[ProgressiveEd] Very much worth reading

Victor Weiss [email protected]
Mon, 12 May 2003 21:03:38 -0400

While I can agree that many teachers are dedicated and have very little in 
terms of resources or teaching conditions to work with, I find this article 
basically repulsive.  I think in the olden days of my childhood, there 
certainly was an attitude that a certain amount of children would succeed 
and others would fail.  I am glad that this (largely racist) attitude has 
changed somewhat, although I think this No Child Left Behind thing is 
basically a setup for the public schools to fail so they won't have to be 
The point is that it is true, and always has been, that children from 
educated families have an advantage (like I did).  It is also true that we 
can now appreciate that there are different learning styles as well as maybe 
multiple intelligences, that require a fresh look on teaching and 
assessment.  I believe that even with children from difficult home 
situations, the school can make an effort and do some good for them.    Of 
course the very first course of action (as always) is to have smaller class 
sizes, as well as maybe some more adults in the classrooms.  These, of 
course, are not the priorities of your No Child Left Behind Republicans, who 
are more interested in using our tax money to buy W's brother's phonics 
>From: [email protected]
>To: [email protected]
>Subject: [ProgressiveEd] Very much worth reading
>Date: Sun, 11 May 2003 21:02:47 EDT
>My Turn by David Finley
>Educators know the truth but are afraid to say it: All children cannot 
>I am an educator, and in my profession it is a mortal sin to say that all
>children cannot learn. Now that I have said it publicly, I will probably 
>my job and be excommunicated from my profession. At the very least I am
>certain it will give Arizona's state superintendent of public instruction a
>bad case of heartburn.
>Perhaps I can redeem myself by rephrasing the statement: All children can
>learn but all children cannot learn as much as all other children. And all
>children cannot learn to some preset state or Federal standard, as is
>currently mandated by the No Child Left Behind Act and Arizona Learns
>I am principal of a school the state has labeled "underperforming." Does 
>embarrass me? Not in the least. The label is a misnomer. Schools are simply
>brick and mortar. They do not perform, over or under. The label really 
>that the school's instructional staff is underperforming.
>Since I know that the teachers at my school are effective, dedicated
>professionals who are actually "overperforming," I am not the least bit
>embarrassed by being mislabeled as a result of this ridiculous legislation.
>Color me defensive if you must, but I believe labeling schools is nothing
>more than name-calling, something most of us learned not to do in
>kindergarten. Labeling schools will not improve them and actually runs
>counter to the intended purpose. The goal of the law is admirable and 
>great to voters. Schools will be held accountable to ensure that all 
>learn and succeed; the achievement gap between poor and rich kids will
>magically disappear; and no child will be left behind. The only phrase
>missing is that everyone will live happily ever after.
>Like the emperor in the classic fairy tale, the No Child Left Behind Act 
>no clothes, but no one is saying so. The punitive nature of the legislation
>is forcing teachers to teach to a test instead of teaching children;
>consequently, there may be a superficial test scores. However, for solving
>the problem of low achievement by at-risk children, it is tantamount to
>putting a Band-Aid on a headache. Saying that "all" children must achieve 
>a predetermined standard on a test is like saying that all children in
>physical education classes must run a six-minute mile on a physical fitness
>exam. And saying that all children must show one year's academic growth for
>one year in school is like saying that all children in the school lunch
>program must gain 10 pounds and grow 2 inches in one year.
>Children are not created equal in athletic ability or physical
>characteristics. Neither are they created equal in their ability to learn.
>Any first-year teacher knows this; apparently politicians do not. They have
>created a law that is focused on fixing the schools and just possibly the
>schools aren't broken. I am not saying the schools are perfect or that we
>cannot improve. And I firmly believe that the education profession must be
>held accountable for what it does. But this is true of every profession,
>including law and medicine.
>The professional educator, however, seems to be at the bottom of the food
>chain. Unlike any other profession, we are constantly asked to do more with
>less. And politicians, who say things that are politically expedient but 
>educationally realistic, relentlessly criticize us. Doctors and lawyers are
>never subject to such political philandering and shortsighted legislation.
>Doctors are not required by law to cure all their patients. It is
>acknowledged that there are circumstances with each patient that are 
>Some patients will not follow their doctor's instructions; some simply have
>illnesses that cannot be cured. Lawyers are not required by law to win all
>their cases. It is recognized that every client has a unique set of
>circumstances that will directly affect their attorney's ability to bring
>them success in court. Teachers, on the other hand, do not fare so well 
>lawmakers. The law ignores the fact that schools in the low-income areas
>serving predominantly at-risk children have much higher percentages of
>children with special "medical problems and legal circumstances." Under the
>threat of a "failing label" teachers must cure every child irrespective of
>his or her illness; win every case in the courthouse of the classroom no
>matter the legal circumstance of the child.
>In "The Emperor's New Clothes," it takes a small child to tell the truth 
>bring the adults to their senses. Maybe our legislators need to come into 
>"underperforming" schools. They might learn some things they did not know
>before. Perhaps this would bring about some responsible legislation aimed 
>solving some of our problems instead of creating new ones, such as an 
>of quality teachers from the at-risk schools, where they are needed most.
>Fairy tales usually have a happy ending, but I fear not this one.
>David Finley is the principal of Webster Elementary School in Mesa, AZ. He
>has been an educator for 32 years.

Protect your PC - get McAfee.com VirusScan Online