One of the editorial column?s in last week?s issue of The Quad stated that George W. Bush has a good education record, and portrayed the No Child Left Behind act (NCLB) in a primarily favorable light.As a future teacher I have visited many schools, talked with many teachers, and have yet to hear even one of them say anything positive about Bush?s education policies and NCLB. After learning about the effects of NCLB, I can understand why the teachers are so critical.
At its basic level, NCLB requires teachers to lose valuable class time because their students have to spend that time taking a standardized test. It is worse than most standardized tests, though because, for the teachers and the school?s administration, the future of the school is based on their students? test scores. The way the NCLB act is set up, a school has to be near perfect before they can escape from the “failing” label. If one sub-group in one school fails to meet the standards, the whole school district consequently fails. If less then 95 percent of one school?s population fails to take the test, the entire school district fails.
Make-up days are available for students who miss the testing day, but in areas where skipping school and coming in tardy are serious problems to begin with, NCLB actually makes the problem worse. Most students find the tests boring, and there is little incentive to come to school when the first thing you will do once there is take a standardized test that does not even affect your grade.
Schools are given a chance to redeem themselves; if so many students meet the standards every year and the school meets its average yearly progress (AYP) goal, the school is no longer failing but on the road to recovery.
But little, if any, federal money has been given to schools to help them meet the standards. Many failing schools find it hard to meet their AYP goals because they do not have enough money to give every student a textbook to take home at night, to get better lighting in classrooms or to make class sizes smaller by hiring more teachers.
Another criticism of NCLB is that it goes against previously passed education laws, specifically laws that state a student may take a test in his or her primary language.
With NCLB, it does not matter if a student primarily speaks Spanish or Chinese; they must take the test in English. There is also criticism that science, history, and the arts are suffering because of the increased stress on math and reading the two areas NCLB tests. Even in English and math classes, more and more teachers find themselves “teaching to the test” instead of teaching literature and higher-level math skills.
NCLB is therefore a detriment to education. The idea itself is great; we should strive to narrow the achievement gap and we should hold schools accountable (at least to some degree) to the federal government.
Education is an important American institution, some would argue the most important institution because not only does it create a thread of commonality among the diverse regions of the United States, but education also deals directly with America?s future.
Therefore, the federal government should be involved in U.S. education. But not a federal government that creates an education plan that goes against previously passed education laws and after implementation, has fallen short by $27 billion in promised funds, according to Bush?s 2005 fiscal year Budget. A government that compensates teachers for the money they spend on school supplies, but fails to address the root problem (that schools cannot afford to give their teachers supplies) should not be involved in education. A government that consistently increases military spending, then cuts after-school funding by 40 percent, taking after-school opportunities away from 500,000 children, does not make American education a priority (afterschoolalliance.org).
A popular bumper sticker reads, “It will be a great day when our schools get all the money they need and the Air Force has to hold a bake sale to buy a bomber.” George Bush and his administration seem very content to keep that day far away, and to continue to build guns and bombs while some American schools can not even afford to give each child their own textbook. Despite all of the slogans and speeches, George Bush?s education policy has been anything but admirable.
Brittany Lare is a junior majoring in History and Spanish.