In 2002, the Federal government, by Act of Congress, enacted the controversial No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). This program was intended to improve the primary and secondary school student’s knowledge, primarily in the areas of English and math. While this is an admirable objective, the construct of the program has failed to bring the desired results. Many educators have laid the blame on the approach laid out in the No Child Left Behind program. With its focus squarely on English and math, students, teachers and administrators face a task which imposes punishments if the goals are not met.
Such punishments take the form of rescinded Federal funding, which creates a catch-22 type of situation. Even the funding which is appropriated has not been received by the states. This has been standard practice since the inception of No Child Left Behind. In 2002, approximately $4.2 billion dollars which was appropriated never reached the states. In 2007, this funding gap grew to an astonishing $14 billion dollars! To add to the economic woes of the school districts, states all over the country were experiencing budget shortfalls in revenues, due to the state of the general economy.
This resulted in many states finding it necessary to make budget cuts in several areas, including, you guessed it, education! While schools are required to administer regular tests in English and math, the testing protocol of No Child Left Behind does not extend to other subjects. Some schools were forced to drop other subjects from their curriculums if they were to maintain the Federal funding. This doesn’t seem like a healthy overhaul of our educational system.
We’ve all heard about ‘teaching to the test’. This is a terrible development, because rather than imparting knowledge and proficiency in these subjects, students are simply taught to memorize by rote in order to pass the tests. We should not blame the teachers. Their hands are tied and they stand to lose their jobs if their students don’t pass these tests. Meanwhile, the standard of knowledge is limited to English and math, with areas such as history, science and social studies stand neglected. This is certainly not the way to improve our curriculum!
A grade school teacher friend of mine, with more than 30 years of experience in the classroom, recently quit her job rather than endure any more of the dictates of No Child Left Behind. She told me she could no longer pass a child through from fourth to fifth grade when that child was still unable to read. The pressure on our teachers is tremendous and is being unfairly administered.
It’s crystal clear that the current American education system needs to return to a model which more closely represents the Classical education we enjoyed not so many decades ago. Perhaps then there would truly be no child left behind.