Training and Retaining Teachers for 21st Century Classrooms

Published:

President Obama and the NCLB commission have called for stricter teacher accountability measures that emphasize the need for highly qualified and highly effective teachers in every classroom. The increased burden of teaching to a multicultural population in the 21st century and being able to be an effective teacher under the pressures of accountability is forcing new teachers out of the profession. Statistics indicate that by the year 2020, the United States will need to hire between 2.9 and 5.1 million full-time teachers to replace teachers that are leaving the profession. Every teacher that leaves the teaching profession drastically cuts into the school budget and is a factor in whether or not students achieve. The challenge for school systems, colleges, and universities is how to train and retain teachers, so they are highly effective in 21st century classrooms. Teachers that enter 21st century classrooms must be armed with an arsenal of tools that equip them to teach a diverse and multicultural generation of students that have grown up in a digital age. Teachers have to be trained how to use differentiated instruction that incorporates the skills students need to be able to compete in the global economy.

Lady using a tablet
Lady using a tablet

Professional

Essay Writers

Lady Using Tablet

Get your grade
or your money back

using our Essay Writing Service!

Essay Writing Service

Keywords: retaining teachers, training teachers, 21st century classrooms, highly qualified teachers, highly effective teachers, differentiating instruction, integrating technology

Training and Retaining Teachers for 21st Century Classrooms

Trilling and Fadel observed that "four powerful forces are converging and leading us toward new ways of learning in the 21st century: knowledge work, thinking tools, digital lifestyles and learning research" (2009, p. 21). Thrilling and Fadel (2009) stated that in order to combat what they call "The Perfect Learning Storm," teachers in the 21st century must know how to "personalize learning and how to differentiate instruction for diverse classrooms" (p. 33). Teachers have to be trained how to teach students the skills that they need to compete in a global workforce. According to Trilling and Fadel (2009), teaching has to incorporate the following skills before students can become true learners: learning and innovation skills, information, media, and technology skills, and life and career skills (Trilling & Fadel, 2009). The authors continued by stating that teachers can no longer concentrate only on the 3Rs of Reading, 'Riting, and 'Rithmetic. Instructing students in 21st century classrooms also requires teachers to use what Trilling and Fadel (2009) referred to as the Partnership for 21st Century Skills (P21). Trilling and Fadel explained that P21 skills are the 3Rs multiplied by the new 7Cs which include: Critical thinking, Creativity, Collaboration, Cross-cultural understanding, Communications, Computing, and Career and learning self-reliance (2009, p. 176).

The current generation of students born between the years of 1980 and 2000 has been dubbed the "Net Generation" or the "Millennials." Millennials have grown up in a world where technology seems to advance overnight. The Millennials surround themselves with every electronic gadget on the market. Millennials spend countless hours multitasking and seem to have no problem eating, playing video games, watching movies, and surfing the Internet while at the same time talking and/or texting on cell phones. Millennials have also seen fit to develop their own learning network. It is not uncommon for these students to enroll in online courses, webinars, or download instructional videos to their personal i-pod (International Education Advisory Board, 2008).

Nicolas (2008) observed that multitasking may result in this generation of students having a shorter attention span. Teaching methods for this group of students will have to be continually adapted in order to keep them engaged. In order to meet the needs of the Millennials, teachers will have to learn to teach using 21st century knowledge and skills. Teachers have to use those same skills to teach children from low socioeconomic backgrounds and minorities who probably have not seen a video game, touched a cell phone, or even browsed the Internet.

