No Child Left Behind

No Child Left Behind = No Child Reaching Full Potential

When Congress approved this piece of legislation, they applauded themselves and persuaded the American public into believing Education Reform was well underway.   This bill was passed into law in 2001 and I am anxiously awaiting the positive reform it promises.

The goals of NCLB were simple: Make schools accountable, set high expectations in the classroom, and most importantly, make sure every child is given the opportunity to learn and become a better person in American society.  It sounds like a positive plan in theory, so my question is why are schools still failing?  Experts suggest this is because the expectations were too high, and that this type of program would take time to develop.  Others feel the idea of testing has become the only way to ensure accountability which explains why testing has evolved into the “Creature from the Black Lagoon.” However, I believe we have missed a key component in accountability and that is the individuals for whom this law was passed, the children.

The law describes a process by which schools, teachers, administrators, and counselors are responsible and accountable for each student who does not get the education they deserve.  I will agree that there is a need for a strong sense of “educational community” to exist in order for students to feel comfortable and safe in their learning environment, but why aren’t students held accountable under this law?  If this is such a triumphant piece of legislation, why haven’t we seen significant progress in our students?  Why are the students of the new millennium lacking in their basic skills such as math, reading, science, and writing?

I make no claims that I have the solution to the problems, but I do wish to look at them from an economic perspective.  Historically, an economy (such as the United States) has the ability to continue to be a power house economy due to the education of its citizens.  There was a positive correlation between the education levels of a nation’s citizens and their global economic status.  So at that time, funding education, promoting job growth in specific areas of concentrations (such as engineering, teaching, business, etc.) was vital for a nation’s economic success.  Having all of these individuals trained in their fields, help create the “American Dream” ideology which became embedded in the minds of the public.

At one point, however, the labeling process began.  Originally, we concluded that if a student was not successful as quickly as their peers, they needed special attention or “Special Education” to assist them.  As time progressed,  “Special Education” was broken down into several different sub groups.  It continued to be broken down which only further allowed for the creation of excuses as to why students couldn’t learn as quickly as their peers. Also as a result of this, educational facilities have entire departments and staff to offset this learning curve.

Please do not misunderstand me here. I understand and firmly believe that students learn on different levels from one another. However, my disagreement comes in the way that we handle it. Extreme cases of learning disabilities aside, I have chosen to focus on learning deficiencies such as , ADD, ADHD as well as students who take longer to understand the material (which is about eighty percent of students under the special education heading).  These groups of students now have an entire system that will make excuses for them.  Labeling students gives them the excuse to be subpar.

The culmination of these events laid the foundation for NCLB.  Congress along with the President decided that no matter what the labels were, all students should be given the same basis for educational achievement.  So, to state it simply:  the excuses labels have given our children in the past no longer matter. All students are expected to achieve academic success at the same time with the same levels of achievement.

Politically, Congress and the President made great gains with their constituents.  Most were re-elected to their positions and stated they were “on board” with NCLB.  The legislation made Americans feel good about the priority of education and how their government was investing in their childrens’ futures.  Remember, political campaigns are always short-lived and most politicians’ focus is on re-election.

Economically and over time, issue  after issue arose. One of the first issues was accountability.  How would the government hold teachers, administrators, and staff accountable for student success?  Thus, the creation of assessment to benchmark the level of student achievement in key grades and courses was incited.  These tests were created by state governments to correspond with their state standards.  Since there is currently not a federal standard for courses another issue arises. Which state has the best education, and which the worst?   Immediately when those figures were released, states that were ranked lower, received more funding from the federal government.  As the nation grew tighter for money, the government began restricting those funds.  It’s hard to implement a law and effectively enforce it if you are not willing to utilize all available resources to ensure success.

In accordance with my earlier statement, the question then becomes: Why are children not being held accountable for their own education?  If they are given the exact same levels of instruction, time, and tutoring, why does the blame lie solely in the laps of the school system?  I believe we need to hold student’s accountable for their actions and their level of academic success just as much as we do everyone else.

Education should be a desire for everyone, but that most certainly does not mean it is.  Some people do not care about the core competencies they can obtain through education and simply want to move on into some type of career.  I say let them.  Someone needs to be the cashier at the local grocery store; someone needs to wash the car at the car wash.  Even though these jobs may not be what society deems as optimal or extremely successful, they are still needed in our society.

We need to realize education is a privilege; it is not something we need to “dumb down” to help students along the way.  If anything, we need to hold to higher expectations. Unlike NCLB, we should realize that some students will not or choose not to achieve the standards which have been set for them and that’s okay.  If we continue having the same exact expectation from each student, the cream will never rise to the top and student achievement will continue to go down the drain.


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