Teachers Issue Challenge to No Child Left Behind Act

Teachers Issue Challenge
ORLANDO -

A survey of the largest national teachers' union found that an overwhelming majority of members oppose tossing out the entire federal No Child Left Behind. Instead, they support fixing the measure when it comes up for reauthorization next year in Congress.

CLEMENTS: I'm with over 8,000 people here who believe in accountability who believe in testing but we want to make sure we're testing appropriately and fairly that we're looking at the whole child that we're not basing everything on one test on one day but looking at how they learn every day.

Jean Clements is president of the Hillsborough Classroom Teachers Association. She says the teachers union believes the federal legislation needs to do a better job at addressing the individual needs of children.

CLEMENTS: We have very diverse children that we teach and even in one school there are many different needs and one size doesn't fit all one test doesn't fit all one methodology doesn't fit all.

For example, Pasco County school teacher Glenda McCallister worries about how the high stakes testing is affecting her elementary students with disabilities.

McCALLISTER: So, if you're reading at a second grade level and you're presented a test at a fourth grade level that would be like an undergrad getting a test at the PhD level. It's unreal and it's awful to watch, it breaks your heart.

McCallister says administering the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test has become a devastating chore because teachers cannot help the students with words on the reading portion of the FCAT.

McCALLISTER: You know we help our students all year long. We read the reading items to them. (Then) we give them this test and we've got kids crying, they're looking at you can you help me and we're like sorry honey we can't. what is this word and usually it's a name and they can't pronounce the name and they won't continue to read. They're eyes look at you.

Lillie Johnson also teaches exceptional student education. She'll start her third year this fall at Mulrennan Middle School in Valrico. Her teaching mentor was involved with the union, so Johnson has been a member from her first day in the classroom.

JOHNSON: I find this is a professional organization and it treats us as professionals. But, it also a huge, huge political force. And that's why it cannot be left off because we make changes every day with our legislation and laws.

Johnson says the union's political force is needed to open the eyes of elected officials as to how their decisions affect children in the classroom.

JOHNSON: The laws and legislation that they pass affects every child. It affects them on a different level. There is no quick fix. There is no blanket solution that they need to come to schools and see what we do every day and talk to kids and talk to teachers and really understand how the laws that they make affect us and our children every day.

The union's conference tackled other issues such as health and safety in the classroom and instructional methodologies. But the teachers' union has made gaining more flexibility in the federal education laws a lobbying priority for 2007.

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