Teaching today's students is a tremendous undertaking. Teachers have to learn to teach using 21st century knowledge and skills that will hopefully help them to meet the needs of a very diverse population of students and prepare them for life in a real world environment. Carroll argued: "To meet the needs of today's learners, we must replace the antiquated normative traditions that have locked us into industrial-era schooling with research-based policies and practices that support 21st century teaching and learning" (2007, p. 49). Teachers who are about to enter 21st century classrooms have to enter with a completely new set of skills than teachers who previously entered the teaching profession just a few years earlier. Today's classrooms contain students from diverse backgrounds and most have a unique set of skills as well as needs. The role of the teacher has changed dramatically since the 1990s as a direct result of the Internet. While most new teachers accepted and started using computers in their classroom to differentiate instruction, veteran teachers were not so quickly impressed. Internet and computer adapted instruction were quickly incorporated into the curriculum of some classrooms and districts, but not all. This resulted in what some refer to as a "digital divide." Student technology use outside of the classroom has resulted in students possessing more advanced technology skills than most teachers. Before teachers can prepare this millennial generation of students for the 21st century workforce, teachers will have to change their mindset concerning lesson plans and become open-minded to the imaginative ways of differentiating instruction using technology (Thrilling & Fadel, 2009).

Lady using a tablet
Lady using a tablet

Comprehensive

Writing Services

Lady Using Tablet

Plagiarism-free
Always on Time

Marked to Standard

Order Now

Teachers who enter 21st century classrooms have to know their subject matter and possess skills that help them to find and manage resources in an economy heavily burdened by recession. New teachers have to be able to use technology and the Internet to communicate with colleagues, students, parents, and global communities. Teachers must also have the ability to train students to use critical thinking skills as well as problem solving and communication skills that would help them become competitive in today's job market. Some of today's students seem to be born with the ability to use technology and enter the classroom already equipped with 21st century skills. However, an even larger number of today's students do not have access to electronic gadgets, the Internet, or any educational resources. These students may be new English language learners or have distinctive learning needs. The growing diversity in today's classrooms requires today's teachers more than ever to be prepared to meet the needs of students with culturally diverse as well as deficient backgrounds. Culturally diverse students as well as learning disabled students benefit from educational activities that allow them to interact with materials, participate in activities, and manipulate objects and equipment.

The increased burden of teaching to a multicultural population in the 21st century and being able to be an effective teacher under the pressures of accountability is forcing more and more new teachers out of the profession every day. Every teacher that leaves the teaching profession drastically cuts into the school budget and is a factor in whether or not students achieve. The National Academy of Education published an Education Policy White Paper concerning teacher quality that stated if students from low socioeconomic backgrounds received instruction from highly effective teachers in elementary schools for three consecutive years, they could pass standardized assessments at the middle school level (Wilson, 2009). Unfortunately, evidence also indicated that all students regardless of their background are "harmed academically by poor teaching for three years running" (Wilson, 2009, p. 1). Effective teachers who are committed and willing to teach to a diverse student population are essential to the success of a school and can make a difference in the lives of each student (Wilson, 2009).

Highly Qualified to Highly Effective

According to Ingersoll, "few educational problems have received more attention in recent years than the failure to ensure that all elementary and secondary classrooms are staffed with qualified teachers" (2009, p. 2). Corcoran (2007) stated that the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) legislation has made everyone involved with education aware of the importance of having effective and well-qualified teachers in every classroom. Corcoran explained "that poor children, minority children, and children from non-English-speaking homes are even more dependent on the quality of their teachers than are more affluent, English-speaking, White children" (2007, p. 1).

Darling-Hammond described the composition of today's classrooms by stating the following: "25% of students live in poverty...10% to 20% have identified learning differences; 15% speak a language other than English...; and about 40% are members of racial/ethnic 'minority' groups,...with different educational systems and cultural traditions" (2006, p. 302).

It is most often the case that these children have teachers who are not highly qualified or highly effective. Ingersoll (2009) pointed out that part of the problem of not having qualified teachers in every classroom has to do with increased teacher turnover. Ingersoll continued by stating that teacher preparation programs are not producing enough teachers to fill vacancies due to teacher retirement. As a result, school systems have had to lower their standards and fill teaching positions with teachers that are not qualified or under qualified (2009).

One of the primary goals of the NCLB legislation was to ensure that all children regardless of race, ethnicity, or socioeconomic background received an adequate education. However, that goal has not been achieved. Our nation is still leaving children behind because schools have not found specific and effective instruction that can meet the needs of all children.

