Merely a decade ago, the No Child Left Behind Act inspired the country to provide the best education possible to its youth. Yet today, on its tenth anniversary, many say the legislation has not only been ineffective, but it has also been a distraction from what is really needed to fix the education system within the United States.
The “No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act”:http://www2.ed.gov/nclb/landing.jhtml was seen as one of the most significant domestic accomplishments of George W. Bush’s presidency. He signed NCLB into law in Hamilton, Ohio alongside leaders of the education committees in Congress, which included Representative John Boehner (R-Ohio) and the late Senator Ted Kennedy (D-Massachusetts).
Many, like former educator and author of Answer Keys, Melissa Lowry, said NCLB was first seen as very inspiring.
“At the time that NCLB was enacted, it made everybody in America stand up and evaluate where we were in education with underprivileged and socioeconomically challenged children,” Lowry told theGrio. “Bush stood up and said that America was not serving our poor kids. Everyone thought it made sense and that it was a well-intended bill to bring more of focus on improving our schools.”
Indeed, Bush claimed his purpose for creating the law was to drive the more than 100,000 schools in America to perfect education for its students. The law consisted of measurements that placed great emphasis on standardized tests and on improving schools, many of which were in urban communities of color, that were identified as “falling behind.”
For example, its Adequate Yearly Progress measurement requires that all schools target each student’s proficiency to enhance curriculums, and its Highly Qualified Teacher measurements evaluate teachers’ ability to teach and inspire their students.
Looking back on the last ten years, Lowry told theGrio that the act has contributed to society in some respects since it was enacted.
“The data tells us whether the bill has worked or not worked and that is positive either way,” she said. “It really forced states that might have been getting lazy to get better by evaluating how children are performing in the classroom.”
Although many Americans were thrilled that Bush was taking the initiative to reform America’s education system, there were others who predicted that the act would not solve anything. Instead, they believed NCLB would be dogmatic and a disaster.
Audrey Amrein-Beardsley, who is an associate education professor at the Arizona State University, told theGrio that she and other education scholars predicted what would happen with the high-stakes testing component of NCLB well before its enactment in 2002.
“What we predicted indeed came true, not to our surprise as we had about 20 years of research evidence on which to base our projections,” she told theGrio. “What we predicted: That high-stakes tests would do literally nothing to increase genuine levels of student achievement. A decade of evidence exists to support this, not on state tests that are easily manipulated and artificially inflatable, but on our country’s gold-standard National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) and via our country’s still subpar international rankings.”
Amrein-Beardsley also told theGrio that she and other scholars predicted that high-stakes testing of NCLB would do literally everything to distort and corrupt what was happening, primarily in America’s highest needs schools, where the children who were not to be left behind continue to reside.
“These are the students who now, more than ever, have had their constitutional rights to equal educational opportunities swept out from under them,” she said. “The students who we knew were not at risk of being left behind? Pretty much unchanged — solid opportunities to learn and succeed in tact, and generally not fazed.”
In fact, according to the Center on Education Policy, almost half of the nation’s schools failed to meet federal standards last year due to harder tests, growing numbers of immigrant and low-income children, and the fact that states have to increase the number of students who must pass testing every year.
Beardsley is not the only who has come to the same conclusions based on researching data from numerous schools.
Alicia C. Dowd, who is a University of Southern California education associate professor and co-director of the Center for Urban Education, has also conducted numerous research studies on U.S. education. She told theGrio that although NCLB’s primary impact has raised awareness about the issues of accountability for schools and improving the quality of America’s education system, research shows that it still has not been effective.
“It was well-intended, but it got tangled up in test score issues and so basically overemphasis on test scores as a way to measure the quality of teachers and schools,” Dowd told theGrio.”Under NCLB, many teachers believe that they are not viewed fairly and they feel demoralized. I would also say that most people feel that it has not achieved its mission. If we look at the glaring statistics today, we will find that we have left children behind by not allowing them to have a good quality of life.”
Lowry, who was once a principal and teacher, also told theGrio that the NCLB has tremendously impacted the level of unique, quality teaching that every teacher can give to his or her students.
“True teachers are artists, because they can take any curriculum and weave into their own essence of who they are. All teachers can be fantastic this way, but the testing has taken the essence out of being a teacher out of the schools. ”
In fact, Lowry said she believes that receiving good test scores has placed so much pressure on teachers that now the average teacher quits his or her job after three to five years.
“I am very into teacher accountability, but there has to be more than one measure of accountability,” she told theGrio. “I think test sores should be apart of it, but there needs to be other measures that teachers are being evaluated on. When you have to teach things on the tests all of the time, it takes the fun out of teaching.”
However, recently, the government is trying to put the “fun” back into teaching with new initiatives focused on reforming education — and in some cases, rolling back No Child Left Behind.
For example, last year President Obama told states that they could seek a waiver around aptitude measures if they created actions that his administration favored instead. Many states have decided to go forward with this as it seen as being less forceful than NCLB.
“The Obama administration is emphasizing flexibility in allowing states to design their own programs and it is emphasizing to help the lower performing schools do better and they will buy into the program,” Dowd told theGrio.
Additionally, just “last week, John Kline (R-Minnesota) who is the chairman of the U.S. House Committee on Education and the Workforce introduced two bills”:http://www.examiner.com/special-education-in-providence/two-draft-bills-introduced-house-to-replace-no-child-left-behind that would replace and reform NCLB. Legislation such as as the Student Success Act and the Encouraging Innovation and Effective Teachers Act intended to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which is what NCLB is based on.
While the Student Success Act focuses on education reform efforts, the Encouraging Innovations of Effective Teachers Act focuses on teacher evaluations and school choice. They are two bills that will experts say will definitely change society’s perspective on how the federal government has handled education within the past decade.
“What has happened is that the government has taken a dogmatic approach on the testing,” Lowry told theGrio. “It has taken states’ rights to impact their own education systems. The federal government needs to give back control to the states and their teachers. Obama is helping to do that in some ways, but it needs to increase.”
Regardless the mixed views on NCLB, Lowry and other experts agreed that within the last ten years education has not improved with America. Instead there has only been increase in the amount of data gathered on education within the U.S.