The Problem With NCLB

Many people complain that No Child Left Behind forces teachers to “teach to test,” and that this is somehow bad.

Josh Anderson, a teacher from Olathe Northwest High School, supports No Child Left Behind, but not “teaching the test.”

He recently asked “Can we simultaneously prepare students for the state assessments and prepare them for their future? The amount of time that we spend preparing for state assessments sometimes means that we are not preparing them for more advanced learning.”

So how did we get NCLB? One reason was the scandalous performance of schools in preparing all students for success. At the risk of being apologists for the law, we will say that before the law (and under the law as well!), too many children ARE being “left behind.”

The intention of boosting the achievement levels of the least-performing students is laudable. But given the one-size-for-everyone model of government-run schooling, it’s also understandable that other, higher-performing students would feel neglected. It’s also understandable that teaching to test would happen.

So where to go from here? Public policy ought to recognize the diversity of student interests, motivations, and methods of working. The best way to do that is to allow for a diversity of approaches in schooling. That, in turn, will be advanced the greatest through schools competing with each other for students. Some will offer IB programs; some will offer traditional programs; some will offer Montessori programs, and so forth.

Until then, we’re stuck in a lowest-common denominator approach. As such, the implementation of NCLB is understandable.

Reference: Gov. Sebelius says teachers need support, KC Community News, April 18

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