No Child Left Behind
Finally, the government is beginning to see what educators on the front line of America’s war against illiteracy have known for the past twelve years: No Child Left Behind doesn’t work. It hasn’t worked from its inception, and it never will. The law was designed by the federal government during the George W. Bush administration, with a far fetched guarantee that all American school students would be on or above grade level in all the major subject areas by the year 2012. Aimed specifically at closing the performance gap between minorities and whites in public schools, it was based on the inaccurate assumption that the reason those groups performed poorly was due to the proliferation of unqualified teachers in the classrooms, teachers who were not paying adequate attention to the needs of minorities.
As this idea was embraced by the states (whether they wanted to embrace it or not) the notion that teacher training was the culprit became synonymous with the core cause of the problem, and teacher accountability took center stage. The idea of “highly qualified” designations for all teachers in public classrooms meant that evaluation standards would have to be tied to student performance. The result was that some teachers of very high caliber appeared to look unqualified, while teachers of lesser quality (many of whom represented the racial groups targeted for performance failures, and who are unable to speak proper English themselves) were given the appearance of being highly qualified when they were not. How’s that for a government overhaul?
Along with the end of the No Child Left Behind era comes the end of the additional standardized tests implemented by states in order to prove to federal officials that they were compliant with the laws. Most state boards of education, during the iron reign on NCLB, adopted all manner of extra end of year and benchmark tests that had less to do with helping students, and more to do with compiling documentation that could be used against teachers in the event their students did not perform well on the end of grade tests; this documentation could then be used as grounds for dismissal, which would satisfy the requirements of No Child Left Behind and keep the school district safe from additional penalties.
The Future of Education
What comes next? There’ s really no telling. The American education system is so incompetent, as are its leaders from local to state and federal levels, that finding an answer could take fifty years or more. Any ideas? Please share.