Noguera (2009) observed that President Obama has inherited several problems from the Bush administration that "are too vast and complex to be resolved by bold executive action or quick fixes" (¶1). Noguera (2009) continued by stating that the Bush administration had a significant impact on United States public education because attention was focused on closing the achievement gap and exposing the inequities in the American educational system. However, the Bush administration has "done very little to provide schools with guidance, support or resources needed to actually address the achievement gap" (Noguera, 2009, ¶2).

Lady using a tablet
Lady using a tablet

This Essay is

a Student's Work

Lady Using Tablet

This essay has been submitted by a student. This is not an example of the work written by our professional essay writers.

Examples of our work

One of the actions that the Obama administration and the NCLB Commission made "called for moving beyond the designation of teachers as 'highly qualified' to an assessment of whether teachers are 'highly effective,' based in part on their students' gains on tests" (Darling-Hammond, 2010, p. 4). Darling-Hammond stated that before any teacher can be effective "they need the skills to construct and manage classroom activities efficiently, communicate well, use technology, and reflect on their practice to learn from and improve it continually" (2006, p. 300).

Teacher Turnover

School systems across the country are faced with several issues stemming from the lack of qualified teachers to fill vacancies in 21st century classrooms. Teacher turnover has resulted in a tremendous cost to every school district in the nation. The National Commission on Teaching and America's Future (NCTAF) estimated that school districts across the country are spending approximately $7.2 billion a year in teacher turnover and retention (Carroll and Foster, 2010; Dillion, 2009). Kopkowski (2008) gave statistics gathered from the U. S. Department of Education which indicated that 30 percent of the teachers who left in 2003-2004 retired, and another 56 percent left because of job dissatisfaction. Carroll and Foster cited statistics from the NCES that indicated during the years from 2004 to 2008 there were more than 300,000 teachers who retired. Carroll and Foster (2010) provided additional information from twenty years of data from the "Schools and Staffing Survey" (SASS) conducted by NCTAF and Richard Ingersoll, professor of Education and Society at the University of Pennsylvania. The data indicated the most common age for teacher retirement is 59, and in 2008 our nation has 1.3 million teachers over the age of 50. Aaronson & Meckel (2008) estimated that the United States will need to hire between 2.9 and 5.1 million full-time teachers between 2008 and 2020 (as cited in Carroll & Foster, 2010).

Kent and Simpson (2009) gave statistics they gathered from research conducted by the NEA in 2008 that indicated approximately 20% of all new teachers would leave after three years and most likely 50% of new teachers would leave urban school districts within the first five years. Kent and Simpson (2009) stated that results from surveys conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) indicated teachers were leaving because they felt frustrated as a result of not being adequately prepared by teacher preparation programs.

Regardless of whether teachers are leaving because of retirement or because they are frustrated, school systems are in serious need of teachers to fill vacant teaching positions. Vacancies have forced school systems in almost every state to try to find alternative methods of certifying teachers to fill the vacant positions. Walsh and Jacobs (2007) observed that 47 states are now offering new alternative methods of teacher certification. Similar data was found by Murnane and Steele (2007). Murnane and Steele added that "alternative programs enabled people to become licensed quickly, with minimal preparation time" (2007, p.33). Walsh and Jacobs (2007) continued by stating that one out of every five teachers become certified during the summer or similar time period without going through the normal teacher preparation programs. Darling-Hammond (2006) agreed that in states where there is a shortage of teachers, the normal teacher preparation process has been shortened and/or altered. This alternate certification process allowed teachers to enter classrooms poorly prepared and seriously deteriorated the quality of the teaching profession, and has contributed to the lack of effective teachers. Darling-Hammond continued by stating alternate certification is" like pouring water into a bucket with a gaping hole in the bottom" (2006, p.310).

