When President Obama stepped into office in January of 2009, he vowed to revamp the educational system by tweaking, not eliminating No Child Left Behind (NCLB). Nearly two and a half years later, it looks as if this process is finally coming to a head. At the President’s State of the Union Address this past January, he mentioned a revision of former President Bush’s program. Since then, he and the Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, have given a clearer picture of what those changes will entail. They want the focus to shift from looking at “unsophisticated fill-in-the-bubble tests used to assess students” and focus more on “advanced teacher and principal evaluations, with a focus on rewarding the good ones.”
While I have only been teaching for a mere five years, I have had much experience with NCLB. I am an English teacher at a school that has been deemed “a school in need of improvement.” We have supposedly underperformed, based solely on testing. What the statistics do not take into account is student migration and special education. Not once have these “evaluators” come to the school to see what goes on in the classroom, nor have they cared enough to actually look at other statistics that may just tell a little different tale. Apparently, it is of no concern to them that a percentage of our Hispanic subgroup comes to our high school from another school system. We are then given less than one year to teach them before they are forced to take “The Test.” In no college, job, any other part of American life is a person forced to take a test on something that they have been introduced to just a few months earlier. They are expected to reach “goal” on a cumulative exam middle school/high school exam when they have only been in the system for a part of one year.
I have also seen firsthand that, while our reading and math scores, as a whole, continue to rise (or even out at a close to 90 percent level), we are still scolded for not having a large enough increase. A blanket increase percentage is set without ever taking into account that a high 80s percentage is quite good. President Obama’s new plan to reward competent teachers and principals, limit the government’s role and place more emphasis on local control of education, and eliminate the pass-fail metric currently followed by NCLB, is a plan that I will surely welcome. If a teacher is not doing his or her job, then he or she should, by all means, be reprimanded, but to look at a test score to determine such a thing is a bit uninventive and lazy. We are in the 21st Century, yet we are still using archaic forms of evaluation of students and teachers. We are in the middle of the “Technological Age”, yet we use bubble-tests to determine successes and failures.
President Obama seems to have the right idea in his revamping of NCLB. He seems to understand that a test does not determine the success of a school or a school system, for that matter. Over the last few years, many of us have felt like we have been beaten down by the government. Our curriculum has been diminished to “teach to the test”, rather than give the students the skills needed to succeed in college. President Obama has promised to allow the curriculum to expand back to the way it used to be. The unnecessary stress placed on teachers in schools that are supposedly “in need of improvement” has led to an unhealthy and many times ineffective school culture and climate. If President Obama makes good on his promise to reward teachers for being innovative and simply put, good, then it will be a marked improvement in the educational system. It will promote positivity, rather than focusing on the negatives that the old program seemed to do. All in all, No Child Left Behind was in desperate need of an overhaul. Teachers have become frustrated and mentally drained. President Obama has promised a change. For the sake of the students, let’s hope he comes through.
Obama to outline fix for ‘No Child Left Behind’ that gives states more power