No Child Left Behind: 'Good Intentions Gone Horribly Wrong'

The new 'Common Core State Standards' are designed to give students the skills they will need to succeed in college and their careers.

Something big is cooking in the world of education called the Common Core State Standards (CCSS).

According to the mission statement on the CCSS website (www.corestandards.org), “The Common Core State Standards provide a consistent, clear understanding of what students are expected to learn, so teachers and parents know what they need to do to help them.”  These standards are designed to give students the skills they will need to succeed in college and their careers. 

Let’s back up for a moment and look at where this all fits in with teaching practices and standardized testing. 

Way back in 2001, “No Child Left Behind” (NCLB) took effect.  NCLB had good intentions; to increase accountability of schools to meet state standards by tracking student improvement on the tests. After a decade of NCLB, it is common knowledge that this was a case of good intentions gone horribly wrong.

The law mandated annual standardized testing, and for schools to show Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) in order to be eligible for state funding.  In addition to losing state funding, failure to make AYP results in a whole host of steps schools must then take to improve test scores, including giving students the option of transferring to a passing school, offering free tutoring, hiring private companies to run the school, or closing the school, depending upon how many years the school fails to meet AYP. 

The goal of AYP is for schools to meet the goal of 100% proficiency by 2013-2014. By 2010, 38% of schools were still failing and, in 2011, several states had failure rates over 50%. (www.edweek.org/ew/issues/no-child-left-behind/)

NCLB has resulted in a culture of “teaching to the test” in order to raise test scores.  Having been a classroom teacher when NCLB hit the fan, I can tell you this is not a little scheme cooked up by teachers in order to look better.  In fact, it goes way beyond the classroom. I was lucky because my principal operated under the belief that, if her teachers were doing their jobs (which she trusted we were), then the students would be well prepared. 

Unfortunately, this was an unusual approach.  The majority of schools spend the bulk of their school year preparing students to take the tests. Anyone who has kids from about 3rd grade on knows this, and is none-too-thrilled about the effect it has on their kids. NCLB has dramatically raised anxiety levels in children, and turned the sea of learning a mile wide and an inch deep, as was stated in the film Race to Nowhere (www.racetonowhere.com).  It’s all drill, drill, drill and very little else.  

Although NCLB is a federal program, it is up to each state to develop academic achievement standards. Actually, states are responsible for developing AYP expectations, and state assessment as well, which has become a major issue.  Many feel that certain states set low standards in order to make it easier for students to meet goals.  Also, it’s a “one-size-fits-all” plan with no room for districts to create improvement plans based on the unique needs of their community. 

So what has all this got to do with the Common Core State Standards that has caused such a splash in education?  I’ll let you know next week.

Wyatt October 03, 2012 at 01:46 PM
NCLB was simply an attempt at a federal takeover of the education system by big government Republicans. Education is best left to the local communities where schools can be free to experiment and cater their lessons and programs in response to local needs, wants and resources. A one-size fits all approach may be admirable, but it stifles creativity and is difficult to apply in practice.
Kerrie Ogren October 03, 2012 at 02:07 PM
Because of the new Common Core State Standards our children and teachers are yet again being stifled, having their individuality slowly killed, and being forced to fit into a tiny government mandated box. At my children's school, the morning of the first day of school was full of excitement. The kids knew about the exciting projects and study units that had always been part of their school. Then the teacher told them that she would no longer be teaching the units because if the "new standards." All of the children were very upset. The teacher told us that the chopped units were here favorite to teach, and the children's favorite to learn. So the year began with disappointment. Also, the standardized testing and "eyes on the test" teaching that our schools have been forced onto does not take into consideration that we all have different learning styles. Children who are very smart and able are becoming anxious and "feeling stupid" because of this blind one size fits all approach. The happiness and mental health of our children is suffering as well as their motivation to learn. Creativity and investigation are not allowed anymore.
Elizabeth October 03, 2012 at 04:00 PM
I fear that these standards will result in a dumbing down of top school districts, such as Avon, in order to attempt at "level playing field." My child is receiving half the amount of homework that he received last year in a lower grade. Last year there was a huge emphasis on creative writing with weekly assignments; not one writing assignment thus far this year. As a parent of a very bright, motivated student, the effect of these new standards are extremely frustrating and disturbing. Parents move to towns like Avon for the rigorous, top notch academic opportunities, and the federal govt is now attempting to bring our standards down to other towns' levels. Hello, socialism.


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