Incentives to Retain Highly Effective Teachers

Murnane and Steele (2007) argued that highly-effective teachers with the ability to provide students with the knowledge and skills that they will need to enter the 21st century workforce are more important today than they have ever been. Murnane and Steele (2007) continued by pointing out that highly qualified and highly effective teachers are not equally distributed among our nation's schools. The authors stated children from low socioeconomic backgrounds and minorities more often than not are taught by "teachers with the least preparation and the weakest academic backgrounds" (2007, p. 15). School systems across the country have proposed a variety of incentives designed to increase the supply of highly effective teachers. Some of the incentives given by Murnane and Steele included: "across-the-board pay increases, more flexible pay structures such as pay-for-performance, and reduced restrictions on who is allowed to teach" (2007, p. 15). In addition to financial incentives, some school systems are offering teachers smaller class sizes, fewer contract hours, and curriculum independence. Murname & Steele also explained that some teachers were more inclined to stay in a school based on additional incentives that are more difficult to measure such as: "facilities quality, parent support, school leadership quality, and collegiality within the school" (2007, p. 20).

Greenlee and Brown (2009) surveyed ninety-seven teachers to determine what behaviors and incentives were the most effective in recruiting and retaining teachers in challenging schools. The authors cited research studies done in Texas, North Carolina, and Florida that indicated schools that have student populations that are primarily made up of minorities or are from lower socioeconomic families have higher teacher attrition rates. The authors used a study done in Texas by Darling-Hammond in 2003 that indicated that 40% of the new teachers that were hired actually left during their first three years of teaching which resulted in $329 million a year being spent on recruiting, rehiring, and professional development.

According to Greenlee and Brown, (2009) the key component to influencing teachers to stay at a high-poverty and/or low-performing schools is the principal of those schools. If the principal provided the new teachers with resources, mentors, and better working conditions; teachers would stay in the challenging schools. Greenlee and Brown (2009) used information from a survey and study they conducted in Florida that indicated certain incentives would sometimes entice teachers to stay in high-poverty or high minority schools. Those incentives included: "5-10% salary bonus, tuition reimbursement, performance pay, and enhanced retirement benefits" (p. 100). The mandates required by the NCLB legislation have forced school districts to keep highly-qualified teachers in the classrooms regardless of the cost to the individual school districts. Greenlee and Brown (2009) continually pointed out that the school's culture and the principal's support were the most important factors that determined whether new teachers stayed in challenging schools.

Dillion (2009) reported that a study had been done to determine what kind of programs and/or incentives some states were offering in an effort to retain teachers. Dillion reported that as of 2004 more than 30 states had developed "induction programs" for beginning teachers. These induction programs included mentoring, training, peer networking, and formal assessments for the first two years of the teacher's career (2009, p. 3). Dillion (2009) explained that states like South Carolina also had programs in place that would allow retired teachers to return to work and collect retirement benefits when needed to fill hard to staff positions. Retired teachers were also being used as mentors. DeCesare, Kramer-Wine, and Augenblick (2008) conducted a similar study to determine what incentives or factors within schools contributed to teacher retention. DeCesare, et al. (2008) reported that teachers felt that one of the most important factors necessary to retain teachers was allowing teachers ample time to work with colleagues to plan and share ideas. The top five factors identified by DeCesare, et al. were: "school leadership, common planning time, availability of technology, teacher involvement in important school decisions, and 'duty free' schedules" (2008, p. 3).

There have been many efforts to improve teacher quality and retain new teachers by the federal government; however, it is up to each individual state to establish programs and qualifications for that state which guarantees that every child has access to highly qualified teachers. According to Darling-Hammond (2010), the NEA and the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE) have combined efforts to try to work with each state to bring about higher quality teachers. The NEA and AACTE have formed the Partnership for Teacher Quality which was established in response to school reform efforts that have previously failed. Darling-Hammond (2010) argued that school reforms have attempted to improve schools by adding new standards, new assessments, new curricula, and new instructional strategies. Darling-Hammond stated that previous attempts at school reform may have failed because new teachers are not properly trained to meet the demands of the 21st century classroom (2010).

