Writing in Education Week, Diane Ravitch has a blunt message about No Child Left Behind: it is time to kill it.
Completely agree! (I’d say it’s WAY past time to kill it but that’s quibbling.)
Anyway, her reasoning can be summed up in three words: it doesn’t work.
Results from this multibillion-dollar undertaking have been disappointing. Gains in achievement have been meager, as we have seen not only on NAEP’s long-term-trend report, but also on the NAEP tests that are administered every other year. In national assessments since the No Child Left Behind legislation was passed, 4th grade reading scores went up by 3 points, about the same as in the years preceding the law’s enactment. In 8th grade reading, there have been no gains since 1998. In mathematics, the gains were larger before NCLB in both 4th grade and 8th grade.
The law’s remedies for failing students–school choice and tutoring–have also been a bust. Fewer than 5 percent of eligible students choose to leave their schools, and sometimes those who leave are the ones who are doing well, not the ones who are failing. In many districts, there is often only one school, so choice is meaningless. In some urban districts, there is no better school that is accessible. Many students don’t want to leave their schools, even when a better one is nearby.
Then there’s the fact that the concept was based on unrealistic expectations (not to mention impossibly faulty research) in the first place and was doomed to fail.
The worst part of the law is its unrealistic demand that all students must be proficient by 2014. No other nation and no state has ever reached this unrealistic goal. Every educator knows that it is impossible. While the goal remains in place, the number of failing schools grows each year.
Educators may understand that but, unfortunately, educators were not running the Education Department when NCLB was proposed. I’m not so sure who’s in charge now.
Finally, Ravitch closes with this simple conclusion that the president, his education secretary, and every member of Congress needs to understand.
No amount of tinkering can repair this poorly designed law. The time has come for fresh thinking about the best way for Washington to help improve the nation’s schools.
Read the whole thing! Send it to your Congress critter.