Law is flawed, not teaching at Hawthorne

For seven years I have had the privilege of teaching kindergarten at Hawthorne Elementary. This year we were placed on the “needs improvement” list under the No Child Left Behind act (NCLB) as mentioned in Saturday’s Herald. There are some serious flaws in the act that must be addressed.

Does it make sense to expect a child who has been in our country only one year to pass the Washington Assessment of Student Learning? Imagine if you had to move to Japan, learn to read and write the language, and then pass a standardized test in just one year. That’s what we are asking of some of our 10-year-old students.

The WASL does not measure the quality of teaching. Despite English being the second language of most of my students, nearly all my kindergarten students were reading at 1st- or 2nd-grade level at year’s end. Yet, our school won’t be acknowledged for this or the achievements of hundreds of other students we have taught. Our school has a very transient population, so many students we teach will move by the time they are tested in fourth grade. Many of the families who work hard to help their children succeed are also the same families motivated to move out of government housing and the Hawthorne school area. NCLB has only added to our challenge with the ease it allows our higher achieving students to leave our school.

Instead of providing extra money for schools like ours, NCLB indirectly takes money away. It is our district, not the federal government, that has to pay the estimated $72,973 to bus the Hawthorne students to nearby schools. That could pay for another teacher at our school!

Test scores don’t show the devotion and dedication of each and every staff member at Hawthorne. Test scores don’t show teachers who skip their own lunch breaks to meet with parents. Test scores don’t show teachers staying after school to help students with their homework because those students’ parents don’t speak English. Test scores don’t show teachers who spend their own money buying soccer shoes for a student who, without the shoes, would not able to play on a soccer team. Test scores don’t show teachers who bring their couch from home to the home of a student so their family won’t have to sit on the floor.

With their PhDs, master’s degrees, extensive training, accolades, honors and big hearts, the Hawthorne staff could choose to teach anywhere, but they want to be where their skills can benefit children the most.

It seems there are more flaws with the No Child Left Behind act than with the teaching at Hawthorne School.

Jayron Finan teaches at Hawthorne Elementary School in Everett and lives in Seattle.

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