Journalists are supposed to try and avoid any conflict of interest. I can’t do that when it comes to education. My wife has been a Michigan public high school teacher all her professional life.
I teach at Wayne State University. That means a major portion of our income comes from taxpayer dollars set aside for education. To the best of my knowledge, that has had no impact whatsoever on what I think about No Child Left Behind.
No impact, that is, except for this: I know more about education than the average bear. And my main problem with No Child Left Behind is this: I don’t really understand it.
I am in the business of analyzing and explaining things for a living. I have managed in the past to gain a reasonable grasp of both arms control issues and the complexities of the Michigan budget.
But I have read a lot about No Child Left Behind, and I still have problems understanding it. I do understand that it was designed to increase accountability, and to give parents more options in choosing which schools little Jane or Johnny attends.
No Child Left Behind provides an elaborate system of measuring whether schools and students are making what it calls “adequate yearly progress” – and provides sanctions for not doing so.
The act also requires schools to supply military recruiters with the names, address and phone numbers of every student they have.
That’s something that seems a curiously bizarre and politicized addition to a law that supposedly is all about improving education.
But the main part I don’t understand is How No Child Left Behind gets us to the point where, literally no children are left behind.
The plan calls for an increased focus on reading. It orders schools to make sure students’ test scores improve. It strictly requires schools to base classroom strategies and even staff training methods on what it calls “scientifically based research.”
But No Child Left Behind is very vague in one area – where the school districts are going to find the money to get this all done. The act provides some money – but less than it seemed to originally promise. Those who don’t like No Child Left Behind cry that all it does is provide a system of “unfunded mandates.”
Underfunded mandates might be closer to the truth, but the government has been much quicker to demand things be done than to make sure there is adequate money to do them.
That’s something that No Child Left Behind needs to remedy if it is ever to be fully respected by the education community.
When it comes to education, we’ve had a lot of slogans. Now its time to steal the one Nike uses. Just do it. Forget ideology, and find a way to teach children, and make them want to learn.
By any means necessary.