Buying into a Poor Curriculum

It is a common rationale that because children are the future, the welfare and education of our children should be and will be of the utmost importance. Yet, since the birth of our country, there has never been a

consensus on any aspect of our public education system. Our constitution makes no mention of education, except for the 10th amendment, which relegates power to the states to govern their own respective system.(Pulliam, Van Patten pg. 122) Unfortunately, federal policies continue to be enacted which, despite good intentions, often negatively affect public education at all levels. The latest legislation to do so is the “No Child Left Behind” Act, which enacts theories of standards-based education reform. On the surface, the use of standardized testing may seem to be the solution to ensure quality education to all children. But shortcomings have been identified and now debate is as fervent as ever.

The “No Child Left Behind” Act of 2002 (NCLB) is basically a reauthorization of a “number of federal programs aiming to improve the performance of U.S. primary and secondary schools by increasing the standards of accountability for states, school districts and schools, as well as providing parents more flexibility in choosing which schools their children will attend.” I believe standardized testing is the chief problem and agree with James Ryan of New York University that the NCLB is “at war with itself.”(Ryan 2004) Not only has testing proven to worsen the problems of racial equality, teacher shortages, it also has lowered actual lowered academic achievement by giving incentive for a devastating curriculum in the classroom. Actually, testing is not the real problem. The real problem, perpetuated by the NCLB, is the repercussions of not passing the test. The real problem is money.

Every individual school board in the country is concerned with funding and its own finances. In order to exist, most are dependent upon federal aid. The NCLB incorporates penalties for showing a lack in proficiency by requiring schools to incur the cost of remediating themselves. If these efforts still due not improve scores, parents may opt to request outside tutoring or to move their child to another school, with the school board picking up the tab for either. This has a snow –balling effect. The schools now have fewer students and are now entitled to less federal per-student aid as well as this transportation expense. In an effort to avoid this, schools have taken a preventative approach. First, the term “proficient” is very vague and specifically delegated to each state to determine acceptable standards of proficiency by implementing their own tests. Consequently, states are manipulating the test results (South Carolina DOE 2003) by lowering academic expectations of each grade level. Second, elementary school curriculums across the country have been narrowed and have evolved into an elaborate practice test. Ultimately, students are losing out on a well rounded education with cutbacks in physical education, art and music.(Seigel 2007) School officials are under tremendous pressure and held accountable for their school’s performance.

There are many critics of the NCLB, all with varying complaints. There is an overwhelming agreement that changes need to be made to the legislation before is reauthorized this year. Amendments suggested all revolve around how to obtain an objective assessment of “Adequate Yearly Progress”(AYP). Some want to amend the testing and others want to amend the results to not include all students. The latter propose that students who have lived in the country for less than three years and students who have been identified as having a learning disability need not be included.(Lewis 2005) Others propose that there should be no federal legislation at all regarding education. One Education Professor wrote, “The obvious solution is to reverse roles. Washington should supply unbiased information about student academic performance to states and local districts. It should then be the responsibility of states and local districts to improve performance.”(Ravitch 2007) The only real way to fix this legislation, again, boils down to money. In order for the intentions of the legislation to be fully realized, it needs to be fully funded at the federal level. (Ferrandino and Tirozzi 2004) That is not to say that Congress should replace local authority, but only it should provide unconditional aid. Schools would then reimplement a full curriculum. Teachers and other school officials would then return to the business of teaching and not operate in a state of fear.

References:
1. Pullman, J.D. & Patten, J.V. (2007) History of Education in America. New Jersey: Prentice Hall
2. Ferrandino, V.L. and Tirozzi G. N. (2004) Improving NCLB. Principals’ Perspective. Retrieved October 21, 2007, from http://www.naesp.org/ContentLoad.do?contentId=1215.
3. Siegel, D. (2007) High-Stakes Testing and the Status of Physical Education, Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance, 78(8), pg. 10. Retrieved October 21, 2007, from Proquest Direct database.
4. Lewis, A. C. (2005) Fixing NCLB Demands, The Education Digest,70(7)pg.69. Retrieved October 21, 2007, from Proquest Direct database.

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