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Pros and Cons of NCLB, Essay Example

Pages: 6

Words: 1621

Essay

Validity or Lack of Validity in the “No Child Left Behind” Program

Over the past decade, officials on both sides of the aisle have come to believe that evaluations should answer a non-ubiquitous question – what is valid or what is not? Bipartisan faith in abilities to answer this question is best demonstrated by the “education policies of President George W. Bush and Barrack Obama” (Bauer, & Brazer, 2011, p. 5). As different as these two leaders may be, both initiated major policy – No Child Left Behind (NCLB)– in which they used evaluation to help administrations find what is valid or what is not. The Bush administration was so confident that evaluation would produce convincing evidence of effective program that the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences created the What Works Clearinghouse to list and publish evaluation results (p. 5). As a profession, this is the exactly the sort of role long been argued for evaluation should play, and the fact that it has been endorsed by Republicans and Democrats would seem to signal that the profession may have arrived.

Yet one wonders who can best answer this question: What is valid or what is not? The question does not simply ask for a description of the past (what worked?)and future performance (what will work?). Rather it necessitates that the pros and cons be addressed concurrently. This is what one typically mean when asserts that something is valid or not. If one turns the ignition key in an automobile and it starts, one may accurately state that the car works. By this one understand it works today, it will almost certainly work tomorrow and the day after that, and it will work under a wide variety of conditions.

Pros and Cons of the NCLB

It is clear when examining national and international studies that the performance of U.S. students has declined over the last 40 years. It is also clear when examining fiscal models of money spent on education, the U.S. system is the best funded in the world (Fletcher, 2007). According to Common Core Data (CCD) from the National Center for Education Statistics, approximately $500 billion was spent by SEAs on K-12 education in 2006 (Walford, et al, 2009, p. 602). An additional $50 billion was provided by the USDOE to support NCLB and other educational programs (p. 602). The CCD also provides information that there are approximately 55 million students in the US system in 2006 (Walford, et al, 2009, p. 602). Thus, on average the U.S. annually spent approximately $11,000 per student. It is a well funded educational system.

Every child is in need of an appropriate curriculum, wrote Percival M. Symonds, an educational psychologist and true believer in human differences, in 1934 (cited in Reese, 2011, p. 160). Otherwise how could society know who should become a teacher and who should be a truck driver? Symonds believed that critics of the testing movement stood in the way of progress. The basic facts of each individual’s “mental life’ had to be determined and recorded (Rees, 2011, p. 160). By knowing everyone’s intellectual and emotional strengths and weaknesses, experts could ensure efficiency and harmony in school and society. Bethel and Louis (2008, p. 44) stressed that the strengths of any systematic approach are to be found in its emphasis on “measurement, efficiency, and universality”. Without a significant attention to system, any curriculum loses its coherence. A curriculum is something that learners complete as they move through an academic institution (p. 44). Without system, learners – and indeed the general public as a whole – will never know when they have completed the necessary requirements to receive a degree from a given institution (p. 45). Measuring to determine whether learners are completing an institution’s requirements is an obvious step to determining whether students have grasped what they should be learning (p. 46).

Attention to system within curriculum also provides a public face for the institutions that offer education. Ideas like “kindergarten”, “first-grade reading”, “sixth-grade social studies”, or “freshman English” are understood universally by the public because of the underlying system that provides the foundation for these curricula (Reese, 2011, p. 165). For example, just about all Americans complete first grade; as a result, people understood the idea of “first grade”. Reese (2011, p. 166) recognized that “first grade” means a curriculum that revolves around learning to read, learning how to count and do arithmetic, and learning to write letters and words. The same holds true for curriculum constructs like sixth-grade social studies or freshman English (p. 177). If curriculum loses its systematic dimension, it also loses its universality.

An issue about the narrowed curriculum is that it “undermines education for the most vulnerable students” (Darling-Hammond,&Pecheone,2010, p. 9) – often poor children of color and ethnic minorities – who attend schools with the fewest resources. As those schools generally have lower test scores, pressure mounts to reduce offerings in untested subjects including social studies, science, and the arts and even to take recess away from children and “the higher the stakes, the more teaching to the test” (Neil, 2003, p. 225). But when schools only emphasize test preparation with drills and memorization, “students’ intellectual growth and ownership over the learning process is stunted” (Sleeter, 2008, p. 148).

