Monday, August 20, 2007

PRO-CON: Is No Child Left Behind Act working?

PRO-CON is a feature in the Kansas City Star. This exchange appeared on Aug 13, 2007.

Is No Child Left Behind Act working? YES

The Washington Post editorial

Is No Child Left Behind Act working? NO

Albuquerque Tribune editorial

Blaming No Child Left Behind for failures of public education seems to be in vogue these days. So it was refreshing to hear a leading liberal Democrat speak passionately about his commitment to this landmark law. More important was the promise by Rep. George Miller, a California Democrat, who heads the House education committee, to fight for the bill’s reauthorization this year.

There is no question that No Child Left Behind has brought accountability to America’s classrooms. In the past, schools could claim overall success while masking the failures of poor and minority children; No Child Left Behind doesn’t allow any group to be ignored. But Miller is right in saying that students are still not achieving as they should and that there are flaws in the law.

But as one of the law’s original sponsors six years ago, he should know that to let states wriggle out of accountability on the basics would betray the mission of No Child Left Behind.

Life is a mixed bag. Sometimes we’re up; sometimes were down. Mostly we succeed; often, we fail.

Why has educational success been defined by the federal No Child Left Behind Act in such stiff, absolute, black-and-white terms for all students and every group of students in all schools? Why not recognize that schools and their students are most realistically depicted using the same, graphed curve that separates the best and the brightest from those who do well from those who just get by and those who fail?

Does that curve more accurately reflect the diversity of our children and their educational capabilities — and thus our schools — than some arbitrary 37-criterion bar set by bureaucrats who, at best, seem more interested in educational theories than classroom realities?

It’s as if the federal No Child Left Behind act was actually designed to mandate failure.

Whatever No Child Left Behind is intended to measure, it isn’t public school success. It needs to be fixed or abandoned.


  • The federal No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) requires school systems to have 100 percent of their students passing state assessments by 2014.
  • In working toward that goal, schools and their districts must make adequate yearly progress, or AYP, which is based on at least 95 percent of students taking the assessments, and how all those students fared -- not just the average student score

  • Scores are disaggregated (broken out) by subgroups ("each numerically significant group of students" in ten categories:

    • African American (not of Hispanic origin)Hispanic or Latino
    • White (not of Hispanic origin)
    • Asian
    • Filipino
    • Pacific Islander
    • American Indian or Alaska Native
    • Socioeconomically Disadvantaged
    • English Learners
    • Students with Disabilities
  • Every single subgroup must meet AYP for a school to succeed.
  • EFFECTIVE NOW (not waiting for 2014) If a school does not meet AYP two years in a row and receives Title I funding, parents must be given the option of sending their children to another school.
  • The federal funds under Title I are distributed to schools based on their number of students receiving free or reduced-price lunch. The schools then provide targeted services to children who are academically behind. And, even though the legislation is NO Child Left Behind – there is no accountability, expectation, or equity for schools not receiving Title One Funds – i.e.: middle class, suburban, "white" schools!

Gentle readers: Our public schools are filled with regular kids. Their average IQ is 100, half of them are above 100 – half below / some are gifted, some are slow, some are achievers, some are dreamers …just like in real life. Our schools turn no children away. Special Education kids with learning disabilities are mainstreamed. Yet the NCLB AYP goals fantastically require 100% of a schools student body to be performing at a level of proficient (grade B or better) – or the school fails! The grade of C (Satisfactory/Average/Passing) is inadequate!

...And so "C" becomes the new "F". - smf

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