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“No Child Left Behind” School Program


Texas had a very low rating for education when Bush was governor, and it s educational policy was the model for the No Child Left Behind program that is plaguing our schools. This faulty program is seriously damaging education, schools and our kids. Scarce educational funds are being spent on methods to help students pass the once given annual math and reading tests. The idea of “No Child Left Behind” is sounds great, but the methods being used do not work. The tests cannot really tell us what the children can do, the ranges for assessment are not realistic and the sanctions are counterproductive and wasteful. Even though we probably should have some kind of national education standards, we need to get rid of this program.

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“Critics claim that the law’s focus on complicated tallies of multiple-choice-test scores has dumbed down the curriculum, fostered a “drill and kill” approach to teaching, mistakenly labeled successful schools as failing, driven teachers and middle-class students out of public schools and harmed special education students and English-language learners through inappropriate assessments and efforts to push out low-scoring students in order to boost scores.” (Darling-Hamilton 2007)

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We all know from many different research projects in the past that any child can fail one test. Even whole groups may fail on the same day. The kids might be sick or the weather may be bade, or some other local thing might lower the scores. Using one test to rate schools is just plain stupid. Then the ratings make it worse. By using punitive measures, as Linda Darling-Hamilton puts it (2007), “It assumes that what schools need is more carrots and sticks rather than fundamental changes.” Schools that have been doing more holistic teaching and integrated curriculum with more real world projects and research papers have to give these up and replace them with drill and practice to “teach to the tests”.

Some people insist that scores are going up and that proves that NCLB is working. But some schools cheat, or find ways to eliminate the low scorers in the target groups from the student population. “In a large Texas city, for example, scores soared while tens of thousands of students–mostly African-American and Latino–disappeared from school. Educators reported that exclusionary policies were used to hold back, suspend, expel or counsel out students in order to boost test scores.” (Darling-Hamilton 2007) The AYP (Adequate Yearly Progress) requirement makes schools ignore average, really good and really bad students, and concentrate on the ones just below the level set by the government, which is also not realistic, because it does not start with evaluating where they begin. There is no ‘standard’ student, so why are we using standardized tests?’ is how one 17-year-old student in San Francisco, Theresa Muehlbauer, once described the problem.” (Asimov Nanette 2008)

The Clinton 2000 initiative was more productive by helping states to develop high quality standards for teaching and apply proven teaching methods, such as project work, portfolios and research essays, evaluated by well trained teachers. There should also be multiple measures of achievement, including those that assess higher-order thinking and understanding. The NCLB had a genuinely valuable goal, but the money is being spent on the wrong things. Instead of holding tests, which only prove a very narrow point, we should be offering equal access to high quality learning environments with well trained and committed teachers. This is a real problem in some states and needs to be addressed. We need to change the way education funds from the federal government are allocated and give more to needy school districts and states. Right now, the finds are matching, so poor states that cannot spend much get less, increasing the gap.


The NCLB had nice goals, and I believe a national standard over all is necessary, but maybe that standard should be applied to measuring facilities, evaluating teacher education and analyzing the curriculum. As it stands it will make our schools worse, and it deprives those 30 or so minority groups it singles out even more than the average children. It is simply not the best way to improve our national education level, and we should let it die. Many people want to simply overhaul it. I think we need to start fresh, with a well thought out plan that results from practical study and collaboration with state boards of education.


Darling-Hammond, Linda. “Evaluating No Child Left Behind.” 2007. Web.

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Asimov Nanette. “Educators Ponder Who Gets Left Behind Renewal of Federal Education Law Sparks Debate Over Testing.” San Francisco Gate. com. 2007.

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