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If no NCLB, then what?

So What!I have decided to elevate my response to Benjamin Meyers’ recent comment to a blog post.  He mostly agreed with my sentiments over the demise of No Child Left Behind, with his personal experience of test-prepping high school students for the ACT.  It was his first teaching job and it was what he was hired to do.

I certainly found incredible resistance and boredom from the students. It seemed like the harder I tried to teach the test to my students, the more they hated the subject of science. Indeed, high stakes’ testing has a nasty way of creating negative feelings toward school in students.

Indeed, it seems that the more we seem to care about our children knowing the answers, the less they seem to care about the questions.

But then, Meyers put forth a relevant challenge,

NCLB was created for a reason. Our schools seem to be lagging behind in performance compared to the rest of the world. This in spite of the amount of money that we spend on education and the number of hours that our students spend in the school building. If we are not going to improve education through legislation such as NCLB, then what is the best policy adjustment that our country can make that will actually make a difference?

But were our schools lagging behind?  The scientific research that we never saw was the proof that a generation who could pass tests could, as a result, prosper in a world and time of rapid change.

Were the the countries that were out performing us on tests, also out performing us in the real world?

Of the 32 countries who topped us in the Science PISA test, in 2012, only 7 ranked above the U.S. in the “World Happiness Report,” compiled regularly by an international team of economists, neuroscientists and statisticians.  They were Finland, Canada, Netherlands, Australia, New Zealand, Switzerland and Denmark.1

I’m not saying that our schools were good enough in 1999.  They weren’t, and they left many, many children behind.  But to improve education in the U.S., we need to rethink what it is to be educated.  Being an educated person is no long based on what you know, as much as it is what you can resourcefully learn and what you can inventively do with what you can learn.  The job of the science teacher is to help students learn to think like scientists and to care about science – and even want to become scientists.  The same for other disciplines.

Once we understand what we need to be doing for our children, as a society, then we need to pay for the very best ways of accomplishing it.  Personally, I don’t think we’re paying enough to our teachers and for the infrastructure required to prepare our children for their future.  I also do not believe that our children need to spend as much time in classrooms as they do.  Learning is not as place-based as it use to be.

Four hours in school a day and redefine homework.

1 Brodwin, E. (2015, April 23). The happiest countries in the world, according to neuroscientists, statisticians and economists. Business Insider. Retrieved December 18, 2015, from http://www.businessinsider.com/new-world-happiness-report-2015-2015-4


  • Becky Sharpe

    As a recently retired college educator, I am convinced that NCLB does not work. Every year, my colleagues and I saw students coming in who were more and more ignorant. Every year, the struggle to teach was harder. My students came out of high school lacking the most basic knowledge and when I asked, all my students confirmed that the only way they could fail to graduate high school was through excessive absences. It did not matter whether or not they learned anything.

  • Amanda Alexander

    I was in high school when NCLB took effect, and all of my teacher education and training took place in the midst of the upswing of high-stakes testing. In my first few years of teaching I felt like I was caught between a rock and a hard place. My colleagues always talked about how NCLB had ruined their effectiveness as teachers and how they felt like all they had time to do was teach test-taking skills and administer assessments. On the other hand, the administration let us all know that teachers who didn’t hop on board were doing a disservice to students and that “teaching to the test” was not a bad thing, because that meant that we were teaching the standards. Now, there is a much bigger push to create genuine learning experiences and to teach students how to learn and apply knowledge. I love the direction that education is taking, but I see a problem. There are still so many tests. Administration wants to see changes in student learning, but still expects teachers to continue to use the “drill and kill” tactics of covering curriculum so that the tests continue to provide favorable data. I’m curious if you have any ideas as to how teachers can start the transition to meaningful learning from test-centric learning.

  • Dana Banks

    NCLB is imperative to student success but it cannot be effective if it is not utilized to the best of the schools ability. Very often policies and procedures are put into place to benefit students as a whole, however, it is up to the administration, staff and the school district to make funding and resources available for the students and families that are in need of the help. Unfortunately, the funding and the much needed resources are not make available or communicated to the students who need it most. The majority of the times, parents are not aware of the NCLB program and all the wonderful areas in which it funds and support.

  • Raymond Schwarz

    As someone who entered into teaching only four years ago I have seen first hand an extreme focus on test scores and student performance, while I have also seen a push for classroom practices that get students learning in new and innovative ways preparing them for the future/college. At this point it almost seems contradictory in what we are being told to accomplish in the classroom. For example at my school site we spend most of our professional development and in service days focusing on the “hard data” of the various assessments the students take, comparing how they do in different content areas/standards. Our administration focuses so heavily on how to improve these test scores, because even though we now see a shift in the focus of high stakes testing all of our funding/classification is determined by our placement on these tests.

    What is contradictory is what we are actually being told to do in the classroom. There is a huge focus on getting students to learn and make connections to content far beyond just the tests, which is a point made in the above post. Our personal evaluations, coaches, and school wide programs (AVID) center around having us help students make connections between the real world/content, getting them to work collaboratively, and build necessary skills for the future. I am all for this focus and would rather be evaluated as an educator on what I can help my students accomplish, not just their response to a test. Unfortuneatly funding is still tied to testing so it seems to me like we are still caught between high stakes testing and other education focuses.

  • Jeffrey Rivenburg

    I definitely think that a plan should be in place to help students, educators, and schools provide the very best education for our population, but we need educators input on it. We also need quality research on what we and how we should be teaching our kids so that they can apply it in the world that they live not on a paper or a computer test.
    Both NCLB and now Common Core have their flaws, especially with the implementation plans. I feel if we have educators and researchers involved, rather than businesses, we would have a better plan, implementation, and results.

  • Vilma Anaiz Medina

    As an educator I do believe strongly agree that there is more need in support for teacher in the classroom to guide our students properly. Ive been teaching for the past 5 years now, youcan say im fairly new to the education world. Since the day I started I have seen how assessment and student performance has become more rigorous. In addition to this we are preparing “college ready ” student as early as elementary students. We are constantly in striving to be successful int he end of course assessment, which for us is the STAR test. There is big difference in education now than there was lets say 8 yrs ago, but its is all beneficial to the students because they are prepared to apply their knowledge to the real world.

Photo taken by Ewan McIntosh in a Taxi in Shanghai

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Cultivating Your Personal Learning Network
2nd Edition (2012)

Redefining Literacy 2.0 (2008)
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