Published on
by
USA Today

NCLB: 'Too Destructive To Salvage'

by
Alfie Kohn

It's time to say in a national newspaper what millions of teachers, students and parents already know: No Child Left Behind (NCLB) is an appalling and unredeemable experiment that has done incalculable damage to our schools — particularly those serving poor, minority and limited-English-proficiency students.

It's a stretch even to call the law "well-intentioned" given that its creators, including the Bush administration and the right-wing Heritage Foundation, want to privatize public education. Hence NCLB's merciless testing, absurd timetables and reliance on threats.

Let's be clear: This law has nothing to do with improving learning. At best, it's about raising scores on multiple-choice exams. This law is not about discovering which schools need help; we already know. This law is not about narrowing the achievement gap; its main effect has been to sentence poor children to an endless regimen of test-preparation drills. Thus, even if the scores do rise, it's at the expense of a quality education. Affluent schools are better able to maintain good teaching — and retain good teachers — despite NCLB, so the gap widens.

Sure, it's senseless for Washington to impose requirements without adequate funding. But more money to implement a bad law isn't the answer.

Indeed, according to a recent 50-state survey by Teachers Network, a non-profit education organization, exactly 3% of teachers think NCLB helps them to teach more effectively. No wonder 129 education and civil rights organizations have endorsed a letter to Congress deploring the law's overemphasis on standardized testing and punitive sanctions. No wonder 30,000 people (so far) have signed a petition at educatorroundtable.org calling the law "too destructive to salvage."

NCLB didn't invent the scourge of high-stakes testing, nor is it responsible for the egregious disparity between the education received by America's haves and have-nots. But by intensifying the former, it exacerbates the latter.

This law cannot be fixed by sanding its rough edges. It must be replaced with a policy that honors local autonomy, employs better assessments, addresses the root causes of inequity and supports a rich curriculum. The question isn't how to save NCLB; it's how to save our schools — and kids — from NCLB.

Education writer Alfie Kohn's 11 books include The Schools Our Children Deserve and The Homework Myth.

© 2007 USA Today

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Simply Don't Exist.

Share This Article

More in: