No Child Left Behind a lose-lose proposition

We have been graced with the presence of the No Child Left Behind Act. This piece of legislation, backed by the educational know-how of President Bush, does very little for the schools of America, especially the ones that need the most help. In general, the No Child Left Behind Act requires schools to have a near-perfect rate of students at or above grade level in core subjects. Failure to do so will lead to various stages of probation, ultimately leading to the severing of federal funding of the school.

Accountability is the key word in all of this. Schools are now given the accountability to have nearly all students from all backgrounds and learning abilities at or above grade level.

However, right off the bat, this proves to be an unfair situation. By giving schools ultimate accountability, such responsibility is shifted out of the hands of the individual students. The family is also being relieved of all educational duties and, most importantly, the federal government is not to blame for any failures.

What you then get is a situation where, if a child fails to meet required scores on standardized tests, the school is to blame. Ignore the fact that the student could have taken a lazy approach to his or her schoolwork. Forget the fact that unemployment could have parents and guardians constantly working away from the house, if there is a house at all. Finally, turn your head away from the government who, instead of giving schools adequate funding, enabling them to improve and succeed, is threatening to take away the little funding schools already receive.

Does it make any sense? Schools in higher-income areas are those most likely to succeed under these guidelines. Not surprisingly, they are schools with a wealth of computers, enthusiastic teachers and safe learning environments. Whatever money doesn’t come from the government will come from local corporations and the clout of the students’ parents. On the other hand, struggling schools in lower-income areas that desperately need increased funding will now have their air supply cut off.

If this trend continues, get used to the word ‘vouchers.’ School vouchers are a fixture in the policy of a certain side of the political spectrum. Schools that cannot meet the requirements set forth by the government and lose federal funding will close down. Parents will then blame the school, refusing to place any blame on their children, themselves or their government.

What is the answer, you say?

School vouchers, of course, allowing students from failing schools to go to prospering private schools with Big Poppa Government cutting the check — except the check that is written doesn’t cover nearly all the costs required and for a student from a poor background … well, good luck.

Very sneaky those politicians are. For this to be justified, they must have quite amazing ideas for schools. Well, they don’t. See, the performance of students is based on standardized tests. Yes, the same standardized tests that are scrutinized because of their unfair nature. Who am I to judge, though? What if a student from an ESL program or a special-education class makes vast improvements over the course of a year but still fails to meet the grade level? Well, sorry, you lose. The education gap is closing, but it is still vast, and improvement — not performance — should be taken into account.

What about the students who are passing with flying colors? Does a school get more credit for having more students with straight A’s? No, schools get no credit of the sort in this pass/fail scenario, resulting in students who are easily succeeding being ignored for students who are at the passing level. By focusing on these students, you will ensure having the most students passing, not the most students who did the best. So while the goal is to have no child left behind, the goal must also be for no child to get ahead.

Just when standardized tests were becoming obsolete, they have once again become the measuring stick.

Matt Campbell,The Technician,North Carolina State University