No Child Left Behind, Really?
The Truth about "No Child Left Behind"
“Teaching to the test, without teaching to the test!” The teachers I’ve worked alongside for the last year joke, rolling their eyes. I know they are full of doubt about where our public education system is headed. Numbers can be tweaked to mirage the success of programs like, “No Child Left Behind” but from the inner-walls of the classroom, it’s apparent something must change.
The Bush Administration put into place the “No Child Left Behind” policy with the goal of educating all children equally no mater their socioeconomic status or race. To do this, a test was created for all students to take at the same time each school year- in the month of April. This test requires all students be at the same ‘above average’ standard while maintaining yearly improvement. As the Bill is written, schools that fail to keep up will be sent through a number of hoops in order to regulate and insure the proper improvements are put into place, securing future pupil success.
Unfortunately, just one year after this bill was instituted, Bush decreased the education budget by $75 billion. Since then, the budget has only decreased more. Schools pin-pointed as being ‘insufficient’ find that they are unable to increase student grades for a number of unaccounted factors. Mentally disabled students, for example, are tested and held accountable to the same standards as say, a GATE student. Also, although embarrassingly ignored, many of our US schools are so broke they lack necessary materials to teach with. The extremely high standards the Federal Government unconstitutionally demands are simply impossible to manage without resources. These resources are further deducted as sanctions for continuously low scores, making improvements the following year that much harder to come by.
Near test time, teachers are often in a near desperate state as they worry for their jobs and the longevity of the school they work at. In hopes of cheating the unbeatable system, many schools have taken dramatic risks- most of which have been caught and seriously reprimanded. When these incidents are publicized in the news they often criminalize the school- negligent in not telling the other side of the story; one that included a choice, be shut down completely or take a wild chance?
In recent years many schools have been closing their doors due to low performance year after year. Thus breeding a new epidemic: school-less children, or rather the calamities of a failed education system.
Before being shut down, schools that are unable to improve their test scores are reprimanded in ways that further alienate their resources, making it that much harder to meet standards once again the following year. Instead of addressing educational inequality, No Child Left Behind, has seemingly complicated and further expanded the issue. Instead of putting money into the schools that need it most, this Bill in practice deducts from the ‘have-nots.’ Schools with larger budgets and richer pupils are able to score much higher on the tests and are routinely rewarded for what money can buy.
Of course there are people who will argue that, “the rich deserve it! They are paying all of the tax dollars anyways.” And while that may look nice on a spreadsheet, we are not heartless humans. As a sociologist I know how poverty originates and I know that the inequality of our education system is largely to blame for its persistence. If we want America to sustain its powerhouse reputation we must educate all sects of our population, otherwise we are trending towards a mass of uneducated individuals that will weight our prisons and cash-out our already debit-ridden budget.
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