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NCLB Outrages

Here's a List of No Child Left Behind Law's Substantial Problems

Ohanian Comment: Here is a teacher speaking out with a very good list of what's wrong with NCLB. And hoorah hoorah: she's calling for it's elimination, not for its full funding.

A new school year is getting under way, along with the third anniversary of the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act, also known as "No Child Left Behind."

Sadly, the anniversary of NCLB is no cause for celebration. Although NCLB has decidedly increased the burden on administrators and educators, students are most affected by its dire consequences. Here are the reasons why:

NCLB reduces the experience of learning to passing tests and assessments. Students complete tasks for the sake of attaining test scores instead of developing a deep and lasting interest in learning. Tests do nothing to inspire students or develop young people's innate curiosity about the world.

The law requires that states label students in questionable ways, such as "meeting standards" or "not meeting standards." This system seems to have been borrowed from the corporate world, which rates its products in similar ways.

Is this how children should be categorized?

It siphons scarce funds away from more worthwhile expenditures. NCLB requires money for testing materials, software (for tracking scores) and legal issues, which are likely to occur as it is fully implemented.

Consequently, less money is available for budget items which really matter to students: an adequate number of teaching staff and up-to-date books and resources.

It presents a punitive system: Schools which fail to meet standards are blacklisted and may eventually be closed down due to regulations developed in Washington. However, parents whose children attend small schools in rural areas, in particular, know that a lot of good things happen in our schools.

NCLB has tainted all our local accomplishments and invoked a pessimistic attitude toward teachers and schools. Instead of talking with parents about what is actually happening in schools, teachers and administrators are interpreting and spinning test results.

Each state uses its own tests to determine NCLB standings, therefore producing skewed results. Inconsistent testing practices however, are just one of many factors which make widespread assessment difficult and unreliable.

Our country's diverse population presents endless factors that affect test results. Diversity, however, is what makes our country unique and should be reflected in our local curriculum. Why would we want to standardize what is such a fundamental part of our heritage?

The law ignores the true challenges of teachers and schools. Many students are living in homes that would not "meet standards."

It requires that students from all types of socioeconomic backgrounds must show yearly progress. Although this appears to be a worthy goal, the federal government has offered little that will benefit poor school systems.

Funding problems are not limited to urban communities. In rural states such as Maine, reliance on property taxes have set up an unfair funding practice in which affluent communities are able to afford to spend more money on education than poorer ones.

NCLB only complicates local funding problems and further divides communities into the "haves" and the "have-nots."

The law is a quagmire of rules and paperwork. The only benefactors are big businesses, which sell NCLB approved reading programs, and companies that produce testing materials or have been hired to take over "public" schools.

Perhaps the government should be more supportive of liaisons between schools and our public universities, museums, scientific labs and libraries, instead of big business.

Many factors which occur outside school directly affect a student's ability to learn. Not every student comes from a caring, stable home.

This is the adverse kind of diversity we, as a democratic society are obligated to do something about. Spending federal money on testing will not improve children's tragic childhoods.

Congress needs to address the many factors that weaken school achievement, including housing, employment opportunities and health care.

Both political parties should repeal the Elementary and Secondary Education Act and fund programs that really make a difference for students.

Joan Newkirk of Bath (e-mail: newshute@gwi.net) has taught elementary school for 14 years. She has a masters in education from the University of Southern Maine and has studied the implications of testing for today's students.

— Joan Newkirk
Maine Sunday Telegram


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