Is No Child Left Behind Working?

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You cannot go through a week in the education field without hearing something about the No Child Left Behind Act. This act was put into law by President George Bush on January 8, 2002. This law has promised parents, teachers, students, and communities better and equal schooling. This law is 1000 pages of different ways this law is going to help our public schools. The question everyone wants to know is what is really happening? Is this act that was supposed to make our schools better really working? The simple answer to this question is that it is doing the exact opposite of what it promised.

The No Child Left Behind Act has promised many things. The big picture the law promised is that by 2014 all students would be competent as measured by standardized tests. To get the federal money promised by these acts, a school must test students annually grades three through eight and again in tenth grade (Many Children Pg. 35). The tests are supposed to put schools in accountability for raising the scores of every student by "desegregating" achievement data. This means that all schools have to equally test their students and they cannot separate out the scores of minorities, mentally challenged, or non-English speaking students. If your school does bad on these standardized tests or progress is not made then that school is placed on the "needing improvement" list. If the test scores do not improve in 3 years they are then placed on the failing list (Many Children Pg.ix-xii). There are many problems that cause these promises to be almost impossible.

In 2004 Linda Darling-Hammod uses the statistic that "According to one tally 26,000 of the nation's 93,000 public schools this year 'failed to make adequate yearly process (Many Students Pg. 5).'" In 2009 over half of the country's schools failed to meet the No Child Left Behind Standards which is up from 2008 (U.S. Schools para. 16). So why is it so hard to satisfy No Child Left Behind? According to TIME magazine "One of the biggest problems: there are too many ways to fail, even when a school is moving in the right direction (How To Fix para. 12)." What makes this statistic so scary is that many of the schools had good test scores but only one set of students tests were not up to par. Other schools scores were way above the nation's average, but just because they did not reach their own high goal they are put on the failing list (Many Students Pg. 5). Other students face a truly unfair truth when testing. A student reading way below their grade level can jump many reading levels, but will still fail the test if they are below the reading level the test says they should be at. This means a school can be doing exactly what the law is asking but are still punished for it (How to fix para. 16). Another unfair barrier schools have to face is that many schools scores are now being tainted by all the students that are being transfer in because of failing school closings (U.S. Schools para. 16).

The problem that these tests are causing is that poor schools are getting even poorer. The government promised schools that agreed to take the standardized tests money to improve schooling. They promised more money to schools that teach the poor. The problem that schools are having is that the No Child Left Behind Act is not supplying them with proper funding. Many of these schools that agreed to funds are being severely underfunded (Many Students Pg. xi). According to TIME magazine the government only spends "9¢ of every $1 spent on U.S. schools (How To Fix para. 7)."

These underfunded poor schools usually have the students who score the lowest on the tests. This means the poorer schools have to stretch their limited funds even further to help their students. According to Linda Darling-Hammod "the spending ration between high- and low-spending schools is at least typically 3 or 4 to 1. (Many Children Pg. 6)" On average poor schools have larger class sizes, less teachers, less extracurricular activities, limited access to libraries, and special services. Their money has to go to trying to get better text books, tutoring, and teaching aides but they are still the first on the restricted list (Many Students Pg. xi).

This leads to the most concerning problem the standardized testing has caused. This is overcrowding in schools and a raising drop-out and push-out rate. The strive to succeed is making many schools use the desperation move of pushing out low scoring students in order to raise their schools testing averages (Many Children Pg. 4). A schools individual student average can drop but by pushing out the students who scored the lowest, the overall class average actually can increase. The overall class average increase is all the school and government cares about so that the school does not get put on the "needs improvement list" (Many Children Pg. 19). Another aspect that goes into a schools push-out rate is that schools close and students must find a new school. The top students go to the better schools while poor testers go to lower income schools. This not only hurts the poor schools, but now larger schools have to face major overcrowding issues (U.S. Schools para. 3). Parents at successful schools then have to begin worrying about crowding overwhelming teachers, schools, resources, and programs (U.S. Schools para. 4).

