By Jerri Cook
The No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) is at best an attempt to do by regulation what even the most gifted scientists cannot—thwart the forces of Nature. While acknowledging the obvious — there is an achievement gap between high- and low-performing children — NCLB begs the question; i.e., assumes that poor achievement is a problem of environment rather than the product of the singular factor that governs all measurable achievement—intelligence.
The gap between high and low achievers will always exist. It is natural that it should exist. However, NCLB seeks to hold educators responsible for the limited natural ability of some students by homogenizing the requirements for all through federally standardized testing. Every child is to be taught the same standard subjects and then tested on those subjects with standard tests, rewarding rote memorization of basic facts and ignoring the ability of more gifted students to think critically. In fact, NCLB doesn’t reward excellence at all. High-performers raise the bar for everyone, and the last thing government-run schools want is a high bar for student achievement. The Department of Education is only interested in minimum standards. Essentially, NCLB is a major step forward (?) in the dumbing-down of Americans.
As we’ve allowed excuses for poor performance to promulgate, performance has fallen. In place of educational excellence, we have substituted a culture of victimization. Students aren’t held accountable because of their race, their parents’ income, their sexual orientation, their religious beliefs, and a plethora of other government-approved excuses for poor performance.
To make matters worse, States don’t have to provide parents information about student motivation and performance. NCLB makes that information optional. If, as claimed in NCLB, low performance is tied directly to environment, it would seem the “optional” information is instead critical. Title 20, § 6311 provides that the State may include the following optional information for parents:
• school attendance rates;
• average class size in each grade;
• academic achievement and gains in English proficiency of limited English proficient students;
• the incidence of school violence, drug abuse, alcohol abuse, student suspensions, and student expulsions;
• the extent and type of parental involvement in the schools;
• the percentage of students completