Definition Essay- Brianne Waters

Defining Education Without the Numbers and Scores

The 2001 No Child Left Behind Act (NCLBA) was created to improve reading and math skills of all American students, and also to “close the academic achievement gap that exists by race and class” through education reform. Despite the improved scores on standardized tests over the past 12 years, NCLB has not accomplished either goal. Overall, American students don’t read or calculate better than they did in 2001; they’re just better at taking tests. Educators are very aware that they can achieve test score improvements easily if that’s their only goal. Most educators take their jobs more seriously, and devote themselves to actually educating their students by helping them develop flexible learning and problem-solving techniques. Rote learning of a few basic concepts—”the ones that will be on the test”—is no substitute for a well-rounded exposure to academic subject matter, reasoning, and learning skills.

To the creators of the No Child Left Behind Act, an improvement in education would be higher test scores. This definition is incorrect because the higher test scores can be results of “drilling” and also cheating. An education is supposed to help prepare students for their future.  Each individual’s education is different and needs to be  reformed for their unique learning abilities and future careers. Standardized tests do not speak to this individualism that education requires in order to be successful and useful. For example, in order to communicate well with large groups of people, it would be more useful to have a specified learning technique than to have gotten a 2400 on an SAT that hasn’t mattered since senior year of high school. Students need a broader knowledge than the general reading and math materials that appear on state issued tests.

The No Child Left Behind Act also wrongly defines failing. There are many different requirements that need to be met by each school in order to meet the national benchmarks. Schools are labeled as failing if they do not reach target participation rates and test scores. The target test scores are claimed to be far above grade level. This means that if a majority of students do not do well on a test that is truly too hard for them, the whole school is deemed as a failure. A low score from even a single subgroup can cause an entire school to fail. This is not fair to our students, schools, and teachers who are meeting the average or above-average scores. Also, a school is labeled as failing if they do not reach target participation rates of 95% within almost thirty subgroups of income, race, language, disability, and more. Failing a school has detrimental effects to the school’s funding, causing cuts to important and beneficial programs. Failure can no longer be defined by the requirements set forth by the No Child Left Behind Act.

The No Child Left Behind Act set out with great intentions, to “improve our schools,” but wrongly defined that saying.“Improving our nation’s schools” means getting students ready for their future. It means every child, no matter their race, gender, income, or language has an equal shot at a quality education. It means giving students an education that is well-rounded and molded to their individual abilities and disabilities. It does not mean passing a certain test score in just reading and math. A child’s education is so much broader than any test score could ever reveal.

In order for it to work, the No Child Left Behind Act had to define many terms and phrases. It defined “education,” “failing,” and “improving school’s.” Unfortunately, because they wrongly defined these terms, No Child Left Behind has failed to improve the educational system of this country. While test scores seem to be improving, the actual education of our youth has not been improved by this law and it needs to be changed.

Works Cited

“Leaving Children behind: How No Child Left behind Will Fail Our Children.” Monty Neill The Phi Delta Kappan , Vol. 85, No. 3 (Nov., 2003), pp. 225-228. 2 April 2013.

“Measuring Academic Proficiency Under the No Child Left Behind Act: Implications for Educational Equity.” James S. Kim and Gail L. Sunderman. Educational Researcher. November 2005. Web. 3 April 2013.

“Evaluating ‘No Child Left Behind’.” Linda Darling-Hammond. The Nation. May 2007. 2 April 2013.

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One Response to Definition Essay- Brianne Waters

  1. davidbdale says:

    Hey, Brianne, you may recall I write feedback while reading your essay, not after, so you’ll know how one reader reacts to your argument as it unfolds. I hope this is helpful.

    P1. The point here is that—well, actually, there are several, aren’t there? 1) NCLB has not improved reading and math skills. 2) NCLB has not narrowed the achievement gap. 3) The program’s creators are wrong to think their tests measure educational improvement.

    What’s not clear from your paragraph is how you know they’ve failed and how you mean they’ve failed. You don’t say no skills have improved. You don’t say whether everybody’s scores improved but that the gap hasn’t narrowed. You don’t say what’s wrong with using tests to measure effectiveness.