This exact problem is even being seen right around us. Black Hawk Country school district had to spend $60,000 dollars to add four buses because they are now have to bus in an extra 174 students from schools that were shut down by No Child Left Behind. Orange and Lou Henry schools had to have classes in mobile buildings and even had classes in their gym to accommodate all the new students (U.S. Schools para. 9). Is this the route all schools will be taking before too long?

Dropout rate has also increased greatly. This is largely due to schools holding back students who have poor testing scores. The greatest amounts of students being held back are in the ninth grade. This is because schools can hold back low testing students from taking state tests in tenth grade and it help raise the schools average. In George Woods segment in Many Children Left Behind he state "The evidence is clear-when students are retained in the same grade from more than one year the likelihood that they will drop out rises dramatically" (Many Children Pg. 37). According to the national Center for Education Statistics, graduation rates decreased from 57 to 52 percent in Florida when began using these standardized tests. Much of this due from students who test scores were not up to par being held back, dropping out, or being pushed out (Many Children Pg. 20).

Another major problem many people have with forcing schools to base the schools progress of one standardized testing is you limit schools success to one test score than the quality of school will drop. You spend less time on non-tested areas as well as recess and other fun times (Many Children Pg. xii). In Many Children Left Behind George Woods writes about Muscatine, Iowa and how the school got rid of field trips, like to the University of Iowa's Museum of Natural History, and they even took away all the kids recesses. All this extra time was spent exclusively on standardized testing (Many Children Pg. 43). This makes schools less entertaining and more challenging for many students. Muscatine is not the only school that has begun cutting back on resources and some schools are now being built with no playgrounds (Many Children Pg. 42).

Even teachers have begun speaking up about how the strict testing curriculum makes them tired and worn out. Teachers are forced to stick to a strict curriculum and are "drilling children as if they were in dog obedience school" as stated by George Wood (Many Children Pg. 39). Teachers are hurried to shove as much information in the students face as possible to cover everything that may be on the test. The problem with this is that none of this information is retained. The students are not actually learning anything (Many Children Pg. 40).

This leads to what could be the largest problem schools are having with the standardized tests. That is the demand that disabled and non-fluent English students meet requirement is setting teachers up to fail. Teachers must do their best work with limited resources to try to get these students to meet their test scores. This has caused a major chain reaction causing the best teachers to leave low income or low testing schools and going to already high testing schools. These teachers do not want to risk teaching these students and face losing their job. This means that already low testing schools have to hire new or inexperienced teachers. This means that the students who need the most help are working with the lowest quality teachers, and already high testing students have the best teachers (Many Children Pg. xi-xii).

Even schools that do appear to be right on track to meet the 2014 goal may not even be close. Many schools have decided that cheated is the only way we are going to reach the 100% proficiency goal. Time magazine states that "An analysis by researchers at the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, a Washington-based nonprofit, found that the quality of educational standards--which are detailed, grade-by-grade, subject-by-subject learning goals--declined in 30 states from 2000 to 2006 (How to Fix pg. 3)." This has been called "the race to the bottom". Another way many schools have cheated the system is known as "The Texas Miracle." A school in Houston, Texas won many awards for achieving what seemed the impossible. The truth behind it all was that 463 of its 1700 students were pushed out and not one of them was reported as a drop out. Instead these students had been listed under changing schools, getting a G.E.D. or having returned to their native countries. Most of these students had been minorities who had been taken advantage of and did not have the resources to fight it (Many Children pg. 36). Other schools have turned school into as George Woods describes it "Let's Make a Deal (Many Children pg. 44)." Schools have been giving out rewards to get their students to do well and be motivated on tests. Some schools were giving out prizes as large as TV's and DVD players (Many Children pg. 44).

