No Child Left Behind

I realize I’m not very well educated on current events of public education but going back to one of my previous questions I wanted to learn more about the no child left behind act. Its sad to say I’ve heard about this act while it was being reformed but never got into depth on what it means for public education until now. The no child left behind act is basically a law re-authorization of the elementary and secondary education act, where students are required to meet state standards in math and reading. The major focus of the no child left behind law is to provide students a fair and equal opportunity to gain a high-quality education emphasizing four sections of the bill; ensure students who are disadvantaged achieve academic proficiency, allow school districts flexibility in how they use federal education funds, emphasize educational programs proven effective, and increase choices for parents of students.

First of all under the law, schools must report performances of different groups of students, such as racial minorities and different family incomes. Students are expected to reach certain annual achievements known as AYP, adequate yearly progress. But the law itself had an impossible goal requiring all schools to reach 100 percent proficiency as measured by state tests or they would face hard punishments. Standardized tests became the main focus of education, policy makers became encouraged to even fire teachers and close down low scoring public schools. Common core tests actually ignored the needs of children with disabilities and English learners. The federal government spent billions to phase the standards, overall causing teacher shortages and ignoring certain subjects not being tested such as art. This money being so focused on standardized tests could have been used for other beneficial uses such as reduce class sizes, restore art and physical education, rebuild schools that are struggling, and provide universal early childhood education.

Another affect of the act was pressure started being put on children at earlier ages. Students as early as third grade started increasing more hours for studying for standardized tests. It became learned that subjects such as art and physical education were less emphasized and less important than subjects such as math and science. Public education in America became more of focusing on statistics rather than focusing on personalized learning and needs for students.

If we look internationally into other school’s public education system, Finland is at the top for the highest ranking public schools while America is someone in the middle. Why is this? What’s the difference? Finland school system actually doesn’t even have any required standardized tests besides an exam at the end of high school. Another big difference between Finland’s education system compared to America is that there’s no rankings or competitions between schools or regions, while America heavily implies competition in our school system. Finland even keeps homework at minimal, spends fewer hours in the classroom, promotes longer breaks providing children learn better when they are ready. Equality is the most important focus in Finland education. Why is it that knowing Finland’s education system and them being ranked at the top America seems to do the opposite and increase all these factors?

Standardized test would show students who were well off would tend to score in the top half of results while students from poor income families would score in the bottom. Predictability of these tests are creating more of a sense of failure for children. Its kind of ironic the no child left behind act is supposed to promote more fairness and equality but increase of the tests is actually having the opposite affect.