Thursday, January 17, 2008

Is NCLB Dead ? Should it be?

Is NCLB dead? Should it be?
Duane Campbell , Sacramento
Both major teachers’ unions, the National Educational Association and the American Federation of Teachers have made changing or amending the No Child Left Behind act of 2001 as a top priority in this election year. (
Each of the major Democratic Party candidates call for substantive change – and this debate will be an important part of the Fall election. And the NEA has a major law suite against the Bush Administration for imposing the mandates of NCLB without providing the necessary funding.
After over a decade of corporate and conservative assaults on public schools, focused primarily in the Bush Administration’s No Child Left Behind act of 2001, according to the data of the National Assessment of Educational Progress there has been no improvement in students reading scores and only a small improvement in math scores. In California, with its large English Language Learner population, there has been no measured improvement in scores by ELL students. At the same time The U.S. has one of the highest rates of high school drop outs in the industrialized world as well as one of the highest rates of incarceration for young people, particularly African American and Latino males.
That is to say, we do not have a general education crisis in the nation, we have a crisis for Black, Latino, Asian and working class white kids. We have an unjust and unequal society. While the rich get richer the working people barely hold on to their jobs and housing. Rich kids get good schools, poor kids get poorly funded schools including teachers with limited preparation in subjects such as math and science.
Rather than facing the inequality issue , major corporate sponsored school reform efforts and politicians stress standardized testing as the driving force behind schooling at the k-12 level, particularly in low income districts. The testing measures small bits of memorized information. It can not measure critical thinking skills nor commitment to a building a just and democratic community.
Teachers unions ague that the testing has not improved schools, improved school funding, nor improved teaching. The low level testing tells us what we already know, students in low income schools do poorly. The schools do not usually make up for the inequality in our society.

Richard Rothstein of the Economic Policy Institute describes the problems of the NCLB act and its current status here:

“The next president has a unique opportunity to start from scratch in education policy, without the deadweight of a failed, inherited No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law. The new president and Congress can recapture the "small d" democratic mantle by restoring local control of education, while initiating policies for which the federal government is uniquely suited -- providing better achievement data and equalizing the states' fiscal capacity to provide for all children.
This opportunity exists because NCLB is dead. It will not be reauthorized -- not this year, not ever. The coalition that promoted the 2001 bipartisan law has hopelessly splintered, although NCLB's advocates in the administration and the Congress continue to imagine (at least publicly) that tinkering can put it back together.
NCLB, requiring annual reading and math tests in grades 3 through 8 (and one such test in high school), represents an unprecedented federal takeover of education. It punishes schools not making "adequate yearly progress" toward having all students proficient at "challenging" standards by 2014, regardless of students' socioeconomic disadvantages or even of their cognitive disabilities.”
For the full article go to:

Duane Campbell is the author of Choosing Democracy: a practical guide to multicultural education. ( Prentice Hall, 2004) A new edition is presently being written.
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