Standardized tests, program cuts and frustration are all part of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act. President Bush implemented this program in 2001 to increase the performance of students in primary and secondary schools. While it may have increased students’ proficiency in math and English, many are suffering feelings of inadequacy and disappointment.
Some children left behind
Standardized tests, program cuts and frustration are all part of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act. President Bush implemented this program in 2001 to increase the performance of students in primary and secondary schools. While it may have increased students’ proficiency in math and English, many are suffering feelings of inadequacy and disappointment. The program has many positive aspects; however, ESL and special-needs students are experiencing unpleasant consequences.
NCLB mandates that all schools bring their students up to grade level on standardized reading and math tests. The U.S. Department of Education website claims that this includes special education students as well as non-native speakers. This isn’t fair. Why are special ed students held to the same standards as others? If they didn’t require extra help, they wouldn’t be in the special ed program, right? These children learn at different rates and may never be at the same level as others. To constantly remind them that they are not as “able” as other children is discouraging.
In addition, why are non-native English speakers held to the same standards as other students? Most are given the tests in English, which they will not fully comprehend, and then expected to score just as high as a native English speaker. Expecting these students to take an entire exam in a foreign language and be expected to pass with flying colors is not practical. NCLB is idealistic, not realistic.
According to the U.S. Department of Education, in order to pass the NCLB tests each year, a school must have 50 percent of its students meeting state reading standards and 49 percent must meet math standards. So what happens when schools fail to meet standards? They are reprimanded. After the first failure, they are put on “probation” and listed as needing special attention.
After two years, a school is categorized as failing and they face a list of sanctions. Parents are then given the opportunity to send their children to a different school within the district. Sadly, many schools across the nation have failed due to the test performance of special education students. This not only disheartens these children, but holds them accountable for the failure of a school. Following a third year failure, tutoring and after-school programs are offered for low-income families only. Regrettably this gives underprivileged children the impression that they are less intelligent than the wealthy kids.
Because of the numerous failures, schools have been shown to exclude minorities and special education students in order to enhance their school performance. Schools should not be made to feel inferior–students learn at different rates. Regardless, the Bush administration requires that 99 percent of all children be performing at their grade level by the year 2014. So what happens when children don’t meet standards in 2014? Are they held back continuously just because of a standardized test? No one knows for sure.
As for the schools that do not falsify their test scores, they instead focus solely on the achievement of low-income students, minorities and students with disabilities. So what happens to the typical middle-class American child who scores average to above average? It appears that they are disregarded. While the teachers focus on studying for the standardized tests, these students are left sitting in class without actually being educated. This is quite an unfortunate circumstance-children should be allowed to excel, but it appears that NCLB does not allow for it.
Not only do minorities and special ed students suffer, all students do. Since NCLB was implemented, many programs have been cut from schools. Instruction times for reading and math have increased, but art, social studies, PE and foreign languages have been forgotten. In addition, a study by the American Heart Association claimed that the decrease in physical education in schools has contributed greatly to childhood obesity. This isn’t good, considering we live in one of the most obese countries in the world.
No Child Left Behind has good intentions, however it has many flaws. It is a program that punishes both students and teachers for circumstances that may be out of their hands, and students are forced to keep pace in an environment where not all students learn the same way. As for changing the program, President Bush claimed that, “We can change parts of it for the better, but don’t change the core of a piece of good legislation that’s making a significant difference in the lives of a lot of children.” Sounds like he’s on the right track.