Though intentions were good, No Child Left Behind needs reform

Our View

According to a federal report released Thursday, Sept. 10, a staggering 81 percent of Iowa’s public schools are failing to meet standards of improvement set forth in the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) policy.

According to NCLB, by 2014, every single student attending a public school in the country should be performing at or above grade level. That means that 100 percent of students in America should be passing their standardized tests without much difficulty. Individual states controlled how to measure proficiency in these tests.

NCLB has a lot of things going for it. It serves a noble purpose. It wants all students in the country to meet certain standards and base federal funding for schools on how well the students of each school do so that every school has an incentive to teach students the material in more effective and memorable ways.

However, the effects of NCLB have been far from stellar. According to government reports, nationally, no ethnic groups or genders were above 50 percent proficient according to standards, except for 4th and 8th grade Asian students (51 percent-64 percent) in both math and reading, and 4th grade white students in math (54 percent). Those statistics are far off from the 100 percent goal, which is why it is not surprising that 81 percent of Iowa’s public schools are not meeting standards. No state met the goal.

The dismal numbers are due to a flawed system and unrealistic standards. NCLB relies on too much on standardized testing as the basis on which to measure academic proficiency. Because of the immense focus on standardized testing, teachers began teaching students how to pass the tests and not how to retain knowledge and use that knowledge in critical thinking.

But NCLB had many positive impacts as well. It sets the framework for standards based reform and holds the system accountable for failure. It just needs to be reformed. The tests don’t need to measure how well students can memorize information, but what the student can do with the information they memorized. The goals need to be more attainable and set federally so that no states have lower standards than the rest of the nation, but there needs to be a degree of flexibility for students who need to re-learn the information or for students who can progress before the majority of their classmates.

No Child Left Behind failed, but it set the framework for major education reform that will bring America back to the pinnacle of knowledge.

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