Sometimes what appears to be a great idea results in disappointment. I was thinking about that this week with the revision of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2002.
At the time President George W. Bush signed that bill and championed its goals, it appeared to me that it had merit. The bill would place an emphasis on educators to improve the scores of grade school and high school students. After a certain time period elapsed, these educators and schools would be penalized if these students did not see improvement.
Essentially, that was the basis of the No Child Left Behind Act. The idea was to reach every child and bring their ranking up to their potential. On the surface, that all sounds great. Hold educators accountable if students are not performing up to certain standards. The bill had the majority of support in Congress.
The No Child Left Behind Act had its basis in the fact that many American students were ranking behind other nations in math and science. The new law would make certain that these educators would be required to better prepare these students in these subjects and in their classes overall, it was believed.
Again, it sounded good on the surface but the priorities behind the law became distorted over the years. The pressure for students to excel in testing under the Common Core college- and career-ready curriculum guidelines became excessive. In some instances, teachers and administrators were changing grades to reach a certain standard. If some schools did not reach those goals, it could result in less funding along with disciplinary measures.
With bipartisan support, the Senate on Dec. 9 voted 85-12 to approve legislation to rewrite the No Child Left Behind Act. President Obama signed the rewritten bill that will return power to states and local school districts to improve troubled schools. The bill will still preserve federally mandated standardized testing but without the penalties for states and districts that perform poorly.
The new version is called Every Student Succeeds Act. The bill also prevents the government from certain requirements like the Common Core.
The problem was that more affluent schools districts and achieving students were reaching the goals of the No Child Left Behind Act. But struggling school districts and underperforming students were under excessive pressure to test better. The problem became that there was such an emphasis on testing that some administrators, teachers and the students lost sight of learning. They were just memorizing how to best perform for these required tests.
While students from all walks of life will be better equipped to deal with a more technological world with improved math and science skills, not everyone is alike. While tests and quizzes are a barometer for learning, it’s not the only way to rate a student’s intelligence. Math and science scores need to improve in U.S. classes. But not everyone is going to excel in these subjects. To apply the same standard to everyone will result in some students withdrawing.
Not all students who score well in math and science perform as well in English. Reading skills are of vital importance for students. The goal of teachers is to get the best out of each student. Memorizing federally-mandated exams are not the answer.
Some of the complaints I heard about students in the early 2000s is that they were lazy or that many teachers are unqualified. I believe there are excellent teachers out there while there is a minority that do not push themselves. But from what I have seen, most teachers are dedicated and put in long hours to help students. So, I never bought into the fact that there are too many bad teachers.
I recall reading that students who were failing in math and science have to be in school longer and recess is not necessary. They should be learning, not playing, the critics of modern education insisted. Sime private schools did not have designated recesses. However, many of them do. We have since learned that there is a definite correlation between exercise and education.
Obesity has risen among students in this century. While poverty and ignorance are often the culprits, having students sitting at desks all morning and afternoon is not conducive to learning. Play time for kids will actually help stimulate learning.
I believe that new law will be beneficial. Instead of grouping kids like cattle and making them learn under one standard, let’s reach all students. Kids, like adults, are not all the same. Let’s let them reach their potential and not prescribe to a federally-mandated standard.
Joe Boyle is the editor of The Reporter. He can be reached at email@example.com.