No "Change" in Education Policy Either: NCLB to continue

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at
Sat Mar 14 13:25:59 UTC 2009

No "Change" in Education Policy Either
Written by Kenn Jacobine
Published March 13, 2009
Part of The View From Abroad

This past week President Obama made a major education speech in front
of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. In the speech Obama laid out his
policy proposals for improving America's schools. The good news is
that his plan, at least for now, proposes no new legislative
initiatives. The bad news is that the president did not propose to end
Bush's No Child Left Behind (NCLB) program. Thus, the president of
change is once again reneging on his campaign promise.

This wouldn't be so bad if our education system was in good shape. The
previous president was a neanderthal in many ways including his views
on education. As a teacher myself, Bush's NCLB legislation is one of
the many reasons why I chose to teach abroad. I can honestly say that
I have never spoken to an education colleague who has any fondness for
the program. The reason is simple: the NCLB program is exactly the
opposite of what we should be doing to prepare our students for the
world of the future.

So what does NCLB mandate? Essentially, the mandate is for schools to
improve the academic achievement of their students. That sounds fair
enough, but the problem is that it seeks to measure this achievement
through standardized testing. What is wrong with this assessment
approach since teachers have traditionally used tests to grade their
students? Lots. First of all, and this is from my personal experience
and the experience of many of my colleagues, enormous pressure is
placed on teachers from school administrators to constantly work to
improve test scores because if schools do not improve scores there are
strict penalties like a cut in funding or outright takeover of the
school by federal and state officials. Consequently, teachers have
become test preparers instead of instructors of critical thinking and
problem solving skills. The tests trump all beneficial features of a
holistic education. There is not enough time for field trips, music,
the arts, and physical education because maximum time must be given to
drill and kill exercises in math and English to prepare for the tests.

Then there are the interventions for learning disabled students and
English language learners that are needed if these students are to
achieve high scores on the tests. The problem is that NCLB does not
allocate any funds for this purpose. The program is essentially an
unfunded mandate for the states. Schools are held to high standards
but are not given the resources by Uncle Sam to carry the mission out.

Lastly, NCLB provides for no consideration of other school issues like
developing a school culture, addressing the emotional needs of
children, and assimilating new immigrant students into the mainstream
of the school. For schools to be totally successful in carrying out
their mission to provide a quality academic program, these issues must
be addressed first. The federal government's program has it backwards
- academic achievement measured by constantly improving test scores
will develop a school's culture, meet the emotional needs of all
students, and assimilate new immigrant students into the mainstream of
the school. Anyone with a logical mind knows this is absurd.
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