Saturday, March 2, 2013

“Warnings from the Trenches”

A retired high-school teacher tells college professors what to expect in the wake of No Child Left Behind:

We entered teaching because we wanted to make a difference in the lives of the students who passed through our classrooms. Many of us are leaving sooner than we had planned because the policies already in effect and those now being implemented mean that we are increasingly restricted in how and what we teach.

Now you are seeing the results in the students arriving at your institutions. They may be very bright. But we have not been able to prepare them for the kind of intellectual work that you have every right to expect of them. It is for this that I apologize, even as I know in my heart that there was little more I could have done. Which is one reason I am no longer in the classroom.

Kenneth Bernstein, “Warnings from the Trenches” (Academe)
As Bernstein points out, students of traditional age who entered college in Fall 2012 experienced the full force of No Child Left Behind, from third grade on. I began to notice what I believe to be the effects of NCLB in Fall 2007, in students whose eighth- through twelfth-grade education had been shaped by the new dispensation. What I noticed, aside from weaknesses in reading and writing: an increased lack of engagement with the day-to-day work of a course, as if the only thing that mattered was one’s performance on a test. Think of the mindset of a student who has missed many classes, not kept up with the reading or taken notes, who still thinks it’s possible to hunker down and do reasonably well. My hunch is that a mistaken trust in “skills” — and not in deep familiarity with particular texts — helps to explain this (continuing) problem.


August 12, 2013: Bernstein is going back to the classroom.

comments: 3

Pete said...

NCLB might end up being Bush's most damaging legacy - even more than Iraq and the war on terror.

zzi said...

I take it you give no tests.

Michael Leddy said...

Pete, that’s a frightening thought.

Zzi, yes, I give final exams, which ask for essays and other shorter responses to questions.