26 October 2011
How We Are Teaching Children to Think Inside the Box
When children come home from school, parents usually sit down with them, go through their homework folders and ask their child, “so, what did you learn at school today?” Twenty years ago, the child may have commented on what they learned in art, music, social studies or geography. Now, a child will comment only on what they learned in their reading circle or in their math book. The fault for this lies within the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act. Standardized testing has turned teachers into test proctors and schools into testing facilities. Students are no longer receiving a broad education that covers many subjects; instead, their learning is streamlined to fit the content that is on the standardized tests. The NCLB Act is not working as it was intended, and as a result the American children are falling even further behind other developed nations. In fact, American students are ranked 19th out of 21 countries in math, 16th in science and last in physics (DeWeese 2). The No Child Left Behind Act needs to be tossed out before we do irreversible damage to the education system. It is not too late – we can turn everything around by getting rid of costly standardized tests, ensure students receive a broad education that includes classes in arts and music, which will better prepare them for higher education, and give control back to the individual states.
In 2002, the No Child Left Behind Act was enacted by Congress, which was intended to close the learning gap between Caucasian students and minority students. The NCLB promised to promote accountability amongst teachers and school administrators, as well as assuring that all children would be proficient – according to standards set by the individual states – in reading and math by the end of the 2013-2014 school year (Ravitch 2). In addition, NCLB stated that by the end of the 2005-2006 school-year every classroom in America would have a highly qualified teacher (Paige 2). The most reliable way that the drafters of No Child Left Behind proposed collecting the data that they needed in order to keep track of accountability and proficiency was by mandating that each state issue their students in grades 3 through 12 a standardized test annually that covers the subjects of reading, writing and math (Beveridge 1). The test that is issued is given to all students, whether they are Caucasian, African American, Hispanic, disabled, etc. and schools are graded based on the proficiency of their students. Each state sets a yearly goal that increases each year based on the mandates of the NCLB Act, in which all students will be 100 percent proficient in those three subjects by the year 2014 (Ravitch 2). On paper, the NCLB Act looked like a blessing to schools that are located in areas of low-income, minority areas and advocates for children with learning disabilities because these tests were meant to highlight the schools that are doing poorly and ensure they receive funding and training in order to turn the scores around (Darling-Hammond 1).
In a letter that is addressed to parents on their website, the U.S. Department of Education explains that the NCLB Act provides “more resources to schools” through funding and “allows more flexibility” when allocating the funds (3). According to Linda Darling-Hammond, a Professor of Education at Stanford University, “the funding allocated by NCLB – less than 10 percent of most schools’ budgets – does not meet the needs of the under-resourced schools, where many students currently struggle to learn” (2). Another way schools get their funding is through the taxes that we pay. It makes sense that schools located in an area that has higher income would receive more funds than schools located in a low-income area. What happens is that with the limited funding, schools in low-income areas need to prioritize funding to raise the standardized...