October 23, 2007






With the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) up for reauthorization this year, there has been much coverage of the law and its impact on education since it was passed in 2001. NCLB has been working to increase student achievement and strengthen accountability in America’s public education system, as reflected in recent news articles and editorials highlighted below.  

Karin Chenoweth, author of It's Being Done: Academic Success in Unexpected Schools and Homeroom columnist for The Washington Post from 1999 to 2004, wrote an editorial, excerpted below, for The Post.  

“Why 'No Child' Was Needed,” The Washington Post, October 13, 2007 

A very odd notion is circulating these days that the No Child Left Behind law has forced schools to become boring, dull places where children do endless worksheets and are discouraged from thinking for themselves. This argument holds that under "No Child," students are forced to simply regurgitate what teachers tell them, which -- because of flawed standardized tests -- is often confusing and sometimes demonstrably false. Get rid of the tests, or at least pay less attention to their results, critics say, and schools can return to their pre-NCLB excellence.  

Particularly with Congress considering reauthorization of the law, versions of this argument are heard almost any time No Child Left Behind is discussed. I find it very puzzling. 

I keep wondering: Don't the people making this and similar arguments know that long before No Child Left Behind, far too many classrooms were boring, dull places where children were forced to do endless worksheets, discouraged from independent thinking and subjected to teachers providing confusing and sometimes demonstrably false information?  

[Before NCLB,] teachers were able to get away with such low levels of instruction because no outside assessment held them responsible for whether their students learned anything. My younger daughter, more than her sister, benefited from two trends now sweeping the country: accountability and rigorous curriculum. Because her high school adopted the International Baccalaureate curriculum, which has assessments scored by professionals outside the school she attended, my younger daughter enjoyed both a high-level curriculum and teachers who were not afraid of being held accountable. Every child deserves that. 



Recent News on NCLB

 “Bridgeton Schools Surge,” Bridgeton News, New Jersey, October 19, 2007
The state Department of Education announced on Thursday that Bridgeton was among 12 districts across the state removed from its "Districts in Need of Improvement" list. In early September, Gilson and other district officials attributed the district's general improvement on the state's standardized tests -- the elementary-level Assessment of Skills and Knowledge, the Grade Eight Proficiency Assessment and the High School Proficiency Assessment (HSPA).-- to revamped curriculum and a renewed emphasis on teachers' classroom assignments and professional development. Those decisions were based on what Gilson referred to as "data-driven decision making," meaning the district is analyzing state test scores to identify weaknesses and strengths in its faculty and curriculum.  

“Bush Says He Would Veto an Unacceptable NCLB Renewal Bill,” Education Week, October 18, 2007
As Congress works toward reauthorizing the No Child Left Behind Act, President Bush has said for the first time that he’s willing to reject any bill he doesn’t like. “Any effort to weaken No Child Left Behind Act will get a presidential veto,” Mr. Bush said on Oct. 15 at a town-hall-style meeting in Rogers, Ark. “I believe this piece of legislation is important, and I believe it’s hopeful, and I believe it’s necessary to make sure we got a [sic] educated group of students who can compete in the global economy when they get older.”   

“Senate Distributes Partial Draft of NCLB,” Education Week, October 17, 2007
Senate aides last night circulated a discussion draft of sections of NCLB. The draft addresses issues that aren't controversial, avoiding topics such accountability and teacher pay. Both Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., the chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, and Sen. Michael B. Enzi, R-Wyoming, the panel's senior Republican, endorsed the draft. Sens. Kennedy and Enzi often work closely to identify areas where they agree and focus on those first, leaving the controversial matters for later. The new draft shows that they are working together and are serious about moving a bill.


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