One problem most frequently heard is that the act concentrates on reading and math, but leaves out science, history, art and music. According to a recent column by Dale McFeatters, there is “evidence that this is so, with the non-tested subjects being scanted by about a half-hour a day.”
In Southwest Missouri, for instance, several area school districts received high marks from the state, including Accreditation With Distinction, but were given failing grades by the U.S. Department of Education under NCLB standards.
The editorial notes that the goal of having 100 percent of students proficient in math and reading by 2014 is unrealistic, which is an on-the-mark observation, but it fails to hammer home the point that school districts are being called failing even while they are surpassing federal guidelines in all but one area. For instance, if you have any group of students (white, African American, Hispanic, students who receive free or reduced lunches, for example) which falls short of the arbitrarily set government goal, even though the rest of the school has high scores, the school is still listed as failing and required to tell all of its patrons that it is failing. If that is not undermining public schools, I don't know what you would call it.
In the Joplin R-8 School District, in which I teach, math and reading scores were up across the board. The school is listed as failing because its graduation rate did not meet the federal level. And to be called a failure for not meeting that standard is particularly galling since so many factors that are totally outside the school's influence pay a big role in whether a student stays in school, including home environment, pregnancy, parents' attitudes about education, problems with the law, things school teachers and administrators have little or no control over.
The Globe's editorial is a welcome sight, but it should be the first of many editorials and news articles designed to bring to light the problems with No Child Left Behind, an ill-advised governmental program that is failing in every one of its categories.