Hyrum school works with realities
of 'No Child Left Behind' act
By M. Cory Broussard
May 1, 2006 | HYRUM -- "We have never really left any
child behind," Teri Peery, a third-grade teacher at
Lincoln Elementary school, said.
Lincoln Elementary is proud to say that they have
small reading groups and extra teaching assistants to
help disadvantaged students catch up. Those two programs
alone, provided by funding through the No Child Left
Behind Act (NCLB), are the single greatest factor to
helping disadvantaged students get ahead, according
to the faculty.
The penalty if the students don't meet the standards
set by NCLB, ironically enough, is to have those programs
"The problem is that [the NCLB] is a political mandate,"
Peery said. "There is not a lot of reality in it."
Whether the act is based in reality or not, the penalties
and requirements are a fact of life in today's schools.
Every year students are required to take a multiple
choice, end of the year assessment test. Every school
must show adequate yearly progress in order to receive
a passing grade, and that is where the problem lies
according to Curt Hanks, principal of Lincoln Elementary.
"Every year we are holding our breath to make sure
that we reach adequate yearly progress so that we can
continue on," Hanks said. He has asked how much they
are expected to increase their scores from year to year,
but says he has never gotten an adequate response.
Besides being cryptic, Hanks says the yearly progress
standards aren't realistic.
"It's only a matter of time before every school in
the nation will be considered a failing school," Hanks
said. "You're just not going to get every single kid
in every single class... to meet that prescribed level."
NCLB takes every sub-group, (Latinos, Polynesians,
and even special education students) and measures their
improvement. If one group doesn't meet the changing
progress standards, the whole school fails. Five years
ago Lincoln Elementary was put on academic probation
for not meeting the standards. They were taken off only
after they showed improvement for two consecutive years.
While administrators are left to worry about improvement,
teachers strive to find ways to help students pass the
"Teaching test taking skills to 6 year olds is a challenge,"
Dana White, a first grade teacher, said. Both White
and Peery said they have begun teaching multiple choice
test taking skills in order to help their students pass.
"I don't consider it teaching to the test," White
said. "Why would you give a child a test if you haven't
taught them how to succeed in that test?"
Teaching to the test was one of the main concerns
teachers across the country had when NCLB was first
introduced. It was feared that in order to keep their
jobs, teachers would only teach what was on the test
and leave out subjects like art and hands-on learning.
While White said she doesn't teach to the test, she
acknowledge that some things have changed.
"There is definitely more paper-pencil type testing,
more direct instruction and more drill and practice,"
White said. As a result there is less time for exploration
and hands-on learning.
Peery, however, hasn't changed anything besides teaching
test taking skills.
"I haven't let that affect me as much as other people.
cause I don't believe it should," Perry said. Peery
asserts that she pays more attention to what kids need
to learn in reality rather than what is on the test.
"I think kids need to be good critical thinkers and
not good test takers," Peery said. "I believe that teaching
to the test will not be best, my principal knows that."
Hanks acknowledged however, that Peery's style of
teaching might be a way of the past.
"The days of being able to teach when you want and
what you want are over," Hanks said. "There are more
constraints now and you do have to teach more to that
The end of the year test will begin within the next
few weeks at Lincoln Elementary, and with funding for
the programs that teachers find most important at stake
close attention will be paid to the results.
That is one of the good things about NCLB according
to Hanks. He has paid more attention to the tests in
the past years, and is looking more closely at ways
to increase academic improvement, especially in the
"We are striving to boost each and every kid more
than we have in the past," Hanks said.
It still may be to soon to tell if NCLB is working.
Like many government mandated programs on education,
time is required to measure effectiveness. One thing
is for sure. Once the end of the year tests are over,
teachers and principals at Lincoln Elementary will know
if their favorite programs will be cut due to a law
made two time zones away.