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No Child Left Behind Essay

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In January 2002 congress, with the encouragement of President Bush, passed a new act that was intended to prevent children from being left behind in education. No Child Left Behind is designed to change the culture of America’s schools by closing the achievement gap, offering more flexibility, giving parents more options, and teaching students based on what works. This was and is a great idea. Children are our future and we need to make sure they get all the opportunities education can give them. The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001(NCLB) is a well intentioned yet fundamentally flawed piece of legislation.

“No Child Left Behnd is based on testing, blaming and punishing,” explained Lisa Guisbond, co-author of the FairTest report. “a more helpful accountability system would focus first on building the capacity of teachers, schools and districts to ensure that all children receive a high quality education that meets their individual needs.” Core elements of the accountability systems FairTest proposes to better promote school improvement include: use of multiple forms of evidence of student learning, not just test scores; extensive professional development that enables teachers to better assess and assist their students; incorporation of ongoing feedback to students about their performance to improve learning outcomes; public reporting on school progress in academic and non-academic areas, using a variety of information sources and including improvement plans; the sparing use of external interventions, such as school reorganization, to give reform programs the opportunity to succeed. “Assessment systems need to make public school accountable to parents, students and the local community rather than to distant government bureaucracies,” Neill explained(www.FairTest.org).

High standards for the students as well as educators are quality goals for our nation; however, using standardized testing to measure our success is not the most effective method. Having high standards is a necessary part of our nation’s success in today’s global community. It sets a high level of accountability and provides clear benchmarks for both the students and educators. Those schools that are categorized as performing poorly are required to have supplemental assistance like tutoring, after school programs or even to go as far as replacing the teachers completely. Schools risk being restructured or even taken over by the state if after five years of not making adequate yearly progress.

On the other hand standardized testing is an ineffective way of assessing individual student performance. This type of testing gives reason to teach according to what is going to be on the test rather than for authentic learning. When using standardized testing there is no room to account for the different learning styles and strengths of each student. Everyone learns differently but with this type of testing, with its multiple choice and simple rubrics, does not allow for individuality, according to Janice Snyder (May 2007, associated content website). NCLB believes that boosting standardized test scores should be the primary goal of schools, this assumption leads to the one-size-fits-all teaching aimed primarily at test preparation, and it works against efforts to give all children a high-quality education.

NCLB provides report cards on the schools progress so that the parents know how their school is doing as well as it allows parents to make an education decision when it comes to their children’s education. NCLB does provide for much needed innovation in education and allows parents unprecedented choice in the education of their children but it may jeopardize the success of traditional public schools, with such things as promoting charter schools. It provides a testing ground for innovative ideas and programs in education. However the amount of money needed to fund the charter schools serves relatively few students and spends money that could benefit more students in innovative programs within traditional public schools. This does however expand school choice in that it gives parents more direct control of the students’ education than previous generations have enjoyed. With expanding school choice it creates instability of funding that causes hardships and inability to manage finances and staffing needs from year to year.

NCLB makes provisions for improving teacher quality through professional development and rewarding teacher excellence. “Nothing helps a child learn as much as a great teacher,” said Secretary Spellings (October 8, 2008, press release). “Yet we often find our most experienced and effective teachers in our least challenging settings. Until this trend is reversed, we will not be able to solve our education system’s – and our country’s – biggest challenges. We must do a better job of treating teachers like the professionals they are and rewarding those who take on tougher work and get results.” By encouraging effective professional development this encourages teachers to better themselves to better educate our children.

This also provides funds for programs that encourage teachers to remain current on educational trends. With these provisions a significant portion of this money is often spent to help teachers better prepare students for standardized testing. NCLB receives grants for excellence in teaching. This money is provided to reward successful teachers and principals. The downside is that the success of teachers and principals is often measured through the same flawed instrument of students’ test scores on the standardized tests. In 2006 President Bush created the Teacher Incentive Fund, which supports districts in rewarding teachers and principals who have increased student achievement and helps to recruit and retain high quality teachers and principals in the neediest schools (Secretary Spellings, press release October 2006).

Another false fact that NCLB believes that schools can best be improved by threatening educators with harsh sanctions, since poor teaching is the primary cause of unsatisfactory student performance. Threats may get teachers to focus narrowly on boosting test scores. They fail, however, to address the underlying problems of family poverty and inadequate school funding that are major reason why many students start off far behind and never catch up (http://nochildleft.com/2004/jun04fair.html)NCLB also provides extensive funding for education through technology but doesn’t recognize the importance of other 21st century skills such as problem solving and creativity (according to the NCLB act), sending more money to schools for technology that will add to the schools ability to educate students. This money is provided to improve schools’ access to resources and equipment. However the money is spent with “technology in schools” as its own goal rather than using the technology to improve other student skills. By offering grants for technology centers it gives administration the ability to improve schools’ access to resources and equipment.

As great as the idea of No Child Left Behind is there is a lot more that needs attention and parts of the act that need to be re-evaluated. In several ways NCLB attempts to apply a model for running a business to running schools. What works well for a corporation does not produce the same result in the school environment. In the business world if someone or something is not performing to the highest level they are terminated. You can not remove the students that are not performing to the required standards of the standardized tests. Poor performance on tests is not always as a result of poor teaching. There should definitely be accountability in the schools as well as teachers should be responsible for the type of education they provide however should their lessons be graded by how well a student performs on a aptitude test? Our educators can not be held accountable for what happens in the students’ home environment, their nutrition or any of the other factors that play into the learning process. While there is no easy obvious fix for the NCLB, it would be more beneficial to put educators in charge of the reform instead of the business community.

As stated before there are some great things that are coming out of this act as well. For example the budget on education for the fiscal year of 2007 there has been dramatic increases since 2001 for key education programs. The funding for reading has quadrupled from $286 million in 2001 to $1.2 billion in 2007 total a 300% increase. As well as a 68.5% increase for special education (IDEA) grants. The total increase of NCLB funding has raised 40.4% from $17.4 billion in 2001 to $24.4 billion in 2007.

It is great that our countries leaders want to better educate our leaders of tomorrow and once every aspect of No Child Left Behind is evaluated and fixed as needed it may work wonderfully. Our schools will function smoother; our teachers will be able to teach our students the skills needed for the next step not just to pass a test. The bad teachers will no longer be able to “educate”. The good teachers and administration will be rewarded. High school drop out rates will decrease. More and more jobs will be available as well as more money will be put back into our economy. No Child Left Behind is a great idea in the beginning stages of becoming a wonderful thing once it is perfected.

REFERENCES

Snyder, J. (2007). The No Child Left Behind Act Fails to Deliverhttp://www.associatedcontent.com/article/233998/the_no_child_left_behind_act_fails.html?cat=37Hess, G. (2006). No Child Left Behind (NCLB): Flaws and Failureshttp://www.associatedcontent.com/article/51839/no_child_left_behind_nclb_flaws_and.html?cat=4

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