The No Child Left Behind Act: a Lemon Essay

Submitted By mackiefan2004
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The No Child Left Behind Act: A Lemon

No Child Left Behind is an educational reform enacted by President George W. Bush in 2001. The Act creates a set of national, as well as state testing standards in math, reading-comprehension, and history. All schools must bring all students above these standards by 2013. If they fail to meet certain standards for achieving these goals, the government can impose various sanctions on the school. While the act is a landmark move forward in education reform, its failings outweigh its merits.
According to the Sonoma County Office of Education, “NCLB supports standards-based education reform based on the premise that setting high standards and establishing measurable goals can improve individual outcomes in education. The Act requires states to develop assessments in basic skills. States must give these assessments to all students at select grade levels in order to receive federal school funding. The Act does not assert a national achievement standard; standards are set by each individual state” (Sonoma County Office of Education, 2012).
NCLB requires all government-run schools receiving federal funding to administer a state-wide standardized test annually to all students. This means that all students take the same test under the same conditions. Some argue that standardized testing sets useful baseline achievement standards, as it is important that a nation has somewhat of a reference to where students should be at various stages in their educational journey. The problem is, standardized testing often tests only a very limited range of skills rather than the broad range of skills needed by students in the real world. Referencing FairTest, the National Center for Fair and Open Testing, standardized testing focuses largely on memorization, speed of recall, and critical thinking. Yet, a full education entails much more, including creativity, emotional insight, composure and dignity, physical health and an understanding of nutrition, and many other basic human values. (FairTest, 2012). NCLB, therefore, does not measure the most important factors in a student's education and future success and happiness. It is, therefore, useless as a measure of a student and school's performance.
Another goal of NCLB is that is strives to help reveal and change failing teaching methods, and fosters accountability in public schools. Unfortunately, NCLB does little to improve teachers. “According to a recent 50-state survey by Teachers Network, a non-profit education organization, exactly 3% of teachers think NCLB helps them to teach more effectively” (Kohn, 2007). Part of this reasoning is that teachers are forced to repetitively teach “to the test,” limiting their ability to use real-life examples and application in their own teaching style, and exhausting students and classroom resources in a meaningless manner. According to Charles Murray, a columnist for the Wall Street Journal, “It [NCLB] pushes classrooms toward relentless drilling, not something that inspires able people to become teachers or makes children eager to learn" (Murray, 2006).
One of the most glaring problems with NCLB is that while the Act is federal, states are left to produce their own standardized tests. Because of the incentives NCLB offers for states and schools that improve their students’ scores over time, some states, like Missouri, openly admit to lowering their official standards to virtually improve test scores (South Carolina State Department of Education, 2003).
A second seemingly counter-productive financial paradox exists under the NCLB. Under the NCLB, schools that do not meet certain established standards are given additional funds in an attempt to boost scores. Critics argue that schools have less of an incentive to do better if they are already receiving more funds. However, schools are also given bonuses for meeting yearly requirements. Since these requirements are given each year schools are less likely to rapidly