Many states don't want to lower their standards, including Minnesota, New Hampshire and Hawaii, and legislators have seriously debated withdrawing from NCLB, even though it would mean they would lose federal money that is tied to it. However, as the first national suit points out, no funding except the promised NCLB funding is supposed to be tied to it; the Education Department has apparently been making its own interpretation in that regard, however, and denying funding improperly (Schrag 2004, 38+).
A change in plaintiff
Lawsuits concerning educational issues are not new; what is new is that it is not parents suing school districts for failing to educate their children (Washington Times 2002, A01). Some of those suits are without merit and are dismissed, such as one by an Ohio student and her mother who sued a school district and 11 teachers for $6 million because the school's grading practices "punished the girl for her repeated absences" (Washington Times 2002, A01).
The small note of hope for teachers contained in the NCLB legislation is protection for teaches against such lawsuits "if they have been acting within their responsibilities. The law includes a teacher liability section to ensure that teachers, principals and other educators are able to undertake 'reasonable actions' to maintain discipline in the classroom" (Washington Times 2002, A01). That is insufficient reward, however, in relation to the damage done by NCLB, according to many educators.
One unfortunate consequence is likely to be that, under NCLB, "Students who want to study a skilled trade are looked upon as slackers, nonacademic or remedial types" which will, in turn, ensure that we have a lot of young people barely grasping the academics who would have been happy, productive auto mechanics or beauticians if they hadn't been crammed into the NCLB box (Medved 2004, 52). He also notes that, "In Europe skilled technicians are not ridiculed. Rather, they are held in high esteem. Is it a coincidence then that most people in the car business, at least the ones I know, say vehicles built abroad are generally more dependable than the ones made here?" (Medved 2004, 52). Medved concludes that NCLB is an excellent tool for "degrading the things that made us great -- American ingenuity and skill" (Medved 2004, 52). He regards the current period of education as an Industrial Demolition Period and advises thinking bout all the skilled trade students not only left behind under NCLB, but treated as second class, and he asks who will fix it (Medved 2004, 52).
Paul also uses industrial analogy to explain the damage done by NCLB. She notes that "the train has left" and black and Latino students are still waiting on the platform. She also makes a major contribution to the knowledge of the NCLB damage by pointing out that "notable critics" have issued "much needed analyses and commentaries... On the broad implications of 'junk' science dictating classroom literacy practice" (Paul 2004, 648+). Worse still, the methodologies used by the Education Department to formulate its NCLB testing are substandard, and, Paul notes, "In addition, a number of opportunities have been missed to comprehensively probe the ways in which this legislation serves to exacerbate the existing achievement gap between black and Latino students and their white counterparts" (2004, 648+).
As Paul explains it, the NCLB remedy for dealing with the problem of "pervasive and deep-seated racism (which manifests itself in the form of inequitable rates of per-pupil expenditure and widespread neglect of urban schools amongst other such forms) is to increase accountability through mandatory testing" (2004, 648+). Moreover, she points out that poor Latinos and poor blacks are doubly disadvantaged under NCLB because child poverty for blacks and Latinos are at approximately 305 and 28% respectively (Paul 2004, 648+).
Additional damage was been done to education by the false promise of a better education through choice, the very plan NCLB espouses of moving children from substandard, by NCLB parameters, schools to better ones. This seemed to poor parents like a sort of government-sponsored private school program. However, the fact is that private schools can educate better because they do not have to accept problem students, and the parents do have to be involved, with financing at the very least. "For those reasons and others, public schools in the most poverty-stricken areas of the United States continue to poorly educate their students. In some instances, where school funds have been cut as a consequence of poor standardized test scores, such students have been denied the resources that might have helped them to improve" (Paul 2004, 648+), the very thing that is happening with NCLB. So, the dream of school choice and consequent improved results for the children was no more than a chimera, and as such, Paul notes, "immoral" (Paul 2004, 648+) on the part of the government, not a good example to set for students.
Another lie used to push NCLB forward was the myth of success in Houston when Bush was governor and former Education Secretary Ron Paige ran the city schools.
Unfortunately, the good results yielded in Houston have been exaggerated. For example, while the number of Houston students who passed statewide achievement tests went from 44% to 64%, the gains were boosted by an 'abysmal dropout rate' (Winters, 2001). Low-performing students, under constant pressure, simply surrendered and left school prematurely. A report published in 2001 by Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, ranked Houston 28th in school completion out of the 35 largest U.S. school districts. Almost half of the ninth graders in most of Houston's school systems failed to reach graduation (Winters, 2001) (2004, 648+).
In addition, if that sort of unnatural attrition is not sufficient, schools that want to retain their funding and avoid federal takeover can always disenfranchise black and Latino (and conceivably any other child in some way disadvantaged or different) by placing them in special education. Even before the NCLB pressure, "In 2000, although African-American children represented only 15% of the U.S. school population (ages 6-21), they represented 20% of students referred into special education and over 26% of youth identified by schools as emotionally and behaviorally disturbed" (Paul 2004, 648+).
Punishing the intellectually gifted
It may be tempting to think that the full brunt of the NCLB damage is inflicted on students with various forms of disadvantage. However, Tieso points out that because compliance with NCLB virtually assures that schools will not be able to employ ability grouping, a technique that provably enhanced the outcomes not only of gifted, but all students in certain situations (Tieso 2003, 29+), gifted students will be cheated. Above all, however, she noted that it was the overriding demand for drill and practice in preparation for the NCLB testing that would harm these students the most. She suggested that "school officials cannot be bullied by the political rhetoric of the day that calls for increasing amounts of drill and practice to prepare students for standardized tests of achievement. This actually results in a philosophy of 'no child left behind, but don't let the gifted students get too far ahead'" (Tieso 2003, 29+).
There is little doubt that NCLB is unpopular with educators. There are good reasons for that, some of them purely procedural (teaching to test), some of them cultural (extending class and race bias indefinitely) and some are moral (basing the entire NCLB program on spurious claims concerning the Bush-Paige experience in Houston.) Medved called for someone to fix it. There comes a time in the life of any object or program when it is too badly damaged to be worth fixing; it appears NCLB was in that condition from the outset.
First national suit over education law./" CNN. (2005, April 20). CNN. 16 May 2005 http://www.cnn.com/2005/EDUCATION/04/20/education.lawsuit.ap/.
Medved, Robert a. "If it's Broke, Who Will Fix it?" School Administrator May 2004: 52. Questia. 16 May 2005 http://www.questia.com/.
Paul, Dierdre Glenn. "The Train Has Left: The No Child Left Behind Act Leaves Black and Latino Literacy Learners Waiting at the Station There Have Been Many Critiques of the No Child Left Behind Act, but Absent from Them Have Been the Effects This U.S. Law Has on Black and Latino Students." Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy 47.8 (2004): 648+. Questia. 16 May 2005 http://www.questia.com/.
Reading, Writing 'Rithmetic, Litigation; When Students Fail Parents Sue." The Washington Times 9 Aug. 2002: A01. Questia. 16 May 2005 http://www.questia.com/.
Schrag, Peter. "Bush's Education Fraud: The No Child Left Behind Act Is Self-Defeating, Confusing and Underfunded. If it Isn't Drastically Overhauled, Millions More Kids Will Be Left Behind." The American Prospect Feb. 2004: 38+. Questia. 16 May 2005 http://www.questia.com/.
Tieso, Carol L. "Ability Grouping Is Not Just Tracking Anymore." Roeper Review 26.1 (2003): 29+. Questia. 16 May 2005 http://www.questia.com/.