« $100 billion daydreams | Main | DC Chancellor gives self failing grade »

Freedom to Debate: Is NCLB Working?


Is NCLB working?

I'm a supporter of No Child Left Behind, not because it doesn't need a ton of fixing, but because I believe it's driving us in the right direction and holding us all accountable to children learning.

So when I heard high school students on National Public Radio tear NCLB apart at the seams and debate why it isn't working, I cried. Not because I disagreed (there are indeed many reasons why it isn't working), but because almost every student at the high school debate competition profiled on NPR attend schools where my first- and second-year teachers teach at. Those young adults go to some of the most under-resourced, under-staffed and under-rigorous schools in the lowest income communities of Washington, DC. And here they were, grappling with whether NCLB has worked.

I went on npr.org to see if anyone had left comments about how great it was that high schoolers were debating some of the most challenging questions we're facing this generation. And to my surprise, no one had said anything about how great it was to hear this positive coverage of DC public high schools for once. Rather, it was a debate on-- you guessed it-- whether NCLB has worked. It was a lively debate from all sorts of directions, some I agreed with (that education needn't be a scarce commodity) and others that I didn't (that too much of our tax dollars are going toward our lowest performing students).

And then the obvious dawned on me. How different would this online discussion look if my own kids from the Navajo Nation could talk about how it wasn't just fancy resources, but objective-driven teachers who got them to grow by 2 grade levels in one year? What would it be like if kids from the border towns of Texas could argue back that NCLB actually deprived them of a more holistic education? How would it sound if one of the DC student debaters could chime in about how accountability actually held his teachers to rigorous standards for once? (A student actually did defend NCLB for that reason in the news piece).

We all have our own opinions about NCLB and one day, my kids will to be able to analyze and rip your ideas apart, or defend them with their own insights. That is what closing the achievement gap will look like.


I do not believe you can successfully hold people accountable by setting goals that are impossible to meet and then punishing people who fail to meet them, yet that is what NCLB has done.

At the middle school where I taught for 18 years we made substantial gains for the first three years of NCLB. Our 6th graders were entering school at the 35th percentile and leaving at the 48th. But we had about six ethnic subgroups. One year we got a bunch of recent immigrants, and our Hispanic students dropped by 5 points. Our African American students rose by 24, but we were still labeled failing. The next year our Asian students stayed at the same level. They were doing well, but they did not go up, so we did not make AYP. This repeated failure by these unfair standards demoralized the staff. Today very few of the excellent colleagues I worked with remain at that school, and I can tell you it is NOT a better place. Any fair analysis of NCLB must include the real damage it has done to schools like mine, and consider the opportunity cost.

Consider the billions we have invested in standardized tests and the further billions in test preparation. What if that had been invested in real professional growth for teachers? Even in teacher salaries so we could retain some of the many teachers we lose each year? The fact that students are capable of debating NCLB is laudable, but I believe the law itself has done more harm than good.

My suggestion to Jessica is to read the books "Readicide" by Kelly Gallagher and "Educational Genocide" by Horace (Rog) Lucido

Comments are now closed for this post.


Recent Comments

  • Conny Jensen: My suggestion to Jessica is to read the books "Readicide" read more
  • Anthony Cody: Jessica, I do not believe you can successfully hold people read more




Technorati search

» Blogs that link here