Thursday, September 20, 2007

Globe: No Child Left Behind needs reform

No Child Left Behind, the Bush administration gift (as well as Teddy Kennedy's) to education, needs to be reformed, the Joplin Globe editorial board said today:

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.


Unknown said...


I could not agree with you more.

Anonymous said...

As far as I'm concerned NCLB should be radically altered or thrown in the trash. The law is unrealistic and failure becomes inevitable. It makes no allowances or exceptions that I could see for mentally disabled children who simply cannot and never will meet the same goals the non-disabled can. And as you said, Randy, there are many factors which contribute to a child's ability and willingness to learn. No distinctions or exceptions seem to have been made there either.

Anonymous said...

By all means, any program that exposes the failings of public schools cannot be tolerated.

Randy said...

Anyone who truly believes No Child Left Behind provides an accurate picture of what goes on in public schools has not done any research into the law.

Anonymous said...

Well, why don't we turn a spotlight on and expose some of the failings of the private school system then? I'm sure there are plenty of them. How about we start with the fact that very few, if any, are equipped and trained to care for children with special needs? Why don't we start with the fact that if you call them up and tell them that you want to enroll a special needs child, almost all of them will tell you that they simply don't accept physically or mentally disabled children.

Anonymous said...

If No Child Left Behind does nothing more than raise the hackles of the educational community and forces it to take a long hard look at education then it is successful beyond our greatest hopes.

Let's face it. Schools have problems-big problems and too many educators are sticking their heads in the sand about this. That is why they don't like No Child Left Behind.

Any good teacher will tell you that if you don't have discipline, you can't teach a room full of kids. In too many cases, the kids and their whiney parents run the school. Sports is king.

Teachers are overwhelmed with paperwork, giving them less time on task. And a thousand other things that have cropped up which have watered down education.

Anyone who keeps his head in the sand about this is killing education.

Note to Randy - Something must change and if it takes a program like No Child Left Behind to do it, I say get on board! Stop the denials and get to work. Don't just point to successful students who will do well regardless of circumstances. Look at EVERYTHING- facilities, teacher quality, teacher pay, discipline, sports and other extra curricular activities, grading systems, field trips, teaching methods and philosophies....

Anonymous said...

The problem with NCLB, as I see it, is it attempts to use a standardized approach to assess a questioned standard, and then uses these questionable data to punish districts that don't "measure up."
There is no real attempt to reform the problems.
A better approach would actually do a study on what the problems are, and then find (perhaps by district or at least by region) solutions to the roadblocks to success and fulfillment of educational progress.
Instead, NCLB is a way to divide people instead of uniting them. It's another political ploy of throwing money at a project and putting labels on things instead of solving real problems. And it makes a certain group of people feel justified in reducing funding for what they might feel is an unjustified cash cow - the public school systems across America.