November 13th, 2007

No Child Left Behind Podcast: How does NCLB affect principals?

( Click here to download the podcast )

The Federal law known as No Child Left Behind has generated a massive amount of testing data. But is the data useful in the classroom? Jay McClain, principal at Bailey’s Elementary School in Fairfax County, VA, discuss how NCLB impacts his job.

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I’ve noticed that when you and educators talk about NCLB, the focus is always on the so-called high stakes tests. Research-based instruction is mentioned 111 times in NCLB! I would be very interested in hearing educators at different levels address the following questions: Why are the majority of our elementary classrooms not using research-based methods for teaching reading? Why do many of the “best” teachers tell us that the ability to “decode” words doesn’t matter for beginning readers? (When 60 years of research from the NIH clearly shows that the ability to decode word s is an essential skill for proficient reading?!!) If educators don’t think NCLB is the way to address the need for accountability, what do they suggest as an alternative? And finally, to take the reading education issue up one level, why are our teacher education programs not teaching elementary education majors the science of reading?

Sami, you are right on. A lot of what Mr. McClain says is nonsense. Teachers do not teach how to fill in bubbles all year long. He mentions teaching the “whole child” meaning whole language, which we now know doesn’t work. You are also absolutely correct about research-based methods not being used. My post-bac education program, thankfully did require phonics and not whole language based on the recommendations of the NIH. Another point: most of these multicultural educators are classically trained, yet they want to water down academics for their minority and/or disenfranchised students. It’s so condescending!

Teaching the whole child does not mean whole language. You are missing the point. NCLB was politically motivated and continues to be used in that fashion to move a specific political agenda. That’s all the space I’ll waste on that failed issue. There exists a host of research and evidence regarding “brain-based learning” which addresses the aspects of teaching the whole child. It is understandable why so much effort is being spent to preserve an age-old system that relies on testing (sorting and selecting) to reward success. It’s familiar. The only system of education that proves itself to be effective in any regard is that which evolves and renews. Look around you… our education system is struggling to show any appearance of being relevant to the current generation of students. Why? Because literacy has a new meaning and a new set of standards in this century, in this world, and in our communities. If you understand this, you understand those who are frustrated with the time and resources lost to chasing scores. We are long past time to move on. Stop arguing. The kids are listening.

[...] did NCLB mean for principals? We sat down with one — Jay McClain — and found out. Listen to the story. [...]

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