The Battle Over NCLB Continues

The No Child Left Behind Act is now up for renewal in congress and as you might expect, things are getting pretty heated. I have to admit I'm largely ignorant on the subject of education legislation in general and the NCLB Act in particular. I'm pretty new to the game and just haven't been following the subject that closely. But I've gleaned this much conversations with people more experienced and knowledgeable than myself: NCLB=bad.

The ideas behind NCLB are sound in theory. Equality of education for all students regardless of race or economic status. More accountability for schools - teachers, administrators and superintendents. However, like most things to come out of the esteemed halls of Congress, the bill ended up more of a corporate handout (publishers of textbooks and testing materials) and a system of loopholes.

As a result five years later schools aren't much better off, and in many cases are probably doing worse. Setting high standards and fighting what President Bush called "the soft bigotry of low expectations" is certainly a worthy cause and an essential part of fixing America's broken public school system. However using standardized tests is not the same thing as setting high standards. This is evident in the tactic used by some states to lower the standards of their tests so as to raise the percentage of students passing those tests. Meanwhile, NCLB does nothing to address class size, teacher training/competency, or funding not linked to testing. So somehow testing became the cure-all for education and the only ones unquestionably benefiting are Kaplan and the other testing and textbook companies.

Perhaps what's worst of all is that in the new version of NCLB, even the standardized tests aren't going to be standard as the law is being relaxed to give suburban schools more flexibility. Understandably, teachers and civil rights groups are unhappy with the new, "improved" NCLB. Dianne M. Piché, executive director of the Citizens’ Commission on Civil Rights put it this way:
“'It strikes me as not unlike allowing my teenage son and his friends to score their own driver’s license tests,' Ms. Piché said, adding, 'We’ll have one set of standards for the Bronx and one for Westchester County, one for Baltimore and one for Bethesda.'”

For more information on NCLB check out and then if you feel like it, sign the petition to dismantle NCLB.


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