No Child Left Behind Sets Up Public Schools to Fail
by Tom Krause
People often use the word theory to signify an opinion, or a speculation. A theory is not necessarily based on facts; in other words, it is not required to be consistent with true descriptions of reality.
True descriptions of reality are more reflectively understood as statements that would be true independently of what people think about them. In other words, reality is based on facts.
The word gamble by definition means to take a risk in the hope of gaining an advantage or a benefit. It also means to bet on an uncertain outcome.
In 2002, NCLB became the latest gamble on improving our public schools. Based on the theory that holding public schools accountable would improve public education, NCLB was thrust upon the educational community. It is not the first theory that educational reformists have gambled on.
For example, year-round schools were introduced to the educational community close to thirty years ago. The theory was that by changing the traditional school calendar problems like student retention and overcrowding could be solved. The reality according to Florida columnist Billie Bussard, "1) Schools tend to remain on the year-round calendar until parents band together and throw it out after an average of 5 to 7 years, and 2) Implementers get out fast (about one year) after inflicting their community with year-round schools for the sake of their resumes." Research has shown that no significant test score improvement has resulted from the year-round calendar.
"In a sworn declaration, Assistant Superintendent Gordon Wohlers conceded that for years L.A. school officials have, in effect, perpetrated a fraud on the children of Los Angeles. Year-round education is not, in fact, a swell way to keep kids learning all year, as district officials originally claimed. Instead, the schedule has hurt students badly, declared Wohlers."
Many districts have found that "placing a bet" on the theory of year-round schools was not worth it when the reality did not produce the benefits they had predicted. When you gamble with student's welfare, parents get upset.
What about NCLB? Has the gamble on the theory been worth it?
Dr. Stephen Kleinsmith, Superintendent of the Nixa School District, believes the reality has done more harm than good. He even goes as far to call NCLB, "an attempt to discredit and dismantle public education by setting schools up to fail." Kleinsmith sees the Achilles heel of the law as the reality that all children are not equally equipped to achieve the NCLB standard of proficiency.
Accountability, he agrees, is good, but the law should make targets of success humanly possible with the emphasis being on continuous improvement. "How do children of special needs fit into the 'one size fits all' approach?" One question he would like to pose to Secretary Spellings is, "Do you really believe God has given all children the ability to meet proficient standards on NCLB?"
Kleinsmith also cites too much emphasis on consequences and not enough focus on rewards as another weakness of the law. "Additionally, the lack of funding does not even come close to meeting the cost of accredited expectations."
Other complaints from school district officials include: narrowing of curriculums by just teaching the tested areas; teachers lack of ownership in their classrooms; and student burnout and stress from test anxiety. After five years some successes have been recorded but they are not at all consistent throughout all grade levels and school district locations.
So what is the verdict? Do we continue to gamble our children's future education on the NCLB Theory or do we learn from the realities on the ground? If it is true that incompetence ignores reality, Kleinsmith may be right, public education is being set up to fail.
INDEX OF NCLB OUTRAGES