No Child Left Behind a Flawed System
Since its passage in 2001, the No Child Left Behind Act has sought to address some of the numerous problems plaguing the American education system. President George W. Bush touted this ambitious program as the best way to save our schools. One of the primary requirements of the law is the testing of children in grades three through eight and once during high school. It requires that students in all schools reach proficiency in reading and math by 2014, including those with special needs and limited English abilities.
According to the president, such testing provides a means to hold schools accountable and monitor their efforts. He views standardized tests as a way to motivate schools to perform better, threatening those that don't meet the required standards with funding cuts. Now, Bush is proposing that the initiative be expanded: it will now be required that high school test in grades nine through 11, and his budget calls for $1.5 billion to do so. To pay for this idea, he is seeking to save $4.3 billion by eliminating 48 educational programs, such as vocational education grants, educational technology grants, foreign language programs and the Safe and Drug-Free Schools initiative.
While the president's desire to see America's schoolchildren succeed should be applauded, the mechanism he advocates to improve our schools remains tremendously flawed. The original No Child Left Behind Act did in fact possess some potentially effective ideas, but it has been vastly under-funded since its passage. It has shifted the focus from creative education to a myopic concentration on standardized testing. Teachers are now forced to focus their instruction on the tests, which are often watered-down and don't adequately indicate a student's proficiency. As teachers and administrators face the pressure of meeting the federally mandated proficiency standards, important student classes and activities have been reduced or eliminated. Art, music, physical education, social studies and other important subjects not tested have taken a back seat to intensive instruction geared specifically toward standardized tests.
The president's plan to expand testing to high schools is a bad idea. This is particularly true considering he believes it must come at the expense of numerous important programs. While our schools should be held to a high standard and we should seek to provide a quality education to every American child, testing is not the solution. The nation's high schools do in fact face difficult challenges such as low expectations and poor graduation rates, but standardizing testing that affects funding and labels schools as failures will not alleviate these problems.
The Daily Campus
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