Tuesday, February 4, 2014

NCLB Crashed and Burned. When Will We Ever Learn?

Lisa Guisbond
Washington Post
It’s 2014, the year all U.S. public schools were  supposed to reach 100% student proficiency, so said No Child Left Behind (NCLB).

No, you didn’t miss the fanfare.  One hundred percent proficiency didn’t happen. Not even close.  In fact, our classrooms are making even less progress toward improving overall educational performance and narrowing racial test score gaps than before NCLB became law.

The problem is policy makers are still following NCLB’s test-and-punish path. The names of the tests may have changed, but the strategy remains the same. As the late, great Pete Seeger sang, “When will we ever learn?”

It’s not that the law’s proponents haven’t acknowledged – repeatedly — the law’s vast unpopularity and negative consequences, including the way it made schools all about testing. Back in 2007, Congressman George Miller, an NCLB co-author, said, “No Child Left Behind may be the most negative brand in America.” The retiring congressman said recently that the results from the federally mandated tests were intended to measure school progress and drive improvements. Instead, he said, “the mission became about the test.”

He added, “I don’t believe you can drive a car blindfolded. So all we asked was, ‘How are the kids doing in your test?’ And it turned out to be a nuclear explosion, because it wasn’t in the interest of the school district to tell the community how each and every kid was doing on their test.”

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