New York Times Has It Wrong On No Child Left Behind

I disagree with The New York Times.

Last Friday, July 6, the New York Times gave this evaluation of what’s going on with the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB):

In just five months, the Obama administration has freed schools in more than half the nation from central provisions of the No Child Left Behind education law, raising the question of whether the decade-old federal program has been essentially nullified.

On Friday, the Department of Education plans to announce that it has granted waivers releasing two more states, Washington and Wisconsin, from some of the most onerous conditions of the signature Bush-era legislation. With this latest round, 26 states are now relieved from meeting the lofty and controversial goal of making all students proficient in reading and mathematics by 2014. Additional waivers are pending in 10 states and the District of Columbia.

The title of this article was “‘No Child’ Law Whittled Down by White House.”

The New York Times has it wrong.

Although it’s true that these waivers mean that states no long have to make all students proficient in reading and math by 2014 (a ridiculously impossible goal), the central focus on standardized tests as the means to evaluate students is still present.

Teachers, parents and administrators nationwide have been protesting the use of standardized tests as the sole measure of achievement ever since the No Child Left Behind act became law, in 2002.

And yet, under Obama, it is still the centerpiece of federal education policy.

The New York Times does acknowledge this in part:

Mr. Starr (superintendent of Montgomery County Schools in Maryland) said he believed that education reform should focus on incentives to help teachers collaborate and help students learn skills that could not simply be measured by tests.

It is another example to me of how were not focused on the right things in the American education conversation today, Mr. Starr said. I have a lot of respect for Arne Duncan, he added, referring to the secretary of education, but its just sort of moving around the chairs on the Titanic.


But it gets worse.

With the NCLB waivers, schools and districts must now tether evaluations of teachers and schools in part to student achievement on standardized tests. The use of tests to judge teacher effectiveness is a departure from No Child Left Behind, which used test scores to rate schools and districts.

As the Perdido Street School blog explains:

Instead of labeling schools “failing,” the administration wants states to test their students throughout the year and label the teachers of those students who don’t “add value” to their test scores as measured by a value-added algorithm “failing”.

And the administration wants those teachers fired – just the way they wanted all those teachers in Central Falls, Rhode Island fired.

Doesn’t matter what other challenges teachers and schools face, doesn’t matter if even conservative columnist George Will recognizes that there are mitigating outside circumstances that can make a teacher’s job very, very difficult – to Barack Obama and Arne Duncan there are “no excuses!”

Teachers MUST raise test scores or be fired.

President Obama’s education policies rely on standardized testing as the primary mechanism to measure who gets punished, exactly as President Bush’s did. Only now the burden has moved from schools to teachers.

So while I support our President in many ways, I am deeply disappointed in his education policies.

Do you agree? What do you think?

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Photo Credit: James Brauer


nancy d.
nancy B5 years ago

At the same time Dubya was implimenting NCLB his brother, Neil, was investing in a company for virtual classrooms. In order for these virtural classrooms to flourish Dubya put unabtainable goals on schools and cut funding forcing good schools to close. When children have no schools to attend, they would be forced to use the virtual classrooms. Lately, Jeb has jumped on the bandwagon. These companies do not have to meet the same standards as public schools. So you have private companies reaping the profits off the backs of public school funding. Same tactics as with healthcare.

Prentise W.
pre,tpse w5 years ago

NCLB leaves all children behind.

Carl Oerke
Carl O5 years ago

The problem with standarized tests is that school adminstrations requiring federal money need to achieve high test results in order to keep their funding. This places pressure on the teachers to teach the test and not the subjects involved in order to game the system. It is much more important to teach strudents critical thinking and reasoning than to teach them how to pass a test. We need to incentivise teachers to teach their students how to function and succeed in life for those long term goals will provide them with a foundation for lifelong success.

Duane B.
.5 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

Ruby W.
Ruby W5 years ago

I agree with the author of the article that education is one arena on which I do not support the President, whom I am otherwise mostly a giant fan of. NCLB should be trashed outright and standardized testing, which benefits only the companies selling the test materials for bookoo bucks, be confined to the bare minimums. Instead we should fund the arts, sports, science labs, libraries, and in every way make schools and classrooms pleasant and exciting places to be.

Sandy Erickson
Sandy Erickson5 years ago

Maine focus should be that children learn to respect themselves,teachers and fellow students. Is you scholl run by bullies? Are your teachers bullies? Do the punish the students instead of teach them? If yes,the school,teachers have failed. This is America our greatest claim in the world is that we are free. If children have respect they learn better,they know freedom.

Daniel A.
Daniel A5 years ago

Please-those of you who are parents, or educators, or just interested in public education. Search for Finland eduction on the net, and read what the Finns accomplished in 2 generation with education. It will show you that no matter what program we use it will not help. We do not budget correctly (year to year is a waste). Teacher training and selection has to change. School atmosphere has to change, and public acceptance of only the best practices --all these must become fact. I will not go into detail except to tell you that refugee children from Asia and Africa, no matter what their age, are fully assimilated into the educational system and performing just as well as native Finns. The Hows and Whats and Whys become clear when you read of what they did. They are in the top 5 worldwide in all measures, and are proud of what they have accomplished. I wish this on us.

NO ANY FW to me Rumbak
ANA MARIJA R5 years ago

Thanks for the article.

Robert Ludwig
Robert Ludwig5 years ago

NCLB is a disaster for this country. At best it would have created a generation of worker bees completely lacking in the broader knowledge (history, geography, literature) needed if you want to put that technical knowledge into a broader societal context. The kind of understanding you need if you wish to be involved at a policy (read governmental) level. The fact that there are few jobs to go with all that technical knowledge only spotlights the gross failure of NCLB.

Christine C.
Chandra C5 years ago