By Jymmi Jacobs
On October 5, 2011 at the Brightwater Retirement Home in Myrtle Beach, SC, Dr. Ed Jadallah, Dean of the Spadoni College of Education, along with four pre-service teacher representatives discussed the effect of the No Child Left Behind Act on teachers and classrooms. The theme of the discussion focused on the question, “We may not leave any children behind – but where exactly are we taking them?”
The No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) issued by Congress in 2001 as a standards-based educational reform has left students and teachers questioning the effects of the act on teachers’ performance and students’ ability to learn. The act requires teachers to be held accountable for students to demonstrate a specific level of proficiency in math and literacy. Such accountability for student learning was not disputed. Rather, the lack of consideration for social, economic, and developmental factors that affect student learning was examined as an important concern.
Topics of discussion allowed those in attendance to explore the effects of the NCLB Act on the work of teachers in local school districts. Dr. Jadallah asked pre-service teachers how “teacher effectiveness” currently is being defined in our schools. The pre-service teachers identified what they think makes an effective teacher. Special Education major Candice Hamilton defines an effective teacher as one who is “enthusiastic and creative.” Jacob Scheuer, studying physical education, stated effectiveness can be found in a teacher that reflects on her teaching methods and questions why things were not effective. “The Spadoni College of Education’s Conceptual Framework is based on the development of reflective practitioners. It is our job to involve pre-service teachers in learning experiences that allow them to analyze how teacher effectiveness and student achievement are connected. Prospective teachers learn to examine the various forces and factors that affect student learning and then use that information when making curriculum, instruction, and assessment decisions,” said Dr. Jadallah.
Through the second topic of discussion, how might school accountability requirements affect meaningful student learning, the pre-service teachers shared their experiences in the schools. Early Childhood major Dana Frangipane observed teacher effectiveness published openly on the walls of a local elementary school. “All teachers whose names were in red were not performing at a certain standard. I asked what happens to teachers whose names continue to be in red, and I was told they can lose their job,” said Frangipane. Often as a result of the NCLB Act teacher’s jobs, promotions, and reviews are all determined by the percentage of students who can pass standardized testing in math and literacy. Scheuer and Evans mentioned how teachers being held accountable for students being able to pass the standardized test often results in schools taking away time from P.E., theatre, and other electives. “The No Child Left Behind Act is making cookie cutter kids. They can tell you the results of a math equation, but are limited when it comes to interpersonal relationship skills and other interests that may be taught through curricular electives,” said Scheuer.
The last topic of discussion explored how teacher education programs prepare effective teachers. The pre-service teachers praised the Spadoni College of Education for preparing them to know what to expect upon graduation, particularly its emphasis on multiple (required) field experiences and internships. “The textbooks do not tell you how to react when you have a child who does not speak English in your math class,” said Hamilton. Evans, through her field study, learned the importance of asking questions.
Dr. Jadallah concluded saying that the Spadoni College of Education researches the most effective practices to be taught to future educators in response to the NCLB Act. “The purpose of reflective practice is not to prepare pre-service teachers to be robots; we want teachers who are looking and questioning what is relevant learning and what are the best practices,” said Dr. Jadallah