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NCLB Outrages

This is Not Right

While the national NEA is asking for more money for NCLB, at least one local is putting out a call to bring it down. This op ed has appeared in papers throughout Nebraska.

By Craig R. Christiansen, Executive Director
Nebraska State Education Association

There is an idea that the teachers of this nation can bring every student in America to a standard of proficiency by the year 2014. It is a great goal. It is a noble vision. It is not possible.

Yes, we all believe the phrase "All Kids Can Learn." What is missing is the ending to that sentence. All kids can learn, but not at the same rate and not at the same level. Somebody forgot to tell that to Congress when it passed the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 and signaled the greatest challenge to the continued success -- and existence -- of public education in the history of the United States.

Since then, schools, teachers and administrators have been humiliated and criticized for performance that should often have been celebrated. The impossible standard of meeting 'annual yearly progress' (AYP) becomes statistically more improbable with each passing year. Teachers and administrators say, behind closed doors, that there are entire subjects that are not being taught or that are given little time in the school day. If a concept is not on the test, it has little value to a school whose existence depends on test results.

We all want high performance for both students and teachers. But No Child Left Behind holds schools accountable for what they cannot possibly achieve.

Your Principal Re-assigned?

Conservative estimates set the number of schools that will fail by 2014 at about 70 percent of all the schools in America. Some estimates put that number closer to 100 percent. A recent headline in the Lincoln Journal Star told of an elementary principal who was removed and re-assigned because of the test scores of the student body.

Don't think it couldn't happen in your community. The goal of every child in America being proficient by the 2013-14 school year is not possible. Period. It has nothing to do with setting high goals or promoting higher achievement. It has everything to do with declaring public education a general failure four years from now.

What Lincoln Public Schools discovered is that schools that apply for federal School Improvement Grants will only be considered if the district agrees to remove the principal, close the school, re-open the school as a charter school, or replace the principal and 50 percent of the staff. Lincoln chose to replace an administrator that the Lincoln Superintendent called "superb." And the federal money is big enough to cause school districts to do this. The danger of the No Child Left Behind mentality is that we are punishing schools and educators that fail to meet impossible standards.

Spread the Word

No Child Left Behind promises the failure of the public school system and the end of a rich curriculum for students. It is a failing policy that becomes more damaging to students every day...and we need to say so. Every teacher and parent must tell their story of what this is doing to kids. Your friends don't know this. Your neighbors don't know this. Congress doesn't know this. They will only know if we tell them.

The impossible demands of No Child Left Behind pose a serious threat to public schools in every community. NCLB becomes more threatening as the pressures from irrational sanctions on schools and teachers increase. Those who are inside schools and see this damage must speak against the harm that NCLB is doing to public education...and to students. It is time to say as loudly as possible: This is not right.

— Craig R. Christiansen
NSEA The Voice


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