Time magazine explains How to Fix No Child Left Behind by looking at five questions around which they say the debate over renewal of the law is focused.
AYP on reading and math tests: Is it the right tool for measuring learning and raising achievement in the nation’s schools?
No. As the article notes, NCLB is “too inflexible, too arbitrary and too punitive”. It has forced most schools to narrow their goals to raising the test scores of the lowest students while ignoring students who are capable of doing so much more than the minimum.
Are the 50 states, each of which devises its own annual tests and curriculum standards, setting the bar high enough for students, and if not, what should be done about it?
Of course not, but not for the reasons highlighted by the article.
The primary problem is that the vast majority of schools in the US are organized to provide an education appropriate to 1955 and NCLB does nothing to address that.
In fact the law reinforces the assembly line educational structure and traditional curriculum making it even harder for those few schools that want to change.
Is the focus on reading and math distorting and narrowing education?
Hell, yes. Just look at the growing numbers of students who no longer have instruction in art, music, physical education and even social studies because they are required to participate in even more test preparation activities.
Do the law’s requirements for teacher qualifications make sense, and are they raising the quality of the U.S. teaching force?
No and no. Teacher qualifications under NCLB focus completely on knowledge of subject matter. The law doesn’t care if they can actually teach.
Are the directives aimed at failing schools having the intended impact? What is the right role for the Federal Government in fixing bad schools?
That depends on whether you believe rising test scores on standardized tests reflects increased learning.
However, the bottom line in all this is that No Child Left Behind is based entirely on unsound and fallacious educational concepts, to put it mildly.
It can’t be fixed.