The Basic Problem with No Child Left Behind

This is one of the things I love about using StumbleUpon. Sometimes I find articles that I really want to write about, even when they’ve been out there for a while. And with school starting later this month, the No Child Left Behind program is quite relevant.


Too bad, as this study points out, its goals are unachievable.

But no goal can be both challenging to and achievable by all students across the achievement distribution. Standards can either be minimal and present little challenge to typical students, or challenging and unattainable by below-average students. No standard can simultaneously do both-‘”hence the oxymoron-‘”but that is what the No Child Left Behind law requires.

To illustrate the problem further, they go through the test scores from an international math test, in which Taiwanese students scored highest.

Know what? 60% of these students would have scored below proficient by the standards in which we want all of our students to become proficients. Sounds to me like a bar set much too high. Rather like expecting everyone to be above average.

Not to mention all the time teachers end up teaching to the test rather than really teaching.

Add to the problem a statistic I heard on the radio the other day. While schools tend to focus on building skills for kids to go to college, only 25% actually do so.

What are we doing for the remaining 75% who for one reason or another don’t go to college?

I’m all for encouraging children to do their best and excel. I’d love to see my own children choose to go to college. But what we have right now in education is pushing children to all fit into a single mold. It doesn’t work that way.

Some will struggle, some will excel.

Some want to go to college, others know early on that a skilled trade or other career is what they want from life.

I know it’s hard for schools to adapt to the different needs of children. But I do think that there has to be a better way to improve our children’s math and reading skills than by pressuring them with the tests required by No Child Left Behind. And I think schools need to be more open to the wide range of career paths students may take after graduation, so long as the full range of educational options are available to all students.

There are some basics all students should be taught. Reading, history, a good amount of math and science. Money management, running a household and basic home repair wouldn’t be bad either. I’m not trained as an educator, so I won’t go into details. But I can appreciate the need for everyone to have a broad foundation to their education no matter what they choose to do with their lives.

And perhaps most important is to give students the tools they need for learning on their own.

Education is a mess in many places in this country, but every year I become more and more convinced that NCLB is not the solution… that it is causing even more problems in fact.

What do you think?

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