by: Howard Dashefsky
WAILUKU (KHNL) - Many educators agree with the "intent" of No Child Left Behind. What they don't like is how it has forced them to change the way they teach. KHNL visited a school on Maui where all 6 third grade teachers share their feelings and frustrations.
Melissa Kehano, a third grade teacher, always dreamed of sharing her love of education. But, now she finds herself in a position she decribes as impossible. Kehano says the law designed to leave no child behind, is doing just the opposite.
"All the children are being left behind as well as the teachers," Kehano says.
Like the five other 3rd grade teachers at Wailuku Elementary, Kehano will tell you, all children learn at different rates. She also says to expect all of them to meet the same goals, at the same time, is nothing short of ridiculous. Especially when you consider the consequenses.
"The school is labeled for restructuring or as a failing school when sometimes it's only subgroups that are not meeting the expectations," Kehano says.
And those expectations are made even more difficult to achieve when you consider special education students, as well as those learning English as a second language. They too, must also meet the same benchmarks.
The third grade teachers here at Wailuku Elementary are already feeling the pressure because in two years, they will learn whether they've reached the benchmark for the No Child Left Behind Law. If they don't, the school is tabbed for restructuring.
Wailuku Elementary School Principle, Beverly Stanish says, "It doesn't work. It just doesn't work for children. It's just like when your child is first learning to walk and talk. They don't all hit that milestone at the very same moment in the very same year in the very same month."
Stanish also adds, "There's a much bigger picture of what a child learns when he comes to school than only being able to pass a test in reading, in writing and in math."
Principal Stanish also worries the law designed to leave no child behind, is instead leaving teachers behind.
Anne Summers, a third grade teacher, has been teaching at this school for 7 years. But, she wonders how many good years she has left if she can't teach effectively.
"When you ask the teachers to teach the kids with testing being the first priority, it becomes a problem because we came into it so that children come first," Summers says.
And if the children don't come first, many here are left to wonder if the teachers will last. Already they are seeing more and more long time educators looking either to private schools, or entirely new careers
"That's kind of a joke that we have," says Stanish. "That no child left behind is not so much about children, it's about leaving no school standing," she says.
Kehano also adds, "It makes you feel as if all the work you've done was not good enough or was not worth it."
"All of us feel it's not putting the children first, the No Child Left Behind," says Summers. "And this is what we wanted to do. It's counter productive, it's counter productive to good meaningful teaching," she says.
Principal Stanish says the no child law and what it represents does not bode well for a profession that already faces a shortage of qualified teachers.