New York State’s Teacher of the Year, a Long Island fifth-grade instructor, was honored by President Bush in a White House ceremony Thursday as her union got ready to lobby Congress on changes to Bush’s flagship education policy.
The teacher, Marguerite Izzo, 52, said after the ceremony that she was less than enthusiastic about the testing requirements of Bush’s No Child Left Behind Act.
“I don’t think we want a nation of bubble-fillers,” she said. “We want a nation of thinkers.”
Bush praised award-winning teachers from across the United States as “some really fine public servants and great Americans” before urging reauthorization of the act, which he first signed in 2002. Bush said the law, which tracks student performance through standardized tests and imposes sanctions on poorly performing schools, was working. “Measurement is not a tool to punish,” he said. “Measurement is a tool to correct and reward.”
The law rates Izzo’s Howard T. Herber Middle School in Malverne, N.Y., as successful, but Izzo said she would rather see fewer tests, with students assessed through individual work portfolios. Her students are tested on social studies in November, language arts in January and math in March. “One snapshot of a child, one standardized test, doesn’t tell us how that child has progressed from September to June,” she said.
Her union, New York State United Teachers, is calling for changes in the law to “acknowledge different rates of student learning.”
Still, Izzo said, it’s “possible to keep the magic” in teaching. She credited her school district with helping her find creative ideas that also meet testing requirements. She said she taught about branches of government by having students move into different corners of the room representing legislative, executive and judicial branches.