Friday, April 27, 2007

Didja Hear the One About the Teacher Who Ran for Congress?

Me neither, till I read this column by Sam Freedman in the Times. Tim Walz took a leave of absence from his job as a high school history teacher, and waddya know, he actually got elected. It's good to know there's at least one real teacher making decisions about education in Washington.

Mr. Walz has mixed feelings about NCLB:

When Mr. Walz speaks about No Child Left Behind, he balances his praise for the ideal of accountability with criticism of its testing provisions as too rigid. Mankato West, for instance, is considered out of compliance solely because several dozen special-education pupils out of a student body of 1,200 did not make “adequate yearly progress” on math.

But what inspires the congressman’s greater frustration is something subtler, that only a teacher would notice: How the emphasis on standardized tests has narrowed the intellectual range of teaching. He had to forgo the time-consuming studies of crime in St. Paul in favor of drilling students on state capitals. He had to reduce world history from a yearlong class to a four-week unit.

But I was really struck by his comment about his high school classroom:

“I can tell you for a fact,” Mr. Walz told the lingering students, “there have been far better debates held in rooms like this than on the floor of Congress.”

Maybe we ought to do something about that too. He's got my vote.

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