The No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) has shaped education policy in this country for almost ten years. This federal influence is about to change. Or is it?
Last Friday, September 23, President Obama announced that he will waive the cornerstone requirements of NCLB, including the mandate that all students be proficient in math and language arts by 2014, and will give states the freedom to set their own student-achievement goals and design their own interventions for failing schools.
In exchange, the administration will require states to adopt college- and career-ready standards, focus on 15 percent of their most troubled schools and create guidelines for teacher evaluations based in part on student performance.
More Power To The States
“This does not mean that states will be able to lower their standards or escape accountability,” the president said. “In fact, the way we’ve structured this, if states want more flexibility, they’re going to have to set higher standards, more honest standards that prove they’re serious about meeting them.”
Mr. Obama also said that he was forced to act because partisan gridlock has kept Congress from updating the law for four years.
“Given that Congress cannot act, I am acting,” Mr. Obama said. “Starting today, we’ll be giving states more flexibility.”
But Hold On A Minute….
So President Obama is giving more power back to the states. And yes, it’s good that the 2014 deadline, which almost everyone agrees is completely unrealistic, is gone. But what’s this instead?
From The New York Times:
Experts said it was a measure of how profoundly the law had reshaped America’s public school culture that even in states that accept the administration’s offer to pursue a new agenda, the law’s legacy will live on in classrooms, where educators’ work will continue to emphasize its major themes, like narrowing student achievement gaps, and its tactics, like using standardized tests to measure educators’ performance.
That’s right – one of the biggest complaints from teachers, parents and administrators is the obsession the administration has with standardized tests, often used as the sole measure to evaluate the performance of both students and teachers.
Apparently Mr. Obama and Mr. Duncan, the Education Secretary, have chosen to completely ignore all the criticism about standardized tests, not to mention all the evidence that it is wrong to turn these into high-stakes tests.
NCLB As A Name May Be On The Way Out, But Its Provisions Are Not
In other words, while the name No Child Left Behind may be on the way out, many of its provisions are not. And that’s a shame.
The law that President George W. Bush signed in 2002 was a bipartisan rewrite of the basic federal law on public schools, first passed in 1965 to help the nation’s neediest students. The 2002 law required all schools to administer reading and math tests every year, and to increase the proportion of students passing them until reaching 100 percent in 2014.
Focus On Test Preparation Only To Continue
Schools that fail to keep pace are labeled as failing, and eventually their principals are fired and their staff dismantled. That system for holding schools accountable for test scores has encouraged states to lower standards, teachers to focus on test preparation and math and reading to crowd out history, the arts, foreign languages, P.E and even recess.
And I am not seeing much in President Obama’s waiver plan that is going to change all that. And so the struggle continues.
Photo Credit: SS&SS