The Legacy of No Child Left Behind

May 23, 2012

BY Bertrum J Meisner The “no child left behind” concept has been running around America since 2001. It has been attempting to bring all the low performing children up to an acceptable standard of achievement in our school system. But what has this program really done for our children?

Its stated goal was to make sure that all children were given every opportunity to aspire to a higher level of achievement. In its implementation it was primarily aimed at disadvantaged children by setting standards within the education system, to make sure that all children were getting properly educated. It was created on the premise that if you give someone a higher goal then they will work harder to reach that higher level. Part of the goal was to create standardized tests to test students to see how their education was progressing. The states were given the mandate to create their own standardized tests to measure the students’ performances at key stages of their education.

It never created a national standard for testing, only a mandate for state standards. This gave the states the authority to make their own standards. Technically one state could have Harvard level standards and another could have kindergarten standards.  There was no across the board standard for the entire country, that alone made the measuring of the achieved knowledge level unpredictable.

The performances of the students on these standardized tests were used to delegate the amount of attention the government gave to each school. The squeaky wheel got the grease, so to speak. The poor performing schools were not rewarded but rather placed under more and more scrutiny to improve. In Georgia the teachers’ raises were tied directly to the results of the standardized tests. This was supposed to give the teachers an incentive to “educate” our children but did it?

If you have been watching the news in Georgia in the past couple of years, you have seen what happens when you tie student performances to teachers’ raises. There are countless educators being forced to resign or be fired for cheating on the tests.  This wasn’t at just one school but it was discovered at many.  There is no way of knowing how many other schools got away with the cheating, but I sure there were many more than those that were caught.  It seems that the environment and mentality was conducive to this method of “leaving no child behind”.  The teachers’ unions were never accused of wrong doing but you have to wonder, how does cheating on this scale get from school to school without some sort of organized effort? Maybe the unions were innocent and if that is the case then the teachers are even more corrupt than first thought because they were spreading and promoting the concept of cheating all by themselves.

Another problem is that the stated goal of the program was to get higher scores on a standardized test, which means the teachers were expected to adjust their curriculum to the test.  What many teachers did was teach the test questions and answers.  That is NOT teaching an education that allows one to think for themselves but rather teaches by programming the student. Being programmed doesn’t educate a person, it just exercises their ability to memorize data and enforces their ability to be a follower.  That is part of what is wrong with the American public today.  As a nation in general, we have lost the ability to think for ourselves and are becoming a nation of robots. 

Regardless of the teachers’ intentions, sincerity or teaching methods, just how much has the program actually performed in its “noble” cause? That is a very hard question to answer because the results are varied not only from state to state but even school to school. The New York school system has been rocked by inaccurate accounting practices that has inflated the results and given bogus performance indicators.  Georgia has been rocked by a massive cheating scandal making all the test scores questionable.  So how can anyone have faith in the test results when you can’t even have faith in the way the tests are scored, recorded or given?  The math just doesn’t work when you try to calculate success.

Even if we take the test results, on faith, as being accurate how can we say that the program has been successful?  There is no accurate way of telling if it is because the measuring sticks that are used are inaccurate and inconsistent from state to state. The program was supposed to make sure that the unfortunate students were brought up to the same level as the fortunate and better performing students. The problem is that the program sacrificed the performance of the better students for performance of the less fortunate students. The best students were not allowed to excel because the worst students were given all the attention.

Also remember that the program says “NO child left behind”, that means children with mental and physical handicaps couldn’t be left behind either, so they had to be given all the attention needed to make them perform at the same level as any other student. How do you do that? There is only one way to do that, by bringing the measuring stick down to their level. I have nothing against helping those less fortunate but do I have a problem with helping the less fortunate students at the expense of another student.

Whether the stats show that the scores have improved and the less fortunate have been helped, the program is an utter failure. Anytime you harm one student to help another, you have NOT improved the system but instead just shifted the bias of the system and changed the measuring stick.  That’s not changing the system for the better, instead it is just changing the perspective of the system.  I can respect changing our perspective if it is honorable and respects all involved. This program does neither because their no honor in cheating on test, fudging the results, holding back high performing students or teaching to test answers.

America needs to learn there will always be someone left behind in everything we do.  Not everyone can be an Einstein nor can we expect someone be something they are not.  Some students have a higher IQ and some students have a lower IQ, that is a fact and there is nothing we can do about that. What we need to do is just make sure that all students who want to do better are given the opportunity to do so but not by sacrificing our morals or other children.  BJMJr

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