Guest article written by Sara Stringer
The ‘No Child Left Behind’ law has officially been voted out by the House Republicans. The law, which targets the evaluation of students and schools in U.S., has been met with criticism with lawmakers saying that state and local school districts should set policy, not Washington. The legislation required federal testing of students. Passed with no Democratic support, the measure has been met with a lot of controversy by the teaching community as well as by politicians.
It was interesting to note that there was a veto threat from the Obama administration on the account that such legislation would be a step backward. The idea behind the approach was better preparation of students for colleges and improvements in the case of low performing schools.
Currently, the Democrats are working on their own bill since they have the majority in the Senate. The idea inherently is now to give state more flexibility with respect to school improvement standards. At the same time, the authority of the federal education secretary to approve the plans would be maintained. The House bill was titled as the Student Success Act by the Republicans, though Democrats dubbed it the Letting Students Down Act. The vote passed 221-201 with an absolute Democrat negation and 12 Republicans voting against.
However, the partisanship has emerged in light of the view point that the No Child Left Behind law is inflexible in the long run. Everyone agrees that there’s a need for a major overhaul.
The teaching community also believes in flexibility. According to Carousel Day School, a school chartered by New York State Department of Education since 1956, the classroom environment is complex and the use of different models for individual attention is needed. There’s no need to place extra burden by introducing federal testing that can misguide the priorities of educational institutes.
The law was also criticized by the educational community on the grounds that teachers were now focusing more on ‘teaching the test’ rather than developing insight into child education. The standard mode of testing was also being given undue weight in measuring the student performance. Such generalization can hamper the educational development process at large.
The law was passed by Congress back in 2001 and President G.W. Bush was a strong supporter. The law had made it mandatory that all students should be able to read and do math at their actual grade level by 2014.
The Obama administration realized that such a goal is unattainable and set forth remedial measures. For instance, waivers were offered to states that had their federally approved plans. The focus of the plans was to prepare the student for college and also to gauge the student/teacher performance. As of now, 39 states have presented alternates and been granted waivers.
President Obama has openly said that he was forced to act on the account that Congress had failed to update the law.
The revamping of the law has been met with positive response from the House Education and the Workforce Committee. This step is considered monumental with regards to the freedom it would grant to states. It would also promote innovation and let the teaching community think bigger when it comes to raising the bar for progress of schools.
NCLB Waivers: A State-by-State Breakdown (map courtesy of EdWeek)