No Child Left Behind does not fix achievement gap

In Opinion
Courtesy of MCT
Courtesy of MCT

Although the deadline for No Child Left Behind is not for another year, education advocates have been decrying its failure for several years.

No Child Left Behind was a piece of legislation enacted during the Bush administration as an attempt to raise student learning and address the achievement gap between white students and students of color.

The vision of No Child Left Behind painted a pretty picture, but the execution was off.

David Hursh, professor of teaching and curriculum at the University of Rochester, said the act would require students to be assessed by standardized testing starting from grades three to 11.

The main concern of education experts is that standardized testing emphasizes memorization of test preparation strategies and doesn’t encourage actual learning.

Students spend so much time in the classroom preparing for an exam that it takes time away from creative projects, discussions and other engaging activities designed to foster critical thinking and stimulate intellectual curiosity.

Even with the amount of time spent preparing for standardized tests, national results show the United States still lagging behind other industrialized nations.

According to The Atlantic, the United States ranks 31st in the percentage of students performing at the advanced level in math.

With such dismal scores, one must question why standardized testing is being used to measure student achievement in the first place.

In a report by Mother Jones, Kristina Rizga uncovered that students who were performing below proficient were still making A grades and getting admitted to four-year universities.

Cases like these reveal that student achievement may not accurately be measured based off of standardized test scores alone.

What’s alarming is that a student who performs well in all metrics but standardized tests might feel discouraged after seeing test scores that do not reflect his or her actual ability.

This could cause them to give up and consider dropping out of school altogether.

Rizga points out as well that the pressure for districts to perform on par has resulted in several instances of cheating, where teachers erase students’ answer sheets and fill in the correct answers in an attempt to inflate test scores.

Schools that consistently score below proficient face decreased federal funding, possibly putting them at risk of closing their doors.

With teachers who best know how to deal with at risk students working in inner-city schools, closing schools with a negative designation could have dire consequences for students from needy backgrounds wanting to go to college.

Under the No Child Left Behind Act students are expected to be proficient in reading and math by 2014.

A total of 41 states and the District of Columbia have requested a waiver from the act, which would exempt them from using certain standardized testing requirements and will allow them to propose new methods that will address the achievement gap.

The number of states requesting waivers suggests that No Child Left Behind has created unnecessary bureaucratic hurdles states must now deal with while doing nothing to address student achievement.

Instead of creating nightmares for teachers and school districts, it’s time for policymakers to make education a real priority and fix the policy that has devastated education for the last decade

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