Should the government loosen restrictions in the No Child Left Behind Act?
Feb. 15, 2012
By John Vettese, Student Voices staff writer
When President George W. Bush championed the No Child Left Behind law, he set high goals for America’s students.
The intention was that you and your classmates would all be proficient at reading and math by 2014. President Bush and the members of Congress who passed the law hoped to achieve this by holding schools to standards – in other words, a set of concepts that you’d be taught and tested on, and that a certain percentage of you would score a passing grade on. Each year, the percentage of students expected to pass would increase until, literally, no child was left behind. And if schools didn’t meet that percentage, they would face tough consequences.
We’re now within two years of the 2014 deadline, and not anywhere close to achieving that goal. Obstacles cropped up, such as an achievement gap between minority students and their classmates. Teachers grew frustrated that the government expected them to make students perform better without providing the extra resources to make that happen. And the phrase “teaching to the test” began to spin around – the idea that teachers would be forced to instruct students only on content in the tests rather than overall concepts.
This month, President Obama announced a change in law. He said he was using his executive powers because Congress had failed to act despite widespread bipartisan agreement that the law needed to be revised. One point of contention was determining the appropriate role of the federal government in local education. Obama is giving qualifying states a pass on meeting some of the law’s more stringent requirements – provided they can come up with an alternative plan for education. States must show they will prepare students for college and careers, set new targets for improving achievement, reward the top schools and help the ones doing the worst. Some opponents say Obama has overstepped his authority and is intruding on the role of Congress.
“I said back then, the goals of No Child Left Behind were the right ones,” Obama said in a press conference. “Standards and accountability – those are the right goals. Closing the achievement gap, that’s a good goal. That’s the right goal. We’ve got to stay focused on those goals. But we’ve got to do it in a way that doesn’t force teachers to teach to the test, or encourage schools to lower their standards to avoid being labeled as failures.”
So far, 10 states have taken up Obama on the waiver. Others, however, are uncertain, viewing Obama’s move as simply election-year politics. There is also reluctance to change the approach again. Jeffrey Henig of Columbia University told the Huffington Post that the original No Child Left Behind law passed because they were willing to try something new.
“They didn’t imagine that it was going to pinch as hard as it was going to,” Henig said. “Now people know.”
What do you think?
Should the government loosen restrictions in the No Child Left Behind Act? Do you think the law was a good idea when it was passed? Do you think it is a good idea as it exists today? What changes would you make? Should the federal government mandate education standards? Should Obama allow states to craft their own education plans? Join the discussion!
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