No Child Left Behind ate my school’s soul

By Cyrus Moussavi 2005

The life expectancy of teachers is dropping just as fast as the leaves this fall. You can sill smell the teacher/administrator anxiety filling the halls after the Iowa Tests of Educational Development. That’s not the locker room this time.

But why did this year’s ITEDs cause such psychotic reactions, as opposed to all the others? Why did I “review” multiplication and long-division in math class? And why has the phrase “No Child Left Behind” become a swear word in the teachers’ lounge?

It could have something to do with the No Child Left Behind Act itself, otherwise known as “unliess all the dumb kids dripped out and the school improved its ITEDs scores from the previous year, Cedar Falls will be in very real danger of acquiring a ‘School in Need of Attention’ label, leaving us with the budget hacks and teacher sacks such a name would entail.”

Or maybe everyone in the school has finally grasped what the great leaders of this country have known for so long: they finally understand that standardized tests really are the way for students to find out how smart (or dumb) they are. Maybe students have realized that ITED scores will prove useful as the ONLY factor in deciding which schools are efficent and what schools are as effective as Gary Coleman in a political position and have decided to actually try. But after thinking about that one for a second, I’ll have to go with no.

Mention No Child Left Behind to virtually any teacher at Cedar Falls High School, and you will see a change in her entire posture as she sags like a punctured kidney. She will tell you (under conditions of anonymity) that George Bush’s No Child Left Behind Act leaves a lot behind by promoting teachers to “teach off the test,” making classes that don’t directly affect test scores practically meaningless, not to mention the fact that only $1 billion of the $5.6 billion that Congress appointed to schools as part of No Child Left Behind was actually fit into the President’s budget.

It comes down to schools being “held accountable” for how students perform. But how can someone hold a school accountable for whether or not its students decide to try on a standardized test? You can’t be held accountable for something you’re not in control of. That’s like blaming me for when Carson left The Tonight Show. I cried too. But that wasn’t my fault.

Anyway, while we’re on the topic of accountability, what about No Child Left Behind’s biggest supporter, George Bush himself? this is really the guy who should be faced with a bill like No Child Left Behind. Who promised to bring the economy out of the hole it has crawled into but ended up with an even bigger deficit? The same guy who said that Iraq was a threat because it was packed with weapons of mass destruction and promised to find them. But principals and school administrators never promised that they could have have every student scoring above the 40th percentile on a standardized test. In fact, it is almost impossible. Teachers never promised anybody that they would “teach to the test” and shouldn’t be head accountable for not doing so.

This has nothing to do with political parties; it’s pretty much a matter of common sense. No Child Left Behind is a hypocritical and implausible law that needs to be dealt with. Meanwhile, somebody should get to work on yet another accountability bill with an exciting title, maybe No Bush Left Behind: “George Herbert, if you don’t clean up you $374 billion budget deficit, there will be no dessert tonight, and don’t give me that ‘trick-down economy tax cuts’ excuse again. And another thing. If you want to come on that trip to the ranch next week, I suggest you find me some weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. And no, Dick can’t come too.”

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