    You don’t need to spell out your entire argument and evidence in your opening, Brianne, but you do need to tell a clear narrative. Without knowing any of the facts, here are some approaches that would do the job of your introduction.
    1. If the test scores don’t show success:

    The 2001 No Child Left Behind Act (NCLBA) was created to improve reading and math skills of all American students, and also to “close the academic achievement gap that exists by race and class” through education reform. It has accomplished neither goal. Overall, American students don’t read better or calculate better than they did in 2001, as their test scores clearly show. What’s more, the gap between disadvantaged students and those students privileged by race and class has widened rather than narrowed. Even if standardized test scores were a good measure of academic accomplishment—and they’re not—NCLB would have to be called a failure twelve years after its adoption.

    2. If scores are good, but you dispute the technique:

    The 2001 No Child Left Behind Act (NCLBA) was created to improve reading and math skills of all American students, and also to “close the academic achievement gap that exists by race and class” through education reform. Despite the improved scores on standardized tests over the past 12 years, NCLB has accomplished neither goal. Overall, American students don’t read better or calculate better than they did in 2001; they’re just better at taking tests. Educators know well that they can easily achieve test score improvements if that’s their only goal. Most take their jobs more seriously than that, and devote themselves to actually educating their students by helping them develop flexible learning and problem-solving techniques. Rote learning of a few basic concepts—”the ones that will be on the test”—is no substitute for a well-rounded exposure to academic subject matter, reasoning, and learning skills.

    1. If the test scores are good for some schools, but not others:

    The 2001 No Child Left Behind Act (NCLBA) was created to improve reading and math skills of all American students, and also to “close the academic achievement gap that exists by race and class” through education reform. It has accomplished neither goal. Although some schools score higher on the standardized tests designed to measure success, overall, American students don’t read better or calculate better than they did in 2001. What’s more, the gap between disadvantaged students and those students privileged by race and class has widened rather than narrowed. Nothing in the Act provides assistance of any kind to students in those disadvantaged schools; it merely mandates that they improve. Even worse, it diabolically punishes schools that don’t achieve higher test scores by diverting their federal aid to the schools that do improve, virtually guaranteeing that the “achievement gap” will widen as the years go on.

    All three of these approaches seem to be possible interpretations of your own introduction, Brianne, but each is more specific and targeted than yours. They all still leave plenty of substantial questions unanswered and they demand the support of strong sources you can provide, so, as specific as they are, you wouldn’t have to worry that you’ve “said it all” in your opening paragraph and have nothing left to write about.

    P2. Fails for grammar Rule 4. You’ve always had a problem mixing singulars with their, Brianne. Try to learn the solution in the next two weeks. 🙂

    Your claim that students need educations “uniquely reformed for their learning abilities,” Brianne. It sounds good if you’re already convinced of it; but it sounds like liberal coddling and “feel good” speak if you’re not. Offer something to critics who believe there’s something good about “coming up with the right answer” sometimes. Not everybody believes individualism will result in a stronger workforce, a more robust economy, or a saner world. You can make broad general claims like these in your introduction, for example; but the body paragraphs are the place for your evidence.

    P3. This is an entirely different argument than the one you make in P2. Be clear about the difference; let readers know you’re making objections of different types. In the first, you say “scores” are irrelevant to a richer understanding of “education.” In the second you seem to grant the scores their relevance, but complain about the standards. Your paragraph contains a third argument too, that failure of small subgroups can fail an entire school. Each of these arguments deserves its own paragraph.

    The bigger question is whether all three arguments are definitional. The first seeks to define “real education.” The second seeks to define “student failure.” The third seeks to define “overall school achievement.”

    That’s a whole lot to pack into a single paragraph!

    P4. Another definition! “Improving our nation’s schools”! Fails for grammar Rules 4 (for the same reason) and 7.

    There’s plenty of good material here, Brianne, but you need to organize your definitions into separate paragraphs, identify the several terms in dispute, and preview the overall argument effectively in your introduction.

    I hope this is helpful. Grade recorded.

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