This is a position paper that I wrote as a freshman in college.
In the past decade there has been a federally implemented standard for education that has swept the nation. This reform is the “No Child Left Behind act of 2002.” Under this program students have suffered more than under any other previous reformation to the United States’ public school system.
Since the beginning of the United States’ opening of public schools there have been controversies about how students best learn and if they had been learning enough; the conflicts that arose, due to the issues of how to teach, had brought about many reforms in educational standards for teaching. The standards that were brought about changed greatly within the last decade, yet those reforms have changes the way that public schools educate by burdening educators with test preparation requirements and less freedom to give extra instruction to students who need extra assistance.
In the late 1980’s and 1990’s, there were great reforms in how educators were supposed to assist students in learning. The standard for learning that was indoctrinated for the teaching of reading skills emphasized students struggling through books-without being given grammar, sentence structure, and phonetics skills-in order for their self discoveries to have a longer standing impact on what had been self-taught. (Ravitch 445)
The reform that students should be self taught penetrated almost every standard of teaching for every academic subject; however, this freedom of students to struggle to discover for themselves what the rest of the world had already known was this approach’s ultimate downfall. (Ravitch 448) James Comer’s mother “understood that children behave and perform best when their caretakers provide them with good preparatory experiences,” and she “had less than two years of formal education.”(Comer 263) Educators had to step from being bystanders in the educational process to being mentors and guides while not imposing overly strict regiments on students. (Ravitch)
The leniency that had been granted to educators as to how students should be taught had taken so many ups and downs that the United States government felt that there was an obligation to step in. The step-in occurred in 2002 when president G.W. Bush signed into legislation the “No Child Left Behind act,” also known as NCLB. The congressional democrats, who were elected at that time, only agreed to sign the act into legislation after being enticed with greater federal aid given for the purpose of command over education. (Ladner 2)
The legislation came about rather quickly in term of the processes most legislation must be put through. A school board association lobbyist noted that his group usually received weeks or more to mull through a document but was only permitted twenty-four hours with the NCLB legislation. “Meetings with educational groups were more briefings than discussions” states the lobbyist. One of the lobbyist’s aids said, “It was the only way to get things done, because it was so controversial.” (Perlstein 31)
The legislation requires students that are in grades eight and lower to take annual state tests, while children in high school are required to be tested once, with the students’ performance and subgroup be reported to the Department of Education. (Ladner 3) If for some reason students do not meet government issued adequate yearly progress, or AYP, for more than one consecutive year, that institution is tagged for improvement. A school can only stay in an improvement status for five years with each year having progressively tougher sanctions. In year one of improvement students have the option to transfer to another public school; year two brings in the option for free tutoring for all attending students. Year three brings action to correct problems; in year four, institutions must begin planning to enter restructuring, and in the fifth, implementations of the plans begin. (Kelleher 4)
Not all schools receive the sanctions that the federal government have for schools that do not have the ability to meet the state test requirements. There are schools that do not receive federal funding because there are not enough poor students. (Perlstein 140)
There are a variety of options open to students who are enrolled in schools that have entered restructuring, but not many of the schools that have committed to bettering themselves have actually become better. In the state of Ohio, “only 7 of the 177 schools ever in restructuring have successfully exited.” (Kelleher 2)
Just because there are various options open to students in schools that do not meet the federal standards, that does not mean that the parents of the students are aware of these options. Take for instance the 2004-2005 school year in Florida; of the students who had the choice to change public schools “less than 1 percent” did and of the students who had the choice to receive additional services to help their education “less than 19 percent benefited.” (Ladner 3)
The yearly progress is not based on personal improvement of students as they progress through grades; the progress is based on how well students test in a given grade compared to the students that preceded them in that grade. (Perlstein 32) Students should not be compared to the students that preceded them; the notion that you can base improvement in one system by expecting a latter group to receive higher results is ludicrous.
In the school years that started in 2005 and 2006, in Ohio, the proficiency of English skills dropped and in Math rose. Since the results reflect only one year, more test data is needed to interpret the results. (Kelleher 2)
It is widely argued that the rise in test scores prove that the standards of education that have been implemented by NCBL are proven to have created students with a better education; statistics indicate that there have been great strides in the improvement of gained knowledge by students; Black and Hispanic students experienced the greatest gains. Clearly these gains have to be from hard work and good teaching. (Ladner 2)
Teaching has now become subject to a focus on state tested academic subjects and has created large disparities between facilities within same school systems. In areas where students are poor or a racial minority, educations that focus on a variety of academic subjects are being swept to the side in order to concentrate on the state tested subjects of math and reading. (Perlstein 135)
“You're not going to a scientist if you can’t read,” a
superintendent once told [Perlstein] in defense of
a school’s pared-down curriculum. Well, you can’t
be a scientist. . . if you never learn science either.
