The Your Child Left Behind Act

left behindThe No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 is an educational reform package. It is open to some interpretation by each state, but the basics are: 1) every American student becomes proficient in math and writing by 2014, and 2) to eliminate and “achievement gap” that exists between children.

The premise of 100% proficiency is absurd. Not only is it unattainable, it undermines much needed science and social studies programs because those aren’t being tested.

Schools that meet NCLB standards are rewarded with federal funding and monetary rewards for their teachers, while schools that fail to meet standards are publicly shamed and threatened with closure or state-takeover if they fail perennially. What ends up happening is, administrators cheat and subvert the system in order to save their jobs and keep the school meeting the NCLB standards. For example, I had students suspended from school on test day – not ironically, the ones who were the worst test-takers. I saw kids transferred to other schools before the test, and transferred back into the school after the test. It has encouraged some really unscrupulous and downright despicable behavior on behalf of adults that are supposed to have children’s best interests at heart.

In classrooms, the regular curriculum has been replaced with simply teaching children how to pass the standardized test. Teachers are discouraged from being creative in lesson planning or teaching students real translatable skills such as consistent nightly study, how to use and interpret a textbook, organization and planning, and learning creative ways to understand and impart information. The kids are being beaten over the head with bubble-filling and mindless exercises that don’t prepare them for the rigors of high school or college.

NCLB also uses a single standardized test as its sole determinant for school proficiency. In other words, it uses a quantitative assessment (scores determined by which bubbles children have filled in on math and reading tests) to rate a qualitative phenomenon (the quality of education that a school is providing for those children). The idea that students who fill in the right bubble consistently in two subjects can accurately indicate how well children are being educated at an institution is asinine.

Finally, teaching kids to fill in bubbles on math and reading tests does absolutely nothing to address the “achievement gap”. Only through a pedagogy that is culturally relevant and designed to specifically address the mis-education of Black and Latino children that has occurred will that educational debt be repaid.

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4 Comments

  • Eugenia Drye

    Reply Reply August 4, 2009

    As a parent of a special needs child and special education consultant … Fight for your children and all children! My daughter’s elementary school–Halstead Academy–is holding a meeting tonight (August 4th @ 6 p.m.) to beg parents not to pull their children out of the school. They have replaced the principal due to low scores and multiple complaints. Baltimore County Public Schools is allowing parents to transfer children to two identified schools due to sub par performance and complaints.

    However, the law states that a Special Transfer Request form available by law in all principal’s offices allows parents to choose a better school. Any school. Just state your reasons and appeal to the principal. That being said, I am also fighting for others left behind as I am calling for a state investigation of Halstead Academy and the former principal. Many parents are refugees from African nations and are not knowledgeable of the rights of our children.

    Schools need to straighten up and fly right. Parents need to get involved. This is my second time filing a formal complaint with Baltimore County, and now I am moving up to the state.

    Teachers need to speak up. It does no good to fear for your job. Look at Halstead Academy. It is now being called on the carpet and your jobs are now on the line. Stop blaming the system. Parents and teachers are the system.

  • Tamme Y. Williams

    Reply Reply August 5, 2009

    I am an Elementary School Principal and even though I do not agree with all of the principles of the NCLB, I do agree with standards and assessments. Not all of us cheat; my mother would kill me if I even thought about it. I have worked in two schools that were labeled and “F” and both school grades improved. In my shoes as a principal, I have to weigh every day the edicts received with what I know is best and find the better way to afford the children an excellent education. It is not easy and until you have walked in those shoes (with the FLDOE, District and everybody expecting a miracle), please don’t judge. I try hard to enstill in my teachers the necessity of teaching children skills that will last way beyond a test and that takes time in this current “testing” environment. My current school went from an “F” to and “A” this year. I definitely wasn’t expecting that, but God had other plans. When a school in the inner city is labeled an “F”, it is assumed that the children can’t learn and that the principal is inefficient. But when the grade improves, the principal, teachers, and students cheated. Talk about me, but don’t label my kids or doubt their abilities.

    In regards to moving students to avoid receiving “poor scores”, yes I have had students come to my schools around testing time. I take them, do what I can for them and go on. I do not, however, practice that tactic. Children are children and we have to look out for them, no matter how bad the situation is. I may be in the minority, but please look before you judge.

  • akatito

    Reply Reply August 5, 2009

    Tamme can you help me understand something a little better? Why is it that a PUBLIC school’s 3rd grade curriculum in a wealthy suburb isn’t the same as a PUBLIC school’s 3rd grade curriculum in the inner city? Is there a mathematical formula for an education budget? Or am I missing the base issue totally?

  • Maurice Dolberry

    Reply Reply August 5, 2009

    @ Eugenia:

    The entire public school system is set up in such a manner that it inadvertently (?) precludes families of the types that you have mentioned from ever really understanding or being able to fight for their children’s rights. And I agree wholeheartedly that there is too much cowardice among us educators. To many of us willingly trade our intergity for financial stability.

    To Tamme:

    Congratulations on your school’s success. To move an F-rated school to an A-rated one is a feat indeed.

    I don’t have a problem with standards or even standardized tests. I do, however, have a problem with using one test in only two subjects to give a school its rating. Especially when that rating is allegedly directly indicative of the quality of education that children will receive at that school.

    As far as subverting the system goes, I don’t believe that everyone does it (moving kids, suspending kids, outright falsifying scores, etc.), and it’s not really the worst thing that happens as a result of “No Child Left Untested”. The worst thing is the perpetual miseducation and ill-preparation of the children that are victimized by NCLB.

    The following article is an interesting one coming from Florida’s “best school district, which is an A-rated one. This is the school system in which I taught: http://www.palmbeachpost.com/localnews/content/local_news/epaper/2009/08/03/0803gates.html?imw=Y

    The first step in recovery is admitting the problem…

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