Academic journal article Forum on Public Policy: A Journal of the Oxford Round Table

Teachers Left Behind by Common Core and No Child Left Behind

Academic journal article Forum on Public Policy: A Journal of the Oxford Round Table

Teachers Left Behind by Common Core and No Child Left Behind

Article excerpt

Subsequent to the enactment of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (1) (NCLB), a reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (2) (ESEA), many bold changes in educational and instructional policies have led to the implementation and utilization of standardized testing to determine funding and other tangible rewards or punishments for schools. More recently, with much focus on educator and administrator accountability, rating systems that are based on students' test scores have arisen. In a compensatory effort, a culture of teaching to the test emerged and has only been further entrenched in today's schools thanks to the Annual Professional Performance Review outlined in the Common Core Standards (CCSSI 2017; NGACBP and CCSSO 2010). This forceful emphasis on standardized testing has grown increasingly threatening to the sustainability of a well educated, sociable, and responsible society.

As a result of the pedagogical shift among teachers, many students have missed out on multiple crucial aspects of the emergent and developing literacies that have been identified as essential to academic performance and, more importantly, the ability to think critically. Positive early and elementary literacy environments can mean the difference between the creation of a lifelong reader who is a lover of literature and a lifelong struggling reader (Nathanson, Preslow, and Levitt 2008). As many of the students whose literacy environment at school consisted of standardized test preparation are now reaching the stage of college and career readiness, post secondary educators are struggling to comprehend, accommodate, and adequately prepare these students for positions within their chosen fields (Henry and Stahl 2017). In the area of pre-service teacher education, the situation has become dire, as educators are staring down the barrel of a self-perpetuating cycle.

Liberating students and educators from this attrition-causing path should be a top priority for all. Based on the emphasis placed on early and elementary literacy environments in the literature, changes should be initiated to improve the literacy experiences of the current and all future generations. In the subsequent discussion, I provide a framework and rationale for the improvement of childhood literacy. This framework focuses on three educational pillars that may have a profound effect on a student's experience during literacy instruction: pedagogy, choice, and strategies.

Providing their students with the best education possible is still the dream of all educators; however, recent changes in educational policy continue to decrease educators' abilities to accomplish that dream. Federal laws (e.g., ESEA, NCLB), and competitive grant funding (i.e., Race To The Top) have placed increased emphasis on national standards and accountability, which has had an unintended effect on curriculum and instruction. In 2003, Linn explained, "It is no surprise that attaching high stakes to test results in an accountability system leads to a narrowing of the instructional focus of teachers and principals" (p. 4). Some authorities believe that mandated standardized testing is changing the environment and siphoning off time for instruction and enrichment (Crocco and Costigan 2007; Hynes 2017; Levitt 2007; Nelson 2013; Ruggles Gere et al. 2014). Because of the required testing and accountability implications of students' scores, many teachers have felt compelled to, and do, place greater prominence on material included on high stakes tests than they do on other content areas (Stecher and Hamilton, 2002; Taylor et al. 2001). Instead of inquiring or innovating, students are spending valuable classroom time preparing for the test (Crocco and Costigan 2007; Hynes 2017; Levitt 2007; Nelson 2013; Ruggles Gere et al. 2014).

Laws, Reforms, and Initiatives

No Child Left Behind Act

The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (3) mandated that all public schools that received federal funding must administer annual statewide-standardized tests to all students, regardless of their race, ethnicity, first language, socioeconomic status, and learning abilities. …

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