of funding schools. Educational facilities from preschools to colleges and universities need to be converted to entities of private enterprise whereby an education is crafted as the finest product available to United States citizens. Along with this transition, add the disciplinary environment desperately needed in schools today. Furthermore, a greater effort needs to be made in determining where one fits in the skills and abilities matrix. Education is a public good no less important than national defense, environmental quality, etc., but it is the means of providing that good that needs to change.

Joe Bialek


Cleveland  

While the cover photo was probably intended to depict a congressional smokescreen in regard to the debate on No Child Left Behind, the unfortunate result is that it leaves readers with the impression that school buses regularly discharge harmful exhaust that engulfs children. The National School Transportation Association has been an active partner in the Environmental Protection Agency's Clean School Bus usa program, and our members take very seriously their responsibility for both the safety and the health of the students they transport. In addition to technology retrofits, our members have switched to ultralow-sulfur diesel fuel, have initiated anti-idling programs, and have instituted other operational changes designed to decrease both fuel consumption and exhaust. We are looking ahead as well: Some of our members are currently testing new plug-in, hybrid electric school buses in an effort to determine the practicality and effectiveness of this technology in improving air quality and reducing fuel consumption.

Barry Stock


President National School Transportation Association
Alexandria, Va.