Darling-Hammond (2010) reported that a joint effort of the AACTE and the Council of Chief State School Officers is currently underway in 20 states aimed at designing a new teacher licensing assessment that could be used to predict teacher effectiveness. The Teacher Advancement Program (TAP), which is in place in Connecticut and Roshester (NY), is one of the efforts designed to measure teacher effectiveness. TAP uses trained and certified master teachers and principals to evaluate teachers four to six times a year. After the teachers are evaluated, additional professional development, mentoring, and support are put in place to help teachers pass evaluations (Darling-Hammond, 2010).

Supporting New Teachers

Anhorn (2008) stated that some of the reasons that new teachers leave the profession include: difficult work assignments, unclear expectations, inadequate resources, isolation, role conflict, salary, class size, and working conditions. The new teachers included in the Anhorn (2008) research indicated that their preparation and training during their teacher education programs insufficiently trained them in areas such as: inclusive classroom settings and technology integration. Anhorn (2008) argued that school systems could alleviate teacher attrition if "support networks" were established consisting of veteran teachers and administrators. In addition, recommendations that school districts and teacher education programs need to "bridge the way" from college to the classroom would most likely make the transition from student teacher to classroom teacher much easier.

Darling-Hammond observed that teacher preparation programs are not training new teachers how to differentiate instruction or how to incorporate activities that use different learning styles. New teachers seem to have a hard time trying to "figure out what to do when a given technique or text is not effective with all students" (2006, p. 304). Darling-Hammond (2006) explained that new teachers should have the knowledge and skills to apply different teaching strategies to different situations to address the learning needs of all students. Carroll (2007) stated that teacher preparation programs have not changed their method of training new teachers, which has resulted in colleges and universities turning out teacher candidates who have not been successful in 21st century classrooms. Even though these new teacher candidates may have grown up in the "digital age," they do not have the skills to apply their knowledge in the classrooms where they are hired to teach. The primary function of education should be to prepare students for the real world and to help them use their education to develop their own set of values that could be used to improve their quality of life.

Coggins (2009) stated that classroom management is often one of the major issues confronting new teachers. Unfortunately, children that enter today's classrooms carry with them additional burdens of society that sometimes manifests into disruptive behavior that impedes their learning as well as other students within the classroom. There is a shortage of special education teachers, so most special needs students are now enrolled in inclusive classrooms. Low functioning special needs students may feel intimidated or might not understand the material well enough to participate in engagement activities. This lack of understanding or inability to participate with the rest of the group sometimes results in disruptive behavior (Coggins, 2009).

Multicultural and special needs students bring levels of frustration into a classroom that are difficult for new teachers to manage because they have not been exposed to a diverse population of students during their student-teaching experience. Student behavior depends on how well teachers prepare lessons and manages class time. If teachers do not utilize time effectively, students tend to become restless and misbehave. Some students may exhibit bad behavior and try to prevent any kind of instructional activity because they want the attention of the class or just want to avoid doing the activity. Coggins (2009) argued that school systems could better retain new teachers if they had training in "effective classroom management procedures and how to plan for handling student inappropriate behavior" (p. 3).

Most new teachers do not have the intensive training necessary to work with children who have different types of disabilities. New teachers are often placed in classrooms with students who speak English as their second language (ESL). These students may speak little or no English. Putting a teacher in a classroom with students who speak another language as their first language is the same as putting a teacher in a classroom with students who have disabilities and special needs. It is extremely hard for new teachers to teach students with learning disabilities or even gifted students if they have not been trained how to differentiate instruction to meet the needs of these students.

Teaching to the Test

Learning can be fun for students if the curriculum matches the student's ability level and there are engaging activities that intrigue the students. However, most of the time teachers have very little time to plan hands-on or engaging activities. Teachers are required to teach concepts that sometimes cause students to become bored or frustrated. Unfortunately, with the accountability pressures passed onto teachers by the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) mandates, it is hard to find time to do much more than teach basic facts.

