No Child Left Behind doesn?t prepare for college

By By Zach Edmunds

By Zach Edmunds

The No Child Left Behind Act was a major platform that President Bush proposed when running for president in 2000. The White House Web site justifies the Act: “The quality of our public schools directly affects us all as parents, as students, and as citizens. Yet too many children in America are segregated by low expectations, illiteracy, and self-doubt. In a constantly changing world that demands increasingly complex skills from its workforce, children are literally being left behind.”

The act became law in January 2002 with President Bush’s signature. According to the Utah State Office of Education Web site, the act substantially revised the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 in a manner designed to provide all of America’s school children with the opportunity and means to achieve academic success.

Before, the obligation was on states to control and evaluate their educational systems. With the passing of NCLB, more power was given to the federal government. State schools are now required to meet federal standards or face losing funding. The problem is the act was under-funded and often doesn’t take individual conditions into account.

This year, ESEA’s Adequate Yearly Progress report, which is based on student math and science tests separated by ethnicity, disability, English proficiency and economic disadvantage, scored Utah overall as surpassing 80 percent of public schools. These schools test with 40 different categories and must increase their goals in these categories by a determined percentage to achieve 100 percent efficiency by 2014.

Barry Newbold, superintendent of the largest school district in the state, Jordan School District, stated in the Federal Adequate Yearly Progress Report 2008 Summary on Sept. 30, “A school that met the standards in 39 subcategories and a school that met the standards in only 10 subcategories would both be designated as being “in need of improvement’ due to their failure to meet federal requirements for Adequate Yearly Progress.”

The ramifications these tests have on schools are important. Schools that have failed their AYPs two years and continue failing, even if in just one area, will lose their funding. They will be required to give funds to students who wish to seek an education elsewhere, private or public. This is troubling for all schools, especially high schools adequately preparing students for their next phase of education.

Clyde Mason, director of accountability and program services for the Jordan School District, said that AYP testing is a good tool in helping schools evaluate their performance, but it should be coupled with state testing to be more accurate. Mason also said that as in the case of Jordan School District, in which 60 percent passed, or 34 of 52 schools, as many of the schools only failed in a few areas.

Mason also expressed concern that the AYP does not test on fine arts or social sciences.

What NCLB stands for, higher standards for public schools, is something everybody can appreciate. However, the AYP testing seems to penalize schools with a more diverse student body, and play more to rural schools with a smaller, more homogenous body than urban schools. It is clearly hard on student bodies that are significantly disadvantaged, whether due to money or health reasons.

Rather than labeling these schools and punishing them, we should funnel more resources to these schools and give them a better chance to succeed. For all schools to meet 100 percent of their determined goal by 2014 or potentially lose funding seems more like a dangerous fantasy.

Taking funding away from flagging schools is not going to help the problem. Subjecting our students to these kinds of tests has the potential to let some groups of students slip through the cracks.

If we want high school students to be adequately prepared for college, we need to give them the kind of K-12 education that will truly prepare them, not some sort of Darwinist death-by-tests approach to education, where the strong survive and the weak perish.

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Zach Edmunds