You can’t be a lawyer if you never learn to think
critically. (Perlstein 136)
Student’s education can not be compromised in order to achieve higher test scores or those test scored are ultimately superficial.
The cutback on educational variety has spread throughout the country with regards the diminishment and sometimes dismemberment of arts education and physical educations. The cuts to physical education have been known to include the removal of recess from the academic schedule. (Perlstein 122)
In schools that do not do well on state tests scores can actually drop from one year to the next. In the state of Ohio, if the school years that started in 2005 and 2006 are looked at, the schools in restructuring that scored in the bottom quarter on the state test dropped by an overall average of 7.5 percent, yet it is recognized that test score fluctuations are not always meaningful in respect to students’ achievements. (Kelleher 10)
The fluctuations could also be to the fact that states have decided to lower the standards of learning and achievement that they have for students. The reason that states lower the standards that students must meet on their tests has two purposes. States like, and sometimes feel required to, have lower standards for their students so that they do not have to close anymore schools and they will receive more incentives from the federal government. (Ladner 3) Yet, in the schools that do not receive federal funding and do not receive sanctions for low test scores, there is a greater sense of academic freedom. In some of these institutions-in Maryland-”teenagers extracted DNA and toyed with thermodynamics in world-class labs.” (Perlstein 140)
In 2009 there was a budget request, by the Bush administration, that wanted to save over three billion dollars by getting rid of 47 educational programs that were proven to be unnecessary. The programs have not yet been shut down; however, the request was granted. (Ladner 4) These savings are enormous by any measure. If we look back a few years to the school year that began in 1999, the cost of public schools‘ enrolment, and related programs, was around 382 billion dollars for students enrolled in the grades of kindergarten to twelfth. (Comer 250)
From the transition that lead to the teaching of children sentence structure, phonetics, and grammar, to the decision that cut 47 school programs that were ineffective and wasted over $3 billion the NCLB act has continued to fail in all aspects of it implementation. With the federal government requiring schools’ students to pass state tests in greater numbers with each administration of the test, it makes sense that great enough pressure was placed on schools to cut back on most programs that are unrelated to tested subjects; nor is it unreasonable to notice that these cuts to programs have clearly increased scored-especially in minorities. However, the cuts to academic diversity are not the only thing that have created inflated pass rates; states lower their standards of how much a student should learn in their academic careers.
Students are less academically, rounded, schools are unable to get out of academic trouble, and states have failing faith in their school systems; the negative subtracted, NCLB is alive, well, and prospering. Students may not know if Africa is a country, state, or city, but they sure know how to add and subtract. NCLB sanctions may have caused recess to be phased out, but students can read.
NCLB has taken a moderately successful system, turned it around, and caused more ignorance than the United States’ student population has seen since the inauguration of the notion of a free school. NCLB is leaving more children behind in so many subjects that the potential future leaders of the America industry and workforce will be paralyzed to be employed in any arena. No Child Left Behind has left behind every student who has been educated during its wake and caused more detriment to the United States than any natural disaster, foreign conflict, or plague.
Perlstein, Linda. Tested one American school struggles to make the grade. first ed. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 2007. Print.
Comer, James P. Leave No Child Behind. New Haven And London: Yale University Press, 2004. Print.
Ravitch, Diane . Left Back a century of failed school reform. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2000. 438-64. Print.
Ladner, Mathew, and Dan Lips. “How ”No Child Left Behind” Threatens Florida’s Successful Educational Reforms.” Executive Summary The Backgrounder 226 (2009): 4-10. Web. Educational Resource Information Center. Hazy Library. 30 Oct. 2009 http://www.eric.ed.gov/ERICDocs/data/ericdocs2sql/content_storage_01/0000019b/80/44/79/6e.pdf.
Kelleher, Maureen. “It Takes More Than a Hero: School Restructuring in Ohio under the No Child Left Behind Act.” (2008). Web. Educational Resource Information Center. Hazy Library. 30 Oct. 2009 http://www.eric.gov/ERICDocs/data/ericdocs2sql/content_storage_01/0000019b/80/42/e5/8b.pdf.