Just two reasons to hate NCLB

Harpers Ferry

In a cliché that defines No Child Left Behind: NCLB left the disadvantaged children of the United States behind.  The sweeping legislation did not account for cost of implementation, the exogenous factors of student life, student transfer rates (overcrowding and discrimination), and the capacity of states to create and implement the plans of adherence.

As James Ryan clearly outlined in his 2003 paper from the University of Virginia School of Law, the ‘perverse incentives’ of NCLB boiled down to two major items: discrimination and standards lowering.  First to the discrimination aspect.  High performing schools will not want to lower their scores effectively put themselves at risk for ‘needs improvement’ or outright ‘failure.’  When low performing schools are opened up to allow transfers out, these students will head toward the high performing schools.  In turn, that will lower the scores of the high performing schools.  The threat of losing funding for these higher performing schools becomes quickly apparent, and suddenly there are caps on transfers.  A perfect example of this is what is happening in Arkansas this week, with discriminatory transfer legislation being overturned by court order in violation with the 14th amendment.  What Ryan said, actually happened, and the court system is cleaning up the mess.

Then this entire ‘strict father’ approach to Title I schools that get categorized as ‘needs improvement’ or ‘failing.’  The concept to get rid of their funding because they are ‘money pits’ makes absolutely no sense.  Title I schools receive Title I because the students serve are disenfranchised poor and minorities.  Cutting their funding disenfranchising them more, to the extent that their scores will plummet and the students will have even less of a future than they had before.

As to standards lowering, states across the country have been guilty of this.  The standards that are set are no longer based on stringent aspirational goals, but goals that are possibly achievable.  With the complete failure of the United States to reach 100% AYP, the question becomes should we lower our standards?  Or, should we teach to a test at all?  Mayor Bloomberg had an interesting take on this, on March 2, 2012, “If you don’t like what you’re teaching, change the test and teach that.”  This nonchalant attitude typifies the utter arbitrary nature of the whole of NCLB.  As the States get nearer and nearer to failure, their sights will be set on an ever-shrinking goal, alienating the students it was intended to help.  At that point, the standards no longer matter, because instead of being proficient, they are just the ‘barely passable.’

Have I riled you up yet?  Remember, there is a reauthorization about to go into effect on this legislation, and it’s still almost the same.  Our government is keeping the downtrodden down while lifting up those without need.


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