So how do we fix all the problems the school system is facing under the No Child Left Behind Act? Many experts have given options or solutions to the way we should be going about fixing the school system. The first thing that many experts' want changed is the standardized testing. Schools have been focusing their entire curriculum around these tests, but there is no evidence that test scores have any indication of future success (Many Children Pg. 49). Instead of using standardized tests schools should go back to using performance assessments. These tests should not be used as a form of punishment but instead used as a tool to see where improvement is needed. Linda Darling Hammond suggests "Progress should be evaluated on multiple measures…such as attendance, school progress and continuation, course passage and classroom performance (Many Children Pg. 24)."

Another thing that many experts want changed is financial aid to schools. Instead of punishing low testing schools the federal government should be placing more money into schools that serve the poor. High income schools do not need to be receiving as much if not more financial assistance as a low income school. The government should stop pouring all of this money that could be helping these schools into standardized tests (Many Children Pg. 50). It is estimated that over $600 million is spent a year on state standardized testing (How To Fix pg. 4).

The most shocking aspect to all of this is how the criminal system ties in to this financial issue. With students leaving school earlier and earlier they do not have the skills to get a good job. Many of these drop-outs end up on what Linda Darling-Hammod calls the "school-to-prison pipeline (Many Children pg. 23)." The state is estimated to pay over $30,000 per inmate to keep these young teenagers in jail but they will not use the same money to help put that kid in a good school (Many Children pg.23).

Teachers are another lacking aspect of No Child Left Behind. Additional funding should be going to helping schools acquire higher qualified teachers. More than 30 states find it acceptable to hire untrained teachers. Most of these teachers are placed in these low income schools, while the highly trained teachers are hired by wealthier schools. The government needs to give teachers more of an incentive to go teach at these poorer testing schools instead of pushing them to schools they know they are safe at. Schools also need to be required to only hire teachers that are fully certified and be an expert in the area they teach. Another major problem with teachers is there is a lack of certified teachers to hire. This problem actually comes from trying to get teachers to stay in their job. According to Linda Darling-Hammod "More than 30% of beginners leave teaching within five years (Many Children Pg.29)." This is largely due to teachers leaving schools that have low benefits and working conditions. These same schools are where we need teachers the most. This goes back to the idea government needs to give these teachers some benefits to stay (Many Children Pgs. 28-30)

Many state and government officials have already begun pushing No Child Left Behind out of their public schools. More than 30,000 citizens have signed an online petition against No Child Left Behind (How To Fix para.11). Many now believe that No Child Left Behind is actually trying to privatize all schooling, the exact opposite of what the law claims it aims for. Linda Darling-Hammod states that "Members' of the Congressional Black Caucus…have introduced bills to amend the law by placing a mematorium on high-stakes standardized tests…withholding school sanctions until the bill is fully funded (Many Children Pg. 4)."

Since Obama has been elected the Obama administration is also now making small steps toward changing the No Child Left Behind Act. These plans are to lessen the consequences for under par schools and help the schools fix their problems (U.S. Schools para. 20). The way the Obama administration is planning to fix our schools problems are by reauthorizing the Elementary & Secondary Elementary Act. This law also focuses on desegregation, equity, and standard based reforms like No Child Left Behind but the law takes a much different approach. States standards would shift to college and career ready standards instead of the lowering testing standards. The schools growth would be based on student and school progress, and high achieving low income schools would see more financial assistance. This blueprint also pushes for a better-rounded curriculum. This includes reintroducing recess, field trips, and classes like art. The major change is that schools would no longer take the blame as every level of the system would be responsible for support. Teachers are a huge focus in this new plan as it plans to get more teachers where they are needed most. They want to help teachers become more prepared and as well (Elementary & Secondary Education).

So my conclusion to everything is that this law has done nothing but hurt our school systems. It has forced low income schools to spend more money, lack of teachers, poor quality curriculums, and high push-out and drop-out rates. What we have to decide now is what we are going to do to fix our newly damaged school systems. What path should the Obama administration take to get rid of No Child Left Behind and should they put the Elementary and Secondary Elementary Act into effect. As future teachers we need to make our voices herd over what we want to see or our occupation in the future may look way different.

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