One of the hardest things new teachers have to learn is how to teach students based on curriculums and standards that may be out of date or misaligned with text books. Out of sheer desperation, new teachers may feel forced to start "teaching to the test." New teachers often resort to teaching methods that utilize released test items to drill and practice students in the basic facts. Another strategy that new teacher resort to is creating daily worksheets and quizzes that are designed from materials provided by text book companies. The materials provided by the text book companies may not be aligned with the actual end-of-year tests (Finn, Petrilli, & Julian, 2006).

Studies have found that some states are giving teachers a set of standards to teach by that are not the same set of standards that are used to create the end-of-year assessments. The Thomas B. Fordham Foundation conducted a study that examined the state standards in five subject areas: English, mathematics, science, world history, and U.S. history. The study found that two-thirds of the nation's K-12 students attend schools in states with standards not aligned to assessments (Finn, Petrilli, & Julian, 2006). The study showed that there was a definite link between strong state standards and gains on state and national assessments. The Fordham Foundation issued school reports for each state. The results of the report for Virginia showed that the standards for world history and science were well aligned to state assessments, the English and U. S. History were somewhat aligned to state assessments, but the mathematics standards were not aligned to state assessments.

Another study was conducted in 2009 by Glidden and Hightower, assessment and accountability specialists for the American Federation of Teachers division, concerning the development of assessment tests and their alignment with state standards. The study addressed two key questions: First, are states' content standards in reading and math clear and specific? Second, is there evidence posted on states' web sites for all to see that the state assessments are aligned with those standards? Their findings revealed that most states do not give standards based tests that correlate with the standards that teachers are given to use as a content guide for their teaching. Teachers may be given a vague, meaningless description of what to teach, but the test developers are given detailed material to use in creating the test.

The Glidden and Hightower (2009) study found that only eleven states have reading and math tests that were aligned to strong standards. They were: California, Indiana, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Tennessee, Virginia, Washington, and West Virginia. Nine states did not have any of their tests aligned to strong standards. The study found that twenty-six states have attempted to align math tests across all grades tested, but only 13 states have aligned reading tests across all grades tested.

Evidence was found that some states gave the test developers a set of "shadow" standards that were used to develop state tests. Teachers were using a set of vague standards in their daily classroom instruction, and test developers were using shadow standards that could be completely different. The study also found that some states repeated the same standards in several different grade levels (Glidden & Hightower, 2009).

Discussion

It is the primary function of teacher preparation programs to train teachers how to meet the needs of every child. Teacher education facilities and school systems have to establish a working environment that supports and mentors new teachers. Teacher training should give new teachers skills that will help them teach as well as manage the behavior of the students in the classroom. Teachers can no longer use a one-size-fits-all factory mode of teaching. Teachers have to enter 21st century classrooms equipped with the ability to teach to a diverse and multicultural group of students.

Howard Gardner introduced his theory of multiple learning styles in 1983. His theories and writings concerning multiple learning styles and multiple intelligences have done much to bring about an understanding of how people learn. It is a teacher's job to create a classroom environment that meets the needs of all children regardless of how they learn. Everyone learns in different ways and each of our learning styles differ in some form or another. The criteria for determining how to deliver instruction should also take into account the educational, emotional, and academic needs of all learners. Teachers should be trained how to develop teaching strategies and design curriculums that align content with what to teach, when to teach it, as well as how to teach it to students with multiple intelligences.

Differentiated classroom instruction can be varied, so educational goals can be met by all students. In addition to differentiating instruction, teachers need to incorporate 21st century skills into the curriculum. Teachers should use different teaching perspectives in order for all children to develop 21st century skills that they will need to succeed in learning, work, and life. All students need both a deep understanding of the core subjects and should also be able to apply the knowledge they acquire to important contemporary themes such as global awareness, financial, health and environmental literacy. Students need critical thinking and problem solving skills, digital literacy skills, and life and career skills. These skills are critical for our country's economic success.

