NCLB -- Punitive, Mean-spirited, and Ultimately Untenable

By Brad Gough

Posted 7/4/2006 readers know that Joe Batory and I have been trying to alert the public to the inadequacies of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB).  Joe has repeatedly pointed out the failures of our elected officials to meet their responsibilities on his web site    In addition, I have tried to provide some statistical data on various states in the comments section of our blog site   Now the dissatisfactions are increasingly harder to track because they are so numerous.  Connecticut has filed a law suit against the Federal government for failure to adequately fund the program.  A Sunday, July 2, 2006 article in the Miami Herald announced that Florida simply cannot meet the goals, and even Jeb Bush has stated that he believes his state's measures are better indicators of "accountability" than those mandated in NCLB.  Then there is this study from Harvard published June 14 that begins with the following:


Testing the NCLB: Study shows that NCLB hasn't significantly impacted national achievement scores or narrowed the racial gaps

June 14, 2006:

Cambridge, MA—June 14, 2006— The Civil Rights Project at Harvard University (CRP) released today a new study that reports the federal No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) hasn't improved reading and mathematical achievement or reduced achievement gaps. The study also revealed that the NCLB won't meet its goals of 100 percent student proficiency by 2014 if the trends of the first several years continue.

The report, Tracking Achievement Gaps and Assessing the Impact of NCLB on the Gaps: An In-depth Look into National and State Reading and Math Outcome, compares the findings from the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) to state assessment results and concludes that that high stakes testing and sanctions required by NCLB are not working as planned under the NCLB. The findings contradict claims of the Bush Administration and some previous studies that showed positive results under NCLB.


Then comes this legal mess:

Under Assessment Plan, States Could Lose Funds to Districts

San Francisco, June 29 -- As many as 30 states stand to lose a large chunk of their Title I administrative funds and have them diverted directly to local school districts, under a bold Education Department (ED) plan to ensure that testing systems meet federal requirements.

Coming on the heels of a similar fund-withholding threat related to teacher quality standards, the announcement continues a significant toughening in the department's stance toward states as it enforces No Child Left Behind (NCLB). With the law in its fifth year, most state officials and education experts said they expected a change from technical assistance and flexibility to enforcement, but some questioned the severity, and even the legality, of the testing remedy.


Sounds like a lawyer's field day to me.  The point is simple.  NCLB is up for review/renewal in 2007.  That's another year of broken promises, money wasted on legal wrangling that could be spent on improving opportunities for kids,  and a hard-headed federal government that continues to believe you can fatten cattle by weighing them and that you can attract more flies with vinegar than honey.  Consider this:

 NCLB Enforcement

Department of Ed getting ready to crack down on states about their testing systems, even with calls to chiefs this week looks like fewer than 10 are going to make the full cut...ED's strategy seems to be to penalize states but then send the money to local districts to ease the political sting. But, send in the lawyers! Some say this raises a separation of powers issue. Funny though, when ED went extralegal on growth models the states were not ready to rush to court, were they? More on the enforcement issues in the Title I Monitor.


Joe and I are not alarmists.  Unfortunately, we are realists. 

We have seen this same sorry spectacle play out in in other arenas. 

Special Education remains under funded and is in dyer need of judicial overhaul. 

We watched with glumness the knee- jerk reaction in 1982 to the Carnegie Report so-called Nation At Risk.  Those same kids who would go on to build the Internet, the Space station, send amazing robotic probes to Mars, map the human genome years before anyone thought possible, win the Persian Gulf War with minimum casualties to both sides, bring to life The Lion King on Broadway, be in the vanguard of the re-industrialization of America (yes that too is happening.), and be a beacon of hope to disparate cultures around the world -- those kids were the products of a supposedly failed school system.  Ahh if only other countries could fail so grandly.

We have seen it while seeking common ground as extremists on both sides tried to pull us apart during contract negotiations. 

We have watched state politicians use children's futures as political pawns at budget time. 

And now NCLB -- punitive, mean-spirited, and ultimately untenable. 

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