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Volume III, Number 2, February, 2005

Driving Away the Brightest and the Best

By Jamie McKenzie (about author)

© 2005, Jamie McKenzie, all rights reserved.

NCLB, Helter-Skelter, is doing great damage to the morale of teachers across the land.

It is a story ignored by most of the press thus far with the exception of an occasional story here and there.

From time to time the editor of No Child Left receives letters from teachers who are feeling angry and upset about the senseless and often insensitive rules of NCLB. Many of these letters reflect a sense of dedication to children and a frustration with the experimentation, damage and folly being imposed on public schools by this ill considered law.

The letter below raises important policy issue. How can we take care of our children if we drive the brightest and the best of our teachers out of the profession?

2/3/05

LEAVING THE TEACHER BEHIND

By André Gensburger

© 2005, André Gensburger, all rights reserved.

 I am a 3rd/4th grade public school teacher in a district currently caught up in union negotiations that are rapidly deteriorating due to lack of funding and a test-only atmosphere created by NCLB. 

This is my 6th year teaching and frankly, most likely my last. The creativity and joy of teaching have been replaced by a cut and dry standards-based only education which, with unqualified results, fueled by a paranoid need for pushing NCLB at the expense of all else, has left us all staring blankly for some basic common sense.

Just this week I was told that all non-adoption/non-core reading books were to be removed from my classroom - perfectly sound readers for reading-starved children that were paid for by parents, PTA, school and teachers over the years. The dictate is that since they are not included in the adoption they have no place in the classroom. In its place are the few readers that accompany the adoption which hardly offer the full richness of reading diversity that was previously available to the students.  

Our grade levels mirror each other in pacing with no room for any creative teaching unless done in secret. Science and Social Studies have fallen by the wayside due to a time-consuming Language Arts program with a mandated number of teaching hours. And school districts are determining cuts to Music and Library programs, as though they had no relevance to the learning process.
 
I have become a ‘page-turning monkey’ at the mandate of my school district based on the NCLB push.  Our teachers are all stressed, exhausted, depressed and, despite being professionals, feel locked into defensiveness for everything said and done within the classroom.  This is a totally unhealthy atmosphere in which to teach children and is destroying a generation of students who, in the end, won’t have a clue what they have really learned or why.

 It has been suggested that failing schools reinforce the government’s promotion of vouchers as though schools of choice will solve the problem. And the very test scores that determine failure come from a “standardized test” that has not even had consistent, relevant content year after year. How is any worthwhile data to be determined when the ground rules keep changing?

 As a teacher I am depressed by what I see – children struggling to master basic skills that they need for success while we spend more and more time assessing their lack of knowledge.   

I am amazed that parents are not in uproar over the politics of education created by people who are not actually teaching their children. And then I watch the media coverage that promotes the notion of strength through testing while denigrating teachers as “whiners” consumed with pettiness over salaries rather than student success and how many do not meet the requirements of The Highly Qualified Teacher.

André Gensburger
A Highly Qualified Teacher
Concord, California
andre@gensburger.com

© 2005, No Child Left, 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.