Left behind by No Child Left Behind
Money is not the answer. Throwing good money after bad legislation won't fix the fundamental flaws of that legislation.
Far too often politicians expect good ideas to function on their own, without careful planning and without sufficient funding. The current administration in Washington has become a poster child for this approach to problems. Of all the good ideas that have floundered on poor planning and budget cuts, none has fallen so far short as No Child Left Behind.
Conceived as a way to make all students proficient in reading and math by 2014, NCLB was to be the cornerstone of a federal education initiative that would upgrade teacher credentials and improve test scores.
Both are noble goals.
However, at a recent meeting called to discuss what NCLB has accomplished after five years, Rep. Artur Davis, D-Birmingham, got an earful of problems and shortcomings.
While setting high standards, requiring extensive testing and collecting significant data, the act also has placed a heavy burden on teachers and students, forced schools to devote weeks to standardized testing, increased the size of the education bureaucracy and cost local schools money that they thought would come from Washington.
Davis seemed to understand.
As he pointed out, Ă˘€śfrom 2003 to 2006, the difference in what was needed to fund No Child Left Behind and what Congress actually gave was $17.16 billion.Ă˘€ť Other sources claim that figure should be closer to $30 billion.
What was the result of this under-funding?
Incentives that should be available to attract Ă˘€śhighly-qualifiedĂ˘€ť teachers to rural schools are not there.
The expense of testing and evaluation is falling on state and local school systems Ă˘€” an unfunded mandate if there ever was one.
Then there are the complaints that have filtered out to potential teachers who, hearing of the problems, have decided to seek a career in something other than education.
This may be the greatest drawback that NCLB has to overcome.
Teacher morale, always a fragile thing, has taken a hit from the testing and the time taken away from teaching. Teachers entered the profession to be teachers, not test monitors.
As Congress considers whether or not to reauthorize NCLB, it needs to make sure the act is fully funded. More than the money, though, Congress needs to make sure that amid all of the evaluations, record keeping and data crunching, teachers still are free to teach and students are encouraged to learn.
INDEX OF NCLB OUTRAGES