Okay, so the news came out regarding how public schools measure up using the No Child Left Behind standards and, as expected, it isn’t pretty! In a recent report from the Associated Press, nearly half of America’s public schools failed to meet federal achievement standards this year. This marks the largest failure rate since NCLB took effect ten years ago, according to this report which was released Thursday.
The Center on Education Policy report revealed that over 43,000 schools (48 percent) did not make “average yearly progress” this year, with the lowest failure range of 11 percent in Wisconsin to the highest failure rate of 89 percent in Florida.
Earlier this year, Education Secretary Arne Duncan predicted that 82 percent of our nation’s schools would not pass muster, so maybe we should be relieved that the statistics are actually lower than his prediction. Regardless, it all reinforces the simple fact that the 2014 goal that requires states to have every student performing at grade level in math and reading is impossible to achieve. (Of course, educators have been trying to say this since the passage of NCLB, but what do we know?)
In his statement Wednesday, Duncan said, “Whether it’s 50 percent, 80 percent or 100 percent of schools being incorrectly labeled as failing, one thing is clear: No Child Left Behind is broken. That’s why we’re moving forward with giving states flexibility from the law in exchange for reforms that protect children and drive student success.”
The report also revealed huge variations in state’s scores which can be explained by a variety of factors. Some of these include the fact that some state’s tests are more difficult, and some states have higher numbers of low-income and immigrant children. Additionally, NCLB mandates that states must raise the passage rate each year, and some states put off the largest increase until this year in hopes of avoiding sanctions.
Jack Jennings, president of the Washington D.C-based Center on Education Policy said that the law, which should have been rewritten four years ago, is “too crude a measure” to give a clear picture of what is happening in schools. However, due to the bipartisan atmosphere in Congress, lawmakers seem unable to agree on how to fix it.
He told The Associated Press, “No Child Left Behind is defective. It needs to be changed. If Congress can’t do it, then the administration is right to move ahead with waivers.”
Recently, President Obama and Arne Duncan have agreed to allow states to file for waivers allowing them to use a variety of additional factors to determine whether they are successful and also to choose how their schools will be punished if they don’t show improvement. Some of these other factors include using college-entrance exam scores and adding the performance of students on their Advanced Placement tests.
With at least 39 states and Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico planning to file waivers, Republicans in Congress are accusing Duncan and the president of using waivers to push a “backdoor education agenda” that will let schools off the hook at the end of the day.
Owen Rust, a Yahoo contributor, published a commentary after this news was released which reemphasizes the dangers of allowing the House education committee to rewrite NCLB.
Rust reported that, according to the biographies of the members of this important committee, none have worked as certified teachers in a K-12 classroom. Glen Thompson, Representative from the fifth district of Pennsylvania, has a background in education but worked in health care. Lou Barletta, Representative from Pennsylvania’s 11th district, majored in elementary education before he left school to try out for a Major League baseball team. And Virginia Foxx, Congresswoman from North Carolina’s fifth district, was a full-time educator, but she taught at the college level, which is very different from teaching in K-12 public school systems.
Apparently, several members of the committee also served on their local school boards early in their political careers. That seems to be the sum total of this committee’s educational experience, leaving many to question, as teachers have from the start, just how qualified these politicians are to be formulating educational policies.
While I have no doubt that this committee is comprised of some very intelligent, caring, and successful legislators, the lack of educational background, training, or experience is troublesome, to say the least.
Would you ask educators to devise business policy? Of course not! So how is it that a group of people with no education background have the expertise to dictate what happens in our classrooms and in our schools? Doesn’t anyone else see the absurdity of this situation?
Georgia schools Superintendent John Barge said, “A lot of educators saw the weaknesses in No Child Left Behind even when it was rolled out – that this day and time would come. It’s kind of a train wreck that we all see happening.”
Before we just continue the train wreck, shouldn’t this committee work with real educators to formulate an education policy that is reasonable and doable? Let’s get rid of No Child Left Behind and replace it with a policy that is best for students (and that does not mean judging their proficiency from a standardized test) and best for our public schools.