Leave NCLB Behind

President Bush today voiced his intention to renew the No Child Left Behind Act, stating that

“No Child Left Behind is helping replace a culture of low expectations… As a result, the achievement gap is beginning to narrow…. There is more work to be done. So long as there is an achievement gap, we have more to do.”

The truth is, about all No Child Left Behind has done is to institute a culture of increased bureaucracy – something our already bloated public education system definitely doesn’t need any more of.

The problem with NCLB is that it tries to fix the education system through more testing…but our education system doesn’t need more testing; what it needs is less regulation. Using standardized testing to reform the public education system is a grand case of failing to see the trees for the forest. If you stand back at a distance and look at the education system, NCLB looks great…but the truth is, NCLB is wreaking havoc at the classroom level, tying teachers’ hands, forcing them to teach to the test, but preventing them from truly teaching their students. The further failing of NCLB is that it puts the responsibility for students’ education squarely on the shoulders of public school teachers. The truth is, the most effective venue for a child’s education is in the home: teachers introduce the concepts, but without reinforcement at home, it doesn’t matter how hard teacher try, they will be ineffective. With this kind of legislation, it’s no wonder that music and PE are being cut out of our schools: teachers not only have to introduce the concepts during school time, but they’re forced to have students do what should be homework in class.

And all of that doesn’t even include the amount of bureaucracy that NCLB adds to the public education system…at all levels. The federal government now gets more bureaucrats to impose further standards on teachers. The state governments now get more bureaucrats to impose even more standards and standardized tests on teachers. The local governments and school districts have to hire more bureaucrats to ensure that teachers are incorporating all of the district, state, and federal standards into their classroom teaching. The truth is, NCLB is leaving teachers behind: instead of doing whatever is necessary to teach students, they are regulated into teaching to the test.

President Bush is out there touting a narrowing in “the achievement gap.” My question is this: is the achievement gap narrowing because low students are improving, or because high students aren’t being educated properly? My suspicion, based on what I’ve seen happening in our public schools, is that it’s the latter.

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