The No Child Left Behind (NCLB) act of 2001 has many flaws. Although test scores have been increasing since it was implemented, and the achievement gap between minority and the majority has decreased… it seems like there are many more cons. The program requires large amounts of funding that hasn’t been adequately provided, high-stakes testing is proving to be a large issue within schools and is the driving force between teachers and students, emphasis is being placed only on math and reading, and most of all there are huge issues with Title I schools.
I was absolutely shocked and horrified to learn about Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) and its place in Title I public schools. AYP is the measure by which schools, districts, and states are held accountable for student performance under Title I of NCLB. AYP is used to determine if students are being properly educated and are able to pass tests at a certain percentage. The state will set objective percentages for passing grades each year, and each year the percentage must increase, until the schools reach a 100% passing rate. Additionally, at least 95% of students must take the tests. Title I schools are those that are comprised of students at risk of failure and living at or near poverty.
The No Child Left Behind act requires states to hold schools accountable for making AYP and meeting proficiency. In the case that a school doesn’t meet AYP, they will not be provided with their Title I funding. In the case that a school doesn’t meet the objective two years in a row, the school will be labeled “in need of improvement” and is required to develop a two-year improvement plan. Students will also have the option to transfer to better schools in the district if possible. After the third year not meeting AYP, the school is required to offer tutoring and supplemental education – all without extra funding. After the fourth year, the school requires “corrective action” which might involve replacement of staff, new curriculum, or extending time spent in class. Finally after the fifth year, the entire school must be restructures, turned into a charter school, lead by a hired company, run by the state office, or closed down.
So who decided this was a good idea? Who thought… “Oh okay well the at-risk students are failing and not being educated properly, so we will just take away their funding and tell them they have to figure it out or their school will be shut down.” Apparently not someone in their right mind. The fact that they take away their funding is a recipe for disaster. It’s as if they are giving up on the students and the teachers by labeling them “in need of improvement” and not actually doing anything to help, other than raising the required passing percentage each year. If they are consecutively not meeting standards, it’s not going to happen and increase the next year.
Even more so, the high-stakes testing aspect of No Child Left Behind is damaging as well. These tests can force children to be held back another year or prevent them from eating a diploma. Furthermore, they have been accused of creating anxiety and depression in students – even in elementary school. Although they seem to be life threatening if failed, they are merely used to track progress and see if students are learning what they were supposed to be taught that year. However, these high stakes seem to be being taken too far and causing too much trouble.
The pressure placed on both the students and teachers alike is crippling. Students are beginning to dread school and dislike their teachers because of necessary tests and lesson plans. Teachers aren’t allowed any creativity or personal take on lesson plans. Therefore, teachers are unhappy and leaving the field. Yet, how else would we assess progress and efficient teaching? It is a very difficult and complicated situation, but I don’t believe high-stakes testing is the best way to go about it.
Before taking The Politics of Reading, I knew there were issues in the school system. I knew more and more teachers were leaving the field, getting second degrees, and changing their lives because they didn’t like the system; their pay wasn’t enough, and they weren’t allowed to do what they wanted. But, I never knew the educational system was so driven by corporate America and the government. So much that students, teachers, and parents are somewhat suffering in consequence. Something needs to be done. I wish I knew what would solve the issues, or how to go about implementing a new system. I never thought I would say this, but after learning about all of the issues not only am I leery of working in the system, but also letting my children (one day) be a part of the public education system.