John Gust seems to think the No Child Left Behind Act has turned teachers into automatons and students into robots (“Are Schools Building Minds or Machines?” Voices, Nov. 6). Ironically, it’s Gust himself who mindlessly repeats arguments unsupported by the facts. Under the act, California’s schools have received more than $426 million in Reading First grants to train teachers in proven instructional methods, not learning fads. Students are regularly measured so they can receive help when they need it. And parents have more information, choices and opportunities for involvement than ever before.
As a result, nearly two-thirds of California’s schools have met their academic achievement goals in 2004, compared with 54% a year ago. These goals were not spit out by a computer in Washington, but developed by educators in California.
Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Unified School District has seen its Academic Performance Index scores rise at a rate faster than the state’s. Who deserves the credit? Not machines, but hard-working teachers and students.
U.S. Secretary of Education
Gust’s expression of frustration with standardized education was well written and sincere. As a parent, I share his concerns. On the other hand, he is a teacher at a math/science magnet school. Not all schools are fortunate enough to have the caliber of student that I’m sure Gust enjoys. I am also a California State University faculty member. We have ample proof from our entrance examinations that there is no longer any requirement that students acquire even basic skills to be awarded a high school diploma. Although the CSU admits only the top one-third of the state’s high school graduates, a majority of them cannot read or do mathematics at the level that the state standards mandate for high school freshmen, much less college-bound seniors.
I would be happy to hear teachers’ suggestions for restoring the linkage between grades and actual student performance in our public schools. Until such a plan is proffered, standardized tests with real consequences are the alternative that is going to be forced on the public schools.