That title is a nicely packaged soundbite. Who wouldn't support legislation with a name like that? I know that this is old news, but it was discussed last night and I've been meaning to write about this for some time.
No Child Left Behind is government legislation designed to ensure that children in this country get the best education possible. So, how does NCLB attempt to do that?
Well, for starters, one of the cornerstones of the legislation is that it mandates Teacher Certification. The amount of money a school district gets is partially based on having all teachers certified.
From the NCLB site:
No Child Left Behind defines the qualifications needed by teachers and paraprofessionals who work on any facet of classroom instruction. It requires that states develop plans to achieve the goal that all teachers of core academic subjects be highly qualified by the end of the 2005-06 school year. States must include in their plans annual, measurable objectives that each local school district* and school must meet in moving toward the goal; they must report on their progress in the annual report cards.
(* Highly qualified = Certified)
This is flawed. Big time.
I led a project last year to redesign the hiring process at a large, east-coast, inner-city school district. As you can imagine, getting teachers to come to an inner city school district is no easy task, let alone certified teachers. The same is true for rural teachers. The two school systems that need help the most, urban and rural school districts, are being "left behind" by this legislation. Getting "highly qualified" science and math teachers is a serious problem and since most of these urban and rural school districts can't recruit enough of these teachers, they're penalized financially for it.
This is not the worst part....
Again, from the NCLB site:
No Child Left Behind puts a special emphasis on implementing educational programs and practices that have been clearly demonstrated to be effective through rigorous scientific research. Federal funding will be targeted to support such programs. For example, the Reading First program makes federal funds available to help reading teachers in the early grades strengthen old skills and gain new ones in instructional techniques that scientifically based research has shown to be effective.
Okay, if we are going to grow skills for 21st century jobs, should we be relying on clearly demonstrated programs and practices? I mean, in order to prove that they are effective, that means they're old and don't we need new educational programs to grow a new workforce? Next, how have they proven that that these programs are effective? What is the scope of the research? Does it end at the conclusion of a school year? Does it end when a student graduates? Does it end when they've gotten a "good" job? Wait, what is a good job?
Our education system needs fixed alright, but you don't fix it by treating children, teachers or school system as if they are all the same. You start by understanding children and figuring out how to get them to want to learn.... until you've figured that out, everything else is just noise.
How would you improve the school system in this country?