Sunday, December 8, 2013

No Child Left Behind (NCLB)

The results of George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind act (NCLB) will soon be measured, and speaks volumes to the new direction we may need to face if we want to improve public education. As  of 2014, NCLB will be up for re-authorization and in its wake will stand a new strategy and policy known as Race to the Top.

As we have already established in our analysis of San Antonio versus Rodriguez poor communities are getting the shaft in terms of funding public education. Even though they may demonstrate more effort in paying a disproportionate amount of taxes, the gap between poor schools and wealthy ones show no sign of narrowing. “In poor communities, local taxation cannot support minimally acceptable schooling. State and federal equalization formulas rarely cover the cost differences between poor districts and wealthy districts.” (xix) A new system is in dire need “wealthier families have access to schools with more robust funding than do their poorer neighbors. Segregation by social class is the rule, not the exception.” (xix)

So the question remains, do we continue testing as outlined by NCLB to determine progress in our public schools. “While worthy standardized tests do provide teachers with much good data, they hardly provide either enough information or the balance of information necessary to assess accurately either a student’s mastery or a district’s or school’s effort. NCLB narrows, and thus profoundly distorts the problem.” (xxi) What are the other elements outside of standardized testing that show evidence of school progress. Do we need to improve resources such as technology? Do we need to get parents involved in their children’s education? Do we need to find better teachers and implement a more effective curriculum?

The main objective is “to keep alive an educational debate that can lead us toward a system of schooling which is worthy of Americans and the democracy of which its people for generations have dreamed.” (xxii)

Scholars from “The Harvard Civil Rights Project, along with other advocacy groups, has warned that the law threatens to increase the growing dropout and pushout rates of students of color, ultimately reducing access to education for these students, rather than enhancing it.” (4) Many students, especially ELL and Developmentally delayed do not have a fighting chance against the overly complicated state-standardized tests necessary for graduation. As a result many of these afflicted students will drop out. The question remains, could these students be included in our national plan if a better distribution of funds was mounted and resources available specifically to enhance education for ELLs and those that are developmentally delayed. Is the current system destined to fail due to its narrow focus on “mainstream” populations?

NCLB “will lead to reductions in federal funding to already underresourced schools and it will sidetrack funds needed for improvement to underwrite transfers for students to other schools.” (5) This spells disaster for those on the low end of the totem pole (ELLs and Developmentally Delayed)

“Although the hope is that such carrots and sticks will force schools to improve, this does not necessarily occur.”

NCLB “boosted test scores in part by keeping many students out of the testing count and making tens of thousands disappear from school altogether. The disappeared are mostly students of color.” (21) So the solution of a past policy was to simply discard those underneath the bar, and leave them to fend for themselves. This is not a strategy that ameliorates the already well known achievement gap between racial and social classes. If anything this policy will further the chasm between the haves and the have nots.

Those with little political representation and lack of resources “are forced to attend underresourced schools where they lack the texts, materials, qualified teachers, computers, and other necessities for learning.” (22) How they will thrive in such an environment is unknown to many who advocate for a better public education system.

“Determinations of school progress should be constructed to reflect a better grounded analysis of schools’ actual performance and progress rather than a statistical gauntlet that penalizes schools serving the most diverse populations.” (25)

“Accountability must be a two- way state and federal support.” (26)

“It is not hard to find urban and poor rural schools where one-third or more of the teachers are working without training, certification, or mentoring. In schools with the highest minority enrollments, students have less than a 50 percent chance of getting a mathematics or science teacher with a license and a degree in the field that they teach.” (27)

“Imagine a federal law that declared that 100 percent of all citizens must have adequate health care in twelve years or sanctions will be imposed on doctors and hospitals.” (60)

conservative Boston Think Tank: Pioneer Institute

Jackie McKenzie, former superintendent states: “NCLB is actually a cynical effort to shift public school funding to a host of private schools, religious schools, and free-market diploma mills or corporate experiments in education.” (84)

“Apart from the obvious bonanza for the giant companies that design and score standardized tests, hundreds of supplemental service providers’ have already lined up to offer tutoring, including Sylvan, Kaplan Inc. and Princeton Review Inc… Kaplan says revenue for its elementary—and secondary—school division has doubled since No Child Left Behind has passed.” (87)

conservative foundations such as the Heritage Foundation endorse vouchers and believe in the free-market. Not to forget the Hoover Institution in California, Manhattan Institute in New York, Education Reform in Washington, and many others.

Walt Haney from Boston College, progressive

Many Children Left Behind: How the No Child Left Behind Act Is Damaging Our Children and Our Schools by Edited By Deborah Meier and George Wood published by Beacon Press, Boston 2004

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