Local legislator approves of No Child Left Behind Revision

  • Written by Joe Boyle

No Child Left Behind will soon disappear much like classroom chalkboards as the Senate voted to dismantle the law that was originally signed by President George W. Bush in 2002 to provide a better education for all U.S. students.

The Senate voted 85-12 to revise No Child Left Behind on Dec. 9. President Obama signed the bill the following day. No Child Left Behind has been reincarnated as the Every Student Succeeds Act. When Bush first signed the No Child Left Behind Act 13 years ago, the measure received bipartisan support. The bill was designed to increase accountability of administrators and teachers to deliver a quality education to all students.

However, critics have pointed out that despite the good intentions of that bill, the No Child Left Behind Act never reached those goals. State Rep. Mary Flowers (D-31st), who district includes portions of Oak Lawn and Chicago’s Southwest Side, said that changes were necessary to provide a solid education for students in poorer communities.

“From what I have learned and read, the new bill will give the power of education back to the states,” said Flowers. “There is no one school that fits all. There is not one student that fits all. They are all different.”

Flowers and other critics of the No Child Left Behind Act have said that instruction was too often based on following the strict federal guidelines of Common Core, which emphasizes the need to not only answer a math problem but to understand how someone reached a conclusive answer.

Common Core had been used in 40 states. While Common Core will continue under the new bill, the federal government can no longer insist on particular academic standards throughout the nation.

Flowers said that there was too much emphasis placed on specific testing that does not provide a grasp of a student’s potential. While tutoring was supposed to be made available for struggling students in poorer districts, that did not happen, she said.

“The haves got richer and the have-nots did not,” said Flowers. “A lot has changed since I was younger. Dads went off to war. Now dads and moms and even grandmas are going off to war. A lot of families are impacted that are not from affluent districts. That’s why I say the kids haven’t failed, it’s the adults who have failed them.”

The goal of No Child Left Behind was to provide a thorough learning environment to improve the math and science scores of American students who have been lacking behind other developed nations. Critics have pointed out that an over emphasis on testing continued to contribute to the problem. In some cases, teachers and students became obsessed with memorizing and preparing for tests that actually detracted from learning.

Nathan R. Monel, national PTA executive director, welcomed changes to the No Child Left Behind Act.

"The Every Student Succeeds Act is a marked improvement over current law,” said Monel. “The bill will ensure families are empowered to support their children's learning and that all students receive a high-quality, well-rounded education that prepares them for long-term success.”

States will still face some federal requirements for struggling schools, especially those in the lower five percent. Those schools will be required to close those gaps. The difference is that the federal government will no longer dictate how that will be done.

And that is fine with Flowers.

“One Chicago principal once told me that he would rather have an average student who asks questions about these tests than someone who just memorizes the answers. It shows that student is thinking,” said Flowers. “We have to consider the whole student, not just these tests.”