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Common Sense Needed in No Child Left Behind Debate

September 24, 2011

I found this article from a newly retired former teacher, vice-principal, and principal with 30 years experience in education.  This individual, Bryan Mason, lays out plain and simple truths about the No Child Left Behind law currently in place and how unrealistic its goals are.

It is stunning that our politicians dither while this terrible law is in place, Washington is completely tone deaf even after they ask for teacher opinions.  Take it away Bryan:

“It is a thousand times better to have common sense without education than to have education without common sense.” — Robert G. Ingersol (great orator of the 1800s)

It is unfortunate that education gurus of today would not heed Robert G. Ingersol’s voice from the past. It is readily apparent that common sense has no value or input with today’s frenzied approach for accountability of students and teachers. The No Child Left Behind Act was doomed to fail from its onset by pushing unrealistic goals on students and teachers. Those in the trenches of education knew the day would come that the law would be overhauled or revamped. Even Diane Ravitch, a major proponent of the act under the Clinton andBush administrations has stated No Child Left Behind was flawed and has hurt our nation’s educational progress.

As a newly retired educator with 30 years of experience as teacher, coach, assistant principal and my last 10 as principal of a K-8 school in the Sullivan County School System, I have seen the anxiety and struggle among our students and teachers to reach the lofty goal of 100 percent proficiency. Secretary of EducationArne Duncan stated recently that more than 80 percent of the nation’s schools would be deemed failures using those standards. It appears we are now seeing the outcome of setting unrealistic educational goals. Teachers, more than anyone, would love to have 100 percent proficiency of their students in all subject areas but also know a teacher cannot control all of the issues that come with each student.

The goal of 100 percent proficiency in any job would be an overbearing hardship on employees. The stark truth is that the No Child Left Behind Act uses the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) as its guideline for all states accountability and is ridiculously flawed in its expectations of student achievement. Subsequently, the National Academy of SciencesNational Academy of EducationGeneral Accounting Office and many independent researchers all reached the same conclusion: The level-setting process was flawed.

In fact, the NAEP levels were set unreasonably high according to all reports. As for 100 percent proficiency or success rate, will the news media or newspapers set a goal of 100 percent on ratings or subscription rates by 2014 for the Tri-Cities area and surrounding counties? And if it does not meet this goal will they replace reporters and journalists? Will a doctor be required to have 100 percent cure rate of his or her patients?

As an educator who has dealt with many a student and still has a passion for supporting the students and teachers, I have always told them “attitude not aptitude” is what will determine your success in life. Consider a quote from Walker Percy, a famous author, “You can get all A’s and still flunk life.”

Let’s bring common sense back into the equation. Thank a teacher if you can read this.

 Bryan Mason, who comes from a family of educators, retired in 2010 as principal, Mary Hughes School inPiney Flats, Tenn. His late father, Dwight Mason, also was a former Mary Hughes School principal; his three brothers also became teachers.

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