End of No Child Left Behind may be in sight
Last week, President Barack Obama gave 10 states the OK to scrap No Child Left Behind, one of the most unsuccessful and unpopular educational mandates in U.S. history.
NCLB was one of the first proposals George W. Bush put through Congress during his first term as president. The bill received overwhelming bipartisan support and was passed without many problems.
The bill is based mainly on standardized education reform. NCLB acts on the premise that setting higher standards and goals will improve educational outcomes. Under NCLB, states are required to develop assessments in basic skills (i.e., standardized testing) that are given to all students in certain grades. If a state complies with this premise, they receive federal funding; if there is no compliance, there will be no funding.
One of the bigger problems with NCLB was that it gives each state the ability to assert its own set of standards, rather than focusing on national standards. This created inconsistencies when students were applying for college, or, for example, moving from a public school in California to one in Montana. What the education board in one state values and sets as its standards might not apply to what another state considers important.
When a state sets standards for itself and fails to meet those standards, it loses funding for the next fiscal year. While teachers and school boards should be held partially accountable for test scores, standardized testing is not the most effective form of intellectual assessment.
NCLB makes schools accountable for the performance of all students, no matter their race, family income, English proficiency or disability. What NCLB lacks is the idea that we are all inherently different. We each learn, study and test differently, and we all come from different backgrounds. Just because one straight-A student passed all the benchmarks on a state test does not mean all straight-A students will.
Rather than focusing on state standards, the government and schools should value more personalized learning curricula. With that kind of system in place, every student would get a fair chance, rather than being punished for failing to meet standards or getting pushed forward when they might not understand the material.
Bush’s original goal was to get public schools on track by 2014. Here we are, two years away from his deadline. Most teachers and lawmakers against NCLB argued that the 2014 deadline was unrealistic. Many schools throughout the U.S. are still considered to be “failure” schools because they haven’t been able to raise their state test scores.
According to U.S. Center on Education Policy, nearly half the schools in the U.S. failed to raise their test scores last year. This leads to parents not wanting to send their children to “failure schools.”
Instead of putting tax payer money toward a program that is not working, and, if anything, inhibiting real education reform from happening, why not kill the program? It looks like that is what Obama wants to do.
So far, the president has offered 10 states a waiver on NCLB: Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, Oklahoma and Tennessee. One state, New Mexico, applied for the waiver but did not receive it.
Currently, the Obama administration is working to give New Mexico the waiver as well. The District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and 28 other states have expressed interest in gaining the waiver as well.
The fact that more than half of the country wants to be free from the clutches of NCLB says a lot about the program. “NCLB screwed up my high school,” said graphic design senior Tina Le. Le attended Portland’s Benson Polytechnic High School, a magnet school famous for its academic programs.
According to Le, prior to NCLB, admission to Benson was based on a rigorous application process that included a written essay. After NCLB, Benson was required to lower its admission standards and let more people in. Because of the high volume of students, test scores were lowered. Due to NCLB’s stance on score-based funding, Benson lost a lot of its funding, which led to a lowering of the quality of education.
Right now, the Obama Administration is working to provide the waivers to states that want them. Waivers will excuse states from meeting the 2014 deadline. Instead of meeting an unrealistic deadline, states have to prove they have progressive plans to show they will prepare children for colleges and careers, set goals to enable achievement among all students, reward students performing well and give help to the ones who need it.
While the waiver does not eliminate standardized testing, it gives states the freedom to use science, social studies and other subjects to measure student progress.
Some congressional Republicans oppose this plan. They have accused Obama of executive overreach, and Fox News (best news in town) reportedly accused the administration of ignoring the legislative process and going forth with its plans for educational reform. Never mind that Obama is the president and the Democratic party still has some sway in Congress.
NCLB was up for a congressional renewal in 2007, but Congress failed to do anything about it. Now that Obama has decided to do something about it, the Republicans are all hot and bothered.
Conservatives are angry that the president is imposing his views on them, but isn’t that why there are two main political parties with diverse views and beliefs? Rather than accusing him of acting unconstitutionally, we should be applauding Obama and his continuing efforts to reform the education system for the betterment of America.
As we all need to remember, the 2012 election is coming up later this year. The importance of being informed on your politicians and political happenings can’t be stressed enough. Know where you stand and find out out which politician is more likely to support your personal beliefs.
Obama wants to change things; he wants to make education better and more accessible, and he supports progressive educational reform. That’s much better than regressive education. Do what you need to do to get educated, and let’s put an end to No Child Left Behind.