Failing Grades


Why “No Child Left Behind” and the current state of the American schools are failing. Photo courtesy of Google Images

Spencer Mullen, Entertainment Editor

As American schools are continuously deteriorating, many prominent educators and politicians have gone out to protest the No Child Left Behind legislative bill enacted by Congress in 2001 as a failed initiative to regurgitate the failing American public school system.  Confidence in America’s public school system has hit a record low. Students in Latvia, Chile, and Brazil are making gains in academics three times faster than American students are, while those in Portugal, Hong Kong, Poland, Liechtenstein, Slovenia, Colombia, and Lithuanian are improving at twice the rate. American students currently rank 25th in math, 17th in Science, and 14th in Reading. The No Child Left Behind Act, ushered in with bipartisan effort from President George Bush and Senator Edward M. Kennedy, perfectly delineates the problem.

For decades now America’s school system has been on a steady decline. In 2001, soon after George W. Bush controversially was elected and inaugurated as President, he proposed a bill that would reform the failing American public school system. This bill, the No Child Left Behind Bill, would require all government funded schools to administer a state-wide standardized test annually to all students. Schools that receive funding through the Elementary and Secondary Act of 1965, a federal stature passed by Lyndon B. Johnson as part of the “War on Poverty”, must take Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP), a measurement that allows the U.S Department of Education to determine how every public school and school district in the country is performing academically according to the results of standardized tests.

Schools that miss the AYP for a second consecutive year are publically labeled as “in need of improvement” and are required to develop a two year improvement plan. If the school misses the AYP in the third consecutive term the government forces the school to offer free tutoring and other educational services to struggling students. For the fourth year, the school is labeled as “Corrective Action”, and measures such as the wholesale replacement of the staff, introduction of a new curriculum, or extending the amount of time that students spend in class is taken. A fifth year in failure results in planning the restructure of the entire school, which is only taken if the school fails for the sixth year. If the school fails for the sixth consecutive year, it results in either closing down the school, turning the school into a charter school, hiring a private company to run the school, or asking the state office of education to run the school directly.

When No Child Left Behind was established in 2001, many teachers have come forward to express their disapproval towards the bill since then. Dismal scores in math and science have not gone up but only have gotten worse. Though No Child Left Behind was supposed to offer quality public education to all students, Educators argue that it “led to an increasingly punitive high stakes competition for standardized test scores, school grades and labels.” Most people blame the Democrats and Republicans in congress, and ironically enough, it’s their agreements that are ruining the public school system not their divisions. Recently, Barack Obama has put up billions for his Race to the Top Program, a federal sweepstakes in which state educational systems are judged head-to-head largely on the basis of test scores. It’s easy to see that this isn’t going to work.

Finally, No Child Left Behind’s biggest fallacy is the thought that it can improve the American public school system by ushering competitive testing. This is wrong on many levels. The majority of students absolutely don’t care about the tests at all, and the notion that school funding is determined by how well students do on the tests is a completely erroneous mistake. The real reason that the politicians in our national government fail to revive the public school system is that they focus on raw numbers, and not the actual welfare of the students themselves. A new era of education reform must be ushered in in which students go to school to learn valuable skills and prosper in their respective careers as adults, instead of focusing on useless testing. As Academy Award Winning actor Matt Damon once said: “We’re training the kids, but we need to teach them.”