A recent article published in The New York Times detailing the fallacies and inefficiencies of the No Child Left Behind Act has created quite a buzz in communities across the nation. However, the law that was created to revitalize failing school districts has yet to achieve its goal: the bolstering of the American educational system.
The No Child Left Behind Act, or NCLB, was designed to promote quality in our educational system and calls for more qualified teachers, a more intense curriculum, higher national testing standards and an increase in accountability. Who is to blame when our schools fail us? The controversy is not over the act itself, which in general is commendable effort; instead it stems from the high expectations placed upon our schooling systems and the lack of necessary aid and structure that would make the goals attainable.
The expectations that have been placed upon our schools would have been understandable and reasonable had the NCBL Act called for an efficient allocation of resources to those schools in need. In recent light of the high school scandals involving the abuse of school funds, it is clear that not all of our schools are managing their resources properly. In the case of schools such as Abraham Lincoln High School, where only seven out of 100 students were able to demonstrate grade-level math and English skills, and Woodrow Wilson High School where only four out of 100 could, the lack of funds is the reason why the schools cannot seem to increase their scores.
Certainly an act that calls for higher education standards would require highly qualified people to help raise these standards, and surely these qualified people would be costly, so shouldn’t this act call for higher school budgets? The punishments for schools that do not meet national standards can range from a firing of administration and faculty members, to a reduction in federal funding and grants, to being taken over by the state. Obviously, the replacement of teachers that do not meet or exceed requirements would be necessary, but to reduce an already suffering schools’ funding may be a little extreme.
In an effort to increase the national assessment testing scores, the law has implemented demanding curriculum requirements on schools nationwide, putting a huge amount of pressure on students nationwide.
Higher expectations are understandable and even commendable, but overloading students with information in order to meet requirements is not. In many schools, recess and break times have even been reduced in order to cram more information. In the quest to improve the educational standard, we may have lost the quality that used to exist. In order to meet the demands of the law, many teachers have adopted the “teaching to the test” method – replacing the emphasis of application of knowledge with memorization of information.
In the past, being able to take the information acquired in the classroom and use it in the real world was the priority of schools, but now the main concern is to have students memorize information to pass tests.
The act also gives students who attend failing schools the option of free tutoring and transferring, which is something we can all appreciate. The problem is that many of our nation’s public schools are overcrowded and overcompensating as is, so to add any more students would be setting these schools up for failure.
Government officials should replace the unrelenting fight over the No Child Left Behind Act with persistent and effective action. Setting high goals for our nation is an effort that no one can find fault with; setting unreasonably high goals, and enabling poor performance through a lack of action, is unacceptable. The only way to support and encourage radical change is to demonstrate radical actions – the intentions of the act are commendable; the execution of it is deplorable.