Thursday, April 13, 2006

Leaving too many children behind

Even the college press folks get it. If only more in the mainstrem media would to the same...

TOO OFTEN good intentions go awry, leading to detrimental, ineffective action. The No Child Left Behind Act has been in effect for over four years and fits this criteria. No Child Left Behind has created a testing-obsessed atmosphere with a narrow curriculum that produces high school dropouts, not high achievement.


The plan is filled with more holes than a standardized test scantron sheet. The plan's foundation lies with the accuracy of standardized testing, but studies on standardized testing show bias against minority groups. One such study by Gary Natriello of Columbia University and Aaron Pallas of Michigan State University examined state testing programs in Michigan, New York and Minnesota. They concluded that minority students performed worse than their peers. One such example: between 1996 and 1998, almost twice as many black and Hispanic students had not completed the Texas state test for their high school diploma versus their white peers.

Standardized testing also does not correlate to future achievement. A study by the College Board showed that SAT scores correlated with freshman year grades by less than 0.50 and that high school GPA showed stronger correlation in general. Standardized tests simply show how well a student can take that particular test, rather than measuring intelligence or achievement.

The nature of standardized testing creates a narrow curriculum. Schools have focused on reading, math, and science. According to the Year 4 Report of No Child Left Behind, 44 states have aligned "curriculum and instruction with standards of assessment." Some schools have eliminated other subjects entirely. Students do not have the same opportunity to pursue subjects not tested. These subjects often ignite student's passions or open new waves of thought.


Failing to meet standards causes a backwards punishment for schools: decreased funding. When schools need to improve, more, not less, funding will be required. With less and less funding, schools will continue to fail state-defined proficiency levels. If these schools close, students will be pushed to the state-defined proficient schools. These schools will become overcrowded and quality will suffer.

No Child Left Behind does not adequately consider special education students. These students are prohibited from receiving help on standardized testing. Poor performance by a small number of special education students can largely distort the rating the entire school is given. Thus, a small number of students can cause an entire school to lose funding and resources.

The federal budget for 2006-07 seems to contradict the goals of No Child Left Behind. President Bush proposed the largest cuts in education in the 26-year history of the Department of Education. The funding for NCLBA increased slightly, but still remains $15.4 billion below the authorized levels. Overall, 42 Department of Education programs will be eliminated, while four others will experience significant cuts. Instead of putting nearly $4.3 billion into the youth of America, this money will go towards the funding of tanks and howitzers.

It seems as if the members of our federal government have forgotten the diversity of their schools. No Child Left Behind de-emphasizes everything that makes schools different, such as offerings of unique classes and after-school programs. Instead, a rigid program forces science and math down children's throats, threatening diminished resources if they won't swallow. In the end, the act is more aptly named the Every Child Left Behind Act.

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