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NCLB Outrages

No Child Left Behind debated

Siu-Runyan Comment:
Here are some interesting thoughts about the NCLB Act. Too bad they didn't just say to "can" this act.

By David Idol

The No Child Left Behind Act is flawed and must be changed, a panel of experts from the Steinhardt School of Education said at a town hall meeting in front of 250 audience members last night.

Though their approaches were different, panelists Deborah Meier and Diane Ravitch, both Steinhardt scholars, agreed that changes can be made to improve the goal of the act. The panelists were introduced by Steinhardt Dean Mary Brabeck, and the discussion was moderated by Pedro Noguera, a professor of education and director of Steinhardt’s Metropolitan Center for Urban Education.

Both Meier and Ravitch said it is important to try and get positive changes made to the act when it is up for reauthorization in 2007.

“It will be reauthorized, and there will be changes made,” Ravitch said. “It’s not going away.”

However, the panelists disagreed on how to test students. Meier said that imposing testing as a means of gauging progress leads to a narrowed curriculum, using the example of art education to illustrate that not everything involved in a rich education can be gauged by a standardized test. Ravitch said she agreed that education should not put too much emphasis on testing, but added that things can be learned from testing.

Both panelists criticized the act for creating what they feel is a loss of control of local government and the community over how schools are run.

“NCLB makes demands on states and school districts without fully funding them,” Meier said.

The panelists also criticized the act for its definition of qualified teachers.

“Having science teachers who’ve actually studied science,” Ravitch said, “is not a revolutionary thought.”

Ravitch added that the act also should keep intelligent design out of the classroom.

Meier responded, “I’m less frightened about intelligent design than I am of unintelligent people. The way our kids are taught evolution is that it’s like another faith.”

The panelists also discussed the problem of how the act deals with racial inequality in schools.

“We now have schools in the United States that are more segregated than they were 20 years ago,” Ravitch said. “There’s no mention of racial segregation in NCLB.”

Noguera said the pursuit of prestige sometimes eclipses equality.

“Even in liberal cities like New York, people are more concerned about keeping their kids in gifted schools than in integrated schools,” Noguera said.

Brabeck said the discussion represented true diversity in opinion.

“I’m delighted there were all these diverse views at this forum,” Brabeck said. “This is democracy in action. Everyone gets to voice his or her opinion. People don’t have to agree, they just have to be respectful.”

The town hall was sponsored by Kappa Delta Pi, the National Academy of Education and the National Society for the Study of Education.

— David Idol
Washington Square News


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