Education reform and policy making have captured the attention of the American public. In a highly politicized agenda, federal and state improvement plans have become touted national education platforms with stiff penalties for schools and teachers who don't "make the grade". A system of controls is in place that has revolutionized how we organize, present, and evaluate education. Test-driven curriculum reflects new standards of what will be taught and assessed at each grade level. Through all of this, classroom teachers have been identified as the reason for our failing schools and the focus for improved school performance.
Between 1998 and 2006, Penny Ann Armstrong interviewed over 300 classroom teachers and administrators in Minnesota, New Hampshire, and Texas about the effects of the national reform initiatives in their schools. This book tells their stories. Their narratives are candid, often impassioned, and many times troubling. They describe what is really happening as they work to accommodate federal reform policy. These teachers describe reform efforts that may be well-intentioned but have resulted in serious and far-reaching consequences. They feel they have been robbed of their professional authority in their classrooms and they feel many of the changes they are required to assimilate are limiting their opportunities to teach and compromising learning for students.
This book brings the reader into the classroom to see from the teachers' perspective what is really happening in our schools today and why the current reform efforts cannot succeed.
Dr. Armstrong documents how teachers are expected to ignore what they know about children and learning while implementing education reforms they find faulty and unrealistic. Federal and state policy makers need to heed this important research and seriously engage teachers in future reform efforts. Armstrong's findings will energize teachers as professionals to demand they be heard. -- Katherine Egan, PhD., professor emeritus, University of St. Thomas, St. Paul, MN
Dr. Armstrong shares an honest and realistic picture of educational reform in this study. In construction, the strongest figure to build with is a triangle because the three sides rarely bend or falter. She describes educational reform much like an obtuse triangle with the teacher as the shortest side. Dr. Armstrong provides a convincing argument for creating an equilateral triangle with teachers, school districts, and states all having an equal say as to how and when to assess the progress of students in school. -- Sharon Clute, curriculum director, Londonderry School District (NH)
The No Child Left Behind Act is profoundly impacting the quality of education that our children are receiving in America's public schools. This important book provides insight into what classroom teachers are saying about the NCLB Act. This information will be valuable to many audiences as America approaches its next presidential election. -- Karolyn K. Stirewalt, policy counsel, Minneapolis
As political pressure mounts to improve public education and NCLB legislation demands more accountability of student achievement, school administrators and their staffs are in the cross-fire. Having talked with teachers in three different regions of the United States, it is obvious to Dr. Armstrong that teacher input must be utilized in order for true reform to occur. In this book, she outlines the issues that teachers identify as deterrents to academic achievement. Classroom teachers and school administrators will find these insights invaluable as they work together to improve student performance. -- Lois Nordling, principal, Sonnesyn Elementary School, Minnesota
Armstrong affords the society of working teachers a platform that challenges conventional wisdom (term used advisedly) in an unprecedented manner. The book's potential for influence appears vast....Concise and straightforward and related in a conversational tone, Dr. Armstrong's book draws the reader into the classroom to portray, from the teachers' shared perspective, the daunting realities that defy the prevailing currents of make-believe reform. * Fort Worth Business Press, October 2008 *
Dr. Penny Armstrong gives us what we've needed to hear all along - the voices of America's teachers. Her research underscores the fact that these important voices have been absent or ignored as school reform plans, laws, and edicts have spread like wildfire through the educational system. Instead, both the morale and passion that keeps teachers working day after day with our nation's children are at an all time low. Her message is that federal and state reform efforts must include the ones who know, the teachers, if we want stronger schools and stronger students. This book will empower those who teach and those who don't - and those who care deeply about our teachers and our schools. -- Twyla Miranda Ph.D, Director, Graduate Studies in Education, Texas Wesleyan University