“No Child Left Behind” as has been mentioned before, and by many other than me, is a great title for a sub-par idea.
The idea is to raise expectations of students, by ensuring that every single student learns reading and math skills at a predetermined level. In order to achieve this, the government is raising expectations of schools, and the teachers and administrators who work in them.
Schools who continuously show improvement will be rewarded, while schools which continue to fail will be punished.
The upsides of this bill are few. One, is that the basic idea is sound.
Of course it is a great idea, and even important to the future of the country, that every child should improve on important educational skills. A second upside, is that there will be more accountability within the system.
The most glaring downside to No Child Left Behind, is the idea of striving for mediocrity. As President Bush said in a speech given at J. E. B. Stuart High school in Falls Church, Virginia, “it makes sense to raise the bar, not lower the bar.” Unfortunately, this line of thinking is not the reality of the situation. If anything, the bar has been widened, to allow more students across at the lowest level. The Act does nothing for the highest achieving, or lowest achieving students.
The idea is to focus efforts on the students who are just below a minimum level of competency, sometimes referred to as “Bubble Students.” These students are then expected to pass the standardized tests that they would have otherwise failed. This alone is not a bad thing. It becomes a bad thing when you consider the resources that are being taken away from all other students. This focus takes away from time spent with the highest achieving students.
These will be the doctors, scientists, and world leaders of tomorrow. What disservice are we doing to ourselves by shortchanging these students? And when we say, “NO” Child Left Behind, why are the lowest achieving students still not receiving the assistance they need to learn?
Secondly, there is concern that the focus on reading and math is narrowing the intelligence of our youth. On average, 3 extra hours a week are now being spent on reading and math. The term “extra” may be a misnomer, as those three hours are not a bonus, rather, they are stolen from other important subjects of childhood education.
Science, Social Studies, even Physical Education are all important pieces of a complete education.
These subjects have not been cut out, but have been watered down and diminished. Reading and Math are terribly important. Without these essential skills, one cannot perform in the other subjects. However, Math and Reading are the “how,” and all these other subjects are the “why.” You can teach a machine to do math, and to decipher the English language, it takes human intuition to make real use of them.
Lastly, the effectiveness of the methods by which schools and teachers are evaluated lie somewhere between vague and nonsensical. The focus is on standardized tests, with no regard to actual learning. There is not enough room here to speak of all the faults of standardized tests, so I will simply say that judging a teacher based on scores achieved on these tests by students inherited by said teacher, is completely unfair. If such practices continued, what teacher would take on a class of underachieving students?