The Many Flaws of No Child Left Behind

I’m not interested in my son attending a school that follows No Child Left Behind. And if you want a child who is able to problem solve and think creatively, you shouldn’t want your kid at a No Child Left Behind school either.

In case you’re unclear about how No Child Left Behind works, or I should say, doesn’t work, here’s some information about it…

According to No Child Left Behind, “Under No Child Left Behind, each state must measure every public school student’s progress in reading and math in each of grades 3 through 8 and at least once during grades 10 through 12. Assessments (or testing) must be aligned with state academic content and achievement standards. [The tests] will provide parents with objective data on where their child stands academically.

The annual tests are supposed to provide teachers with information about each child’s strengths and weaknesses, so that, “Teachers can craft lessons to make sure each student meets or exceeds the standards.” Additionally these tests allow, “Parents to know their children’s strengths and weaknesses.

Basically No Child Left Behind expects teachers to create lessons that ensure that kids will, “Meet or exceed standards” – but wouldn’t it be better if teachers were expected to create lessons that teach valuable and interesting issues? Or if teachers created lessons that expanded on kids interests? Or if the schools taught skills that might help you through life?

As for parents, not knowing their child’s strengths and weaknesses without a test to tell them about it; well, that’s just sad. Do parents really need standardized test scores to tell them what their children are like? I hope not.

No Child Left Behind also states, “Although testing may be stressful for some students, testing is a normal and expected way of assessing what students have learned.” I don’t find tests normal. In fact, I’ve rarely run into these sorts of tests in my adult life and it’s lame to assume they’re expected. I actually expect much more than a testing regimen for my own son.

Keep in mind too, that No Child Left Behind, “Requires assessments only in the areas of reading/language arts, math and science.” It’s stated that schools can test on other topics if they wish, but this is what No Child Left Behind thinks is important enough to test kids on. Not art, not history, not geography or computer skills or political education or how to think creatively or any of the other hundreds of topics the world has to offer.

Our current government administration isn’t pleased with No Child Left Behind. The Obama administration released its blueprint for revising the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) on March 13, 2010, because, as the proposal (pdf) states, “NCLB has many flaws,” such as:

  • It provides states with incentives to lower standards.
  • It mislabels schools as failing and imposes one-size-fits-all interventions.
  • It doesn’t do enough to recognize student growth or school progress.

I agree with the above, and the good news is that now (as of September 2011) the ESEA flexibility package (pdf) has gone into effect, so some changes are in progress, but as of right now, this blueprint doesn’t go far enough to make me comfortable with the system. Others, in Oregon, at least, aren’t comfortable either. BethAnne Darby, public affairs director for the Oregon Education Association, speaking for Oregon’s powerful teachers union, told The Oregonian recently, ”We all know that No Child Left Behind is a colossal failure that has put way too much emphasis on standardized testing.

In any case, I’m happier, and I know my son is happier, in a school that doesn’t focus on any NCLB cookie cutter standards.

Democratic schools, are not obsessed with NCLB, but instead spend their time focusing on the kids. If you don’t have the option of alternative education, another way to take a stand is to hook up with an organization against NCLB, such as, Students and Parents Against No Child Left Behind (SPA – NCLB).

Is your child’s school caught up in No Child Left Behind? What do you think – is it an awesome program or flawed beyond repair? Tell us what you think in the comments.

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