Students also need to learn and understand the importance of historical events in the past and present in order to help our society prosper under a democratic rule in the future. Teachers need to stress each core content area, so students will be able to understand the condition our world is in today as well as how it got to be the way it is. Our children need to make informed decisions, and in order to do so; they must be taught the different aspects of politics, economics, and the beliefs that have shaped our country and our society's values.

Conclusion

According to Carroll (2007), the focus of education must shift away from NCLB and its reliance on end-of year assessments. Carroll stated that educators have become restricted by the NCLB mandates that were "designed to assess student performance in factory-era schools," and it "has made it difficult to focus on what must be done to ensure that teachers are prepared, and schools are organized, to teach for the future" (2007, p. 56). The NCLB legislation questions the axiology or the values of every teacher. Teachers should be allowed to make the choice of what and how they teach their students. The educational content and material that a teacher considers valuable should be relevant to the students and not be limited by federal legislation.

We have reached a time in our society where what is taught in schools is driven, not primarily, but solely, by politics and legislation. The NCLB legislation has left its mark, or scar, on the face of public education. In an effort to satisfy this legislation and receive federal funding, schools have all but forsaken the true essence of education. Public schools are primarily judged on reading and math standardized scores, so we no longer care about the Arts or the applications of learning. Education shouldn't be about how a student scores on a few end of the year tests. Education should be about helping students become successful by applying what they have learned to an actual real world environment. We need to do away with standardized tests that only measure basic facts. New assessments should be created that indicate whether or not students can apply what they have learned by requiring them to use critical thinking skills.

If we are to keep teachers in the teaching profession, they have to be better trained. New teachers have to be trained to enter the classroom equipped with an entire arsenal of instructional tools. Teacher training should continually reinforce the necessity of differentiated instruction to accommodate the different learning styles and needs of every child. Teachers need to understand that every child is different and has different capacities to learn. Teachers should accept those differences and create a fair and engaging learning environment. Without the proper training, teachers are replacing project-learning activities and experiments, which used to teach thinking skills, with the rote memorization of end-of-the-year test questions. Teachers no longer ask students to answer test questions in essay format. Tests are usually created using a multiple choice format and students are encouraged to answer using a best answer guessing strategy.

Schools spend thousands of dollars in an effort to satisfy NCLB requirements and to meet Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP). Wouldn't it be better for all children if we spent that money reducing class size and actually hiring teachers to teach classes who have been properly trained? Teachers would have a better chance at recognizing differences in children's learning habits if they had 15 students in a classroom instead of 30. Public scrutiny, accountability, and frustration have possibly driven some of our best and brightest teachers away from public education.

Instead of allowing the Obama administration to make teacher accountability and "highly effective teaching" one of the new administration's pet peeves, we should be sending a loud and clear message to politicians that accountability is not the answer. Properly training new teachers and supporting those teachers would be a better topic for one of President Obama's speeches. We need to stand up and fight for the total education package. We need to demand that children learn about art, music, technology, and real world applications of learning from teachers who have been trained to teach in 21st century classrooms.

Schools are forced to comply with NCLB or risk losing valuable resources including financial aid. Public schools have to show stronger accountability to achieve full accreditation. Every child is being assessed by the same standards. Doesn't that seem like a contradiction to what America stands for? Aren't we the country that has fought for and believes in "liberty and justice for all?" NCLB requires that every child whether they are learning disabled, English language learner, or gifted take the same identical test. How can our government justify requiring disabled students to pass a one day exit examination created from grade level material when their actual reading level is three to four grade levels lower? Have we become a nation committed to judging children and our schools by only one measure and one measure alone? Are we to determine the future of every boy and every girl, regardless of their race, culture, or disability, by only one measure? How can our educational system that is so badly in need of qualified teachers watch, listen, and read about how our best and brightest teachers are leaving the profession? Have we become so consumed with greed and the desire for federal funding, that we are willing to risk the future of our youth for a fist full of dollars?