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.
“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.