Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Attitude Survey Results Report

No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Attitude Survey Results Report
Administered 1/7/2008-3/1/2008
By Nathan N. Richie, Director of Exhibits and Programs, McCormick Tribune Freedom Museum, Chicago IL.

The following questions were asked in an informal, anonymous survey to museum educators from around the United States. In total, 106 respondents replied to the survey.

1. Have you noticed any impact on your museum’s visitation or participation as a result of NCLB legislation? (105 responses)
Yes: 75%
No: 25%

2. If yes, how would you rate that impact? (87 responses)
Very Positive: 1%
Somewhat positive: 3%
Neutral: 8%
Both positive and negative: 28%
Somewhat negative: 39%
Very negative: 21%

3. What specific impact has it had on your programs and visitation? (77 responses)
Answers summarized later.

4. How would you rate your understanding of NCLB legislation? (103 responses)
Very knowledgeable: 16%
Somewhat knowledgeable: 75%
Not knowledgeable: 10%

5. How would you rate your attitude toward NCLB legislation? (103 responses)
Very Positive: 1%
Somewhat positive: 3%
Neutral: 8%
Both positive and negative: 28%
Somewhat negative: 39%
Very negative: 21%

6. For what reasons do you feel this way? (86 responses)
Answers summarized later

7. For what type of museum do you work? (106 responses)
Art: 28%

History: 29%

Science: 18%

Children’s’: 5%

Historic House: 4%

Other: 16%

8. Additional comments

Museum educators hold very strong opinions about the NCLB legislation and its effect on their museums and education in general. While the majority of people feel that intentions of the legislation is admirable, in practice it has failed to live up to promises and in some ways is actually having negative impacts on the quality of education. When asked to describe the impact NCLB legislation has had on their museum, educators identified both positive and negative effects. For the better, NCLB’s requirement of following state standards has forced museum educators to analyze the educational value of their programming and visits. It has forged stronger relationships with teachers, bolstered quality of programmatic offerings, compelled museums to align their resources with state and national teaching standards, and made their programming generally more useful to classroom teachers. In a handful of instances, museums have seen increase in both visitation and utilization of teacher training programs.
Conversely, the majority of museum educators hold a strongly negative view of the legislation and its impact. Some reasons include:

· Ultimately, testing only on math, literacy, and science skills inherently establishes those subjects as important, while the arts, history, civics, and other subjects are “unimportant.”

· Furthermore, if a subject is not tested upon, it is often reduced or eliminated.

· Visitation has decreased. (One educator noted that her school visit attendance has decreased from 15,000 when NCLB passed in 2001 to just 5,000 today).

· Schools are forced to eliminate field trips because they must spend more time “teaching to the test” or retesting. In some instances, teachers are barred from taking students off campus entirely.

· Rigid curriculum means that teachers can be less creative when teaching.

· Some tests target specific grades such as 4th or 5th grade. Similarly, many museums have become largely dependent on single grade levels for their yearly visitation. If their target population now must suddenly take tests, they have cut our museum visitation entirely.

· Teachers are dictated by curriculum when they should teach specific subjects, but that does not often coincide with special museum programs (one museum cited once popular annual Monarch Butterfly migration programs in the fall had now become unused because students weren’t learning that specific science lesson until the spring.)

· Curtailing museum visits are often used as punishment against schools or teachers whose classes are not meeting performance requirements.

· Teachers are afraid to leave the classroom and miss test teaching time for fear of losing pay, being demoted, or even fired.

· Visits decrease during testing times and, consequently, more schools are vying for fewer time slots in the late spring or fall.

· Standards are not equal among the states. Some give greater value to the arts and history (NY) while others do not (most others).

· In many instances, even efforts at remediation such as increased outreach programs or transportation subsidies are also being less utilized.

Consequently, the overwhelming majority of museum educators (90%) said that they held either “somewhat negative” or “very negative” views of NCLB legislation. Their reasons included:

Holistic education is sacrificed.
Teachers must simply “teach to the test”.
Ironically as one educator glibly stated, while NCLB was intended to “help kids learn, and then they will pass the test,” the effect has instead become “teach kids to pass the test, and hopefully they will learn.”
The system of punishing underperforming schools by cutting funding only further hurts them, and does little to remedy the situation.
Teaching has become a “one-size-fits-all” approach

Schools are punished for low scores of students who are ESL or Special Education. Furthermore, teachers must spend more time helping students who are slower learners while faster learners languish.

· Education has become joyless for both the teacher and the student.

· The system of yearly progress is a bad model. As one educator stated, “it compares apples (last year’s kids) to oranges (this year’s kids); and achievement is nearly impossible to measure in those kinds of increments.

· The standards and the goals of achievement are unattainable. Meeting 100% achievement is impossible.

· Also ironically, while NCLB is meant to improve the quality of each child’s education, by constantly testing to achieve particular outcomes, results become quantitative.

· Constant testing only promotes rote memorization and does not value critical thinking skills, retention, or creativity.

· One main reason children fail to achieve is because of extenuating circumstances outside of the classroom such as poverty in the home, malnourishment, and family issues. NCLB provides no resources to address those issues.

· Another irony is that, while NCLB was intended to help close the achievement gap between poor schools and wealthy ones; government funding is only a small fraction of a wealthy school’s budget. Therefore they can opt out of NCLB and continue to educate as they choose—including visiting museums. Poorer schools who rely on government funding, force the kids to stay at school to prepare for tests or in many instances retest multiple times in order to still qualify for the needed money.

Why should we care about the NCLB and its effect of museums?

· Museums offer unique learning experiences. They are places of interactivity, discovery, and play—all important components of good holistic learning.

· Museum visitation is a behavior that is instilled at an early age. By depriving kids of museum visits, they will be less likely as adults to become museum visitors.

· Museums offer opportunities for critical thinking and creativity.

· Museum visits are fun and memorable.

· Constant standardized testing discounts the achievements of multiple intelligences.

What can or should be done to fix this problem?

· Learn more about NCLB and how it impacts your museum

· Align your programs, tours, and resources with state standards.

· Examine your attendance records to look for decline in visitation. Conduct teacher surveys or roundtables to learn if teachers are staying away as a result of NCLB.

· Speak with local school administrators to show them the value of museum education.

· Re-evaluate and work to change state standards

· Make changes to the reauthorization of NCLB

· Make provisions for ESL and Special Education students