Consequently, the achievement gap that proponents of the NCLB sought to close still exists and an authentic achievement gap – not only measured by test scores – actually may be widening as “student drop-out rates are escalating” (Sleeter, 2008, p. 148). These current school environments may drive out students because of their lack of interest in the test-focused curriculum (Gomez,& Herman, 2009, p. 65) and schools’ crassly calculated strategies to “exclude low-achieving students in order to boost scores” (Darling-Hammond, 2010, p. 9). Although high-stakes testing affects the curriculum and experiences of students in more advantaged schools, those children “have a bigger chance of surviving the system” (Portelli, & Vilbert, 2003, p. 11) as their opportunities for educational enrichment may be more available through their families and communities.

The standardized management modelalso has serious consequences for teachers: narrowing of professional roles, demoralizing working conditions, and teachers’ lack of authority for curriculum development (Wong, 2006, p. 29). To begin, administrators have felt pressure to assess performance exclusively on test scores and to devalue teachers’ nurturing of children and planning of innovative set of courses; thus the “standardized examination system becomes a powerful evaluative device in confining teachers’ proficient autonomy in teaching” (Wong, 2006, p. 29). Within such milieus, teachers mourn the loss of their own and their students’ creativity as the narrowed curriculum takes “the soul out of teachers and the joy out of teaching” (Kozol, 1997, p.2). Ultimately, such an environment devalues teachers’ academic expertise and dismisses the moral dimensions of teaching that encompass caring, nurturing, and attention to children’s developmental or emotional needs.

Another problem is that systematic thinkers sometimes appear to be philosophically confused. For example, proponents of the free-market system are found to advocates of No Child Left Behind (Hunt, & Lasley, 2010, p. xxvii). One view seeks to eliminate (or at least radically reduce) the role of bureaucracy in the administration of schools, whereas the other uses federal government intervention to an extent never seen before in American history (p. xxx). How is it possible for people to be both supports of No Child Left Behind and advocates of a free-market system?

One final weakness is that systematic curriculum thinkers tend to forget that a curriculum is a human institution created by people for people (Portelli, & Vilbert, 2003, p. 14). There is no way to eliminate the human element from curriculum. Viewing curriculum (or education) as a problem to be fixed ignores the complexities involved in teaching and curriculum making. Curriculum is not a Food truck that curriculum specialists, or anyone else, can “fix” by changing a flat or replacing a broken hose. Curriculum is about human beings as much as it is about system. Working with human beings is not the same as working with Ford trucks, and a systematic perspective too often forgets this distinction.

References

Bauer, Scott C., & Brazer, S. David. (2011). Using Research To Lead School Improvement. SAGE.

Bethel, Bambi, Univeristy of Missouri – & Louis, Saint. (2008). The 2002 No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), the Amended 2004 Individuals with Disabilities Educational Act (IDEA), and Promoting The American Democratic Ideals of Equity and Access: A critical Enquiry Based on the Work of Michel Foucault and Jean-Francois Lyotard. ProQuest.

Darling-Hammond, L., & Pecheone, R. (2010). Developing an Internationally Comparable Balanced Assessment System That Supports High-Quality Learning. Retrieved from http://www.k12center.org/publications.html

Fletcher, G. (2007). “Curriculum-based Reform: An Eye on the Future”. T.H.E. Journal, 34(7):26-7.

Gomez, L. M., &Herman, P. (2009). Taking Guided Learning Theory to School: Reconciling the Cognitive, Motivational, and Social Contexts of Instruction. In Tobias S. & Duffy T. Constructivist Theory Applied to Instruction: Success Or Failure. New York: Routledge.

Hunt, Thomas G., & Lasley, Thomas J. II (2011). Encyclopedia of Educational Reform and Dissent, Vol. 1. SAGE.

Kozol, J. (1997, October 17). Race and class in public education. Address presented at the State University of New York at Albany Transcript. Retrieved from http://www.alternativeradio.org/programs/KOZJ002.shtml.

Neil, M. (2003). Leaving Children Behind: How No child Left Behind will fail our children. Phi Delta Kaplan, 85(3), 225-228.

Portelli, J., & Vilbert, A. (2003). Standards, Equity, And the Curriculum of Life. Analytic Teaching, 22(1), 4-19.

Reese, William J. (2011). America’s Public Schools: From the Common School to “No Child Left Behind”. JHU Press.

Sleeter, C. E. (2008). Teaching for democracy in an age of corporatocracy. Teachers College Record, 110(1), 139-159.

Walford, Geoffrey., & Tucker, Eric., & Viswanathan, Madhu. (2009). The SAGE Handbook of Measurement. SAGE Publications Ltd.

Wong, J. L. N. (2006). Control and Professional Development: Are Teachers being Deskilled or Reskilled within the context of Decentralization? Educational Studies, 32(1), 17-37.

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