Orwell Award Announcement SusanOhanian.Org Home

NCLB Outrages

Children are being left behind

Stephen Krashen Comment: "Children are being left behind" criticizes only a few details of the NCLB testing program. The Times agrees with the current administration that our major priority in education is more precise and uniform measurement, and that all children should know where they are "on every step of their educational trajectory" (Arne Duncan) in all subjects.

Is The Times aware that NCLB over-testing has converted schools into test-prep centers and has bled funding from the schools at a time when money is scarce? Is the Times aware that Arne Duncan's plans will result not only in national standards but also national tests and curricula, resulting in even more standardized testing than NCLB required? Is the Times aware of the fact that research does not show that adding standardized tests improves real achievement?

All educators agree that assessment is necessary. The kind of testing that both NCLB and the standards movement give us is, however, inappropriate and excessive.


The Obama administration has made a promising move regarding school reform with its "Race to the Topâ program. The $4.3 billion in federal grants is intended to reward states and schools that introduce new models of innovation and accountability.

What needs reform just as badly as the schools, however, is the No Child Left Behind Act, a well-meant but ham-handed law that actually encourages schools to lower their academic standards and that often leaves behind the students who most need help. That revision cannot wait; it must take place in tandem with the grant program. Neither the federal government nor schools can measure success without reasonable, consistent targets.

Fortunately, Education Secretary Arne Duncan has started talking about overhauling No Child Left Behind. Though the details have not been worked out, Duncan has found the right focus: The law's method of determining whether schools have met their goals is rigid, unrealistic and counterproductive.

Under the 7-year-old law, a school is considered to be "failing" unless a certain percentage of students score as proficient on standardized state tests each year. And raising the number of proficient students isn't enough; schools are given targets for each demographic group, including ethnicity, socioeconomic level and special education needs. A school that misses any of the targets lands in the failure category.

Under these restrictive rules, many a school that is making real headway is nonetheless tarred. And because the law gives states the authority to define proficiency, they have an incentive to set the bar low. Some of them have.

With its insistence on proficiency as the only determiner of progress, the law is out of touch with the realities of struggling schools. It is practically impossible for students who start out at the bottom levels of achievement to rise to proficiency within a year or two, but schools get no credit for significant improvements that fall short of that mark. The result: Many schools put their biggest efforts into raising the achievement of students who are just below proficient, because those students give them the best chance of meeting federal targets.

Nevertheless, Congress will probably put up more resistance to this overdue rewrite than it did to spending an additional $4.3 billion on schools. That would be a shame. Judicious accountability standards and the funding to achieve them ought to go hand in hand.

— Editorial with comment by Stephen Krashen
Los Angeles Times


This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of education issues vital to a democracy. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information click here. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.