ID Bar
Volume II, Number 2, February, 2004

Write Congress

Tell them just how bad NCLB/Helter-Skelter really is on the local level!

The letter below was mailed by a New Jersey teacher, Barbara Manna to help her Congressman understand the damage being done by NCLB.

Have you written such a letter?

How else will the Congress know what a tragic mistake this law is? Grass roots complaints are fundamental if Republican and Democratic lawmakers are to unite in amending or appealing this legislation.

The recent rebellion against NCLB in Virginia is evidence that folks from both political parties can join to put a stop to NCLB damage.

This letter is a model of persuasion and influence.

About Barbara Manna

Dear Representative Miller,

I have been a special education teacher for fifteen years. I am currently teaching 10th grade Resource English and 9/10th grade in-class support Integrated Math I (combination of Algebra, Geometry, Statistics and Probability) at Southern Regional High School in Manahawkin, NJ. I have received excellent evaluations throughout my teaching career. I earned a BS in Special Education with honors from the University of Virginia.

After that, I earned an M. Ed. in Special Education Technology with honors from George Mason University. I have completed 97 out of 100 continuing ed. hours towards my 5 year NJ recertification requirement. I truly love teaching and helping my students to learn and to develop into kind, responsible and goal oriented individuals. I currently possess a K-12 NJ Teacher of the Handicapped certificate.

A special education certificate is broad based because we have to be able to adapt existing curricula/instruction and create novel approaches to deliver information to our students.

According to the NCLB legislation, a teacher must be certified in the content area that he or she is teaching. All teachers who meet this requirement are now considered to be "highly qualified," regardless of their level of experience in the classroom. Special ed. teachers who have a broad based certification are now not considered to be "highly qualified."

Veteran teachers are not going to be "grandfathered in" under the regulations of the act. We must now prove our competence by being subjected to a state assessment program. It will take our experience into minimal consideration and we will still have to demonstrate our competency in the subject matter that we teach. I object to the process based upon principle. I also object because I teach in several content areas. I am a fully certified, masters prepared and experienced educator and now I must demonstrate that I am qualified to teach.

This makes no sense. I would like to see a rookie teacher last more than 5 minutes in a small room filled with 16 year old ADD boys who hate English. I enjoy the challenge and love to see my students read Animal Farm and then realize how applicable the novel is today. I love to see my students appreciate and understand the Taming of the Shrew. My students had just finished studying To Kill a Mockingbird when Gregory Peck died. They came in to tell me the next day. They had been touched by Atticus Finch. Even after doing this for fifteen years, I still love to develop new ideas and to improve the old ones. This demotion in status has hit me in the heart.

Everyone wants to see our children receive the best possible education. As a mother, I am vigilant in this regard. Everyone is interested in teacher accountability and now good, caring, experienced and competent teachers are being told that they are not "highly qualified."

The Department of Education and those who developed the No Child Left Behind legislation have been unconcerned about what the act has done to special education teachers. Don't our disabled students deserve the most qualified educators in front of their classrooms? Who is better able to meet their needs? I have an M.Ed, my teaching certificate and fifteen years of successful experience with special education students. Does this not make me qualified to do what I love to do? Our only chance to rectify this situation is to see that revisions to the definition of a "highly qualified" teacher in IDEA include special educators with the appropriate state certification.

Thank you so much for your time.
Barbara Manna

bcmanna@srsd.org
248 Bulkhead Ave.
Manahawkin, NJ 08050

© 2004, Barbara Manna, all rights reserved. This article may be e-mailed to individuals by individuals, but all other duplication, distribution, publication and use is prohibited without first receiving explicit permission. Contact for information.
What can you do to change this law before it does great damage to the schools and children in your state and town?
  1. Subscribe to "No Child Left" to stay informed about efforts to repeal NCLB. Click here.
  2. Speak with the school board members, administrators and teachers in your community to learn how NCLB will change schools and learning in your town.
  3. Start communicating with your Senators and Representatives to let them know you want this law changed to put more emphasis on capacity building and support rather than testing and punishment.
  4. Write letters to the editor of your local newspaper expressing your concerns. Illustrate the dangers of this law with specific and compelling examples.
  5. Emphasize concrete alternatives that would do more to improve the futures of disadvantaged children.

A List of ESEA (NCLB) Amendments

1. Fund social programs that impact school readiness so that all children actually enter school ready to learn as the first President Bush promised long ago.

2. Fund capacity building (enhanced teaching and learning) in districts and districts for several years before engaging in punishing labels and reckless choice provisions. Capacity building might mean providing hundreds of hours of training in effective reading strategies, for example. But it does not mean training everybody in a single highly scripted program endorsed by the administration for pseudo-scientific reasons.

3. Devote public money to truly public schools. Be careful not to divert funds to reckless experiments or diploma mills.

4. Fund enough construction of new schools within public systems so parental choice is real.

5. Support informed school choice within public systems.

6. Emphasize rewards and incentives rather than sanctions.

7. Hold all publicly funded schools to standards for performance and quality, whether actually private, charter or truly public. Be careful about simplistic notions of high stakes testing.

8. Fund recruitment and preparation of effective teachers and aides from all racial and economic groups to close the gap between current staffing levels and what is desirable.

9. End the insulting, broad brush assaults on teachers and administrators struggling against difficult challenges.

10. Capitalize on the good research conducted to discover what works best in schools and avoid simplistic panaceas and platitudes imported from the world of business and medicine.

11. Enrich the options available to all children. Forswear tightly scripted, robotic programs and the fast food approaches to school improvement.

12. Build school improvement on a richly defined foundation of alternatives and strategies.

13. Eliminate Trojan horses, hidden agendas and shameful politics from ESEA.

14. Stop using Madison Avenue techniques to hide the harsh realities of so-called compassionate conservatism.