When I began my teaching career in 1996, the US was entering into a new era of educational reform. While No Child Left Behind (NCLB) was still a few more years in the making, the development of a "standards based education" was beginning to become established. To me, this was good thing and it helped begin to set academic expectations for teachers to consider at Calliope School.
Five years later, NCLB not only mandated that each state establish academic standards for each grade level, but required that students in underrepresented subgroups (limited English proficiency students, students with disabilities, students eligible for free and reduced price meals, and white, black, Asian Pacific Islander, American Indian, and Hispanic students) make sufficient growth to meet Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP). If growth wasn't made on annual assessments, schools and school districts faced punitive sanctions including being taken over by the state. The implementation of NCLB, its general approach,and lack of funding, have been the center of controversy since its inception and for valid reasons. However, it was (and is) important legislation for urban schools because it forced districts to focus attention on the most overlooked students.
Even though there has been a great deal of discussion over the many internal and external factors that cause a school to fail, I was curious to learn why, even in a low performing school, instruction varied so drastically from classroom to classroom. Why was it that students could be on grade level in one class, then move on to the next grade only to lose a lot of ground? One possible answer lied in the space between Mrs. Prentiss and Mrs. Williams.
More about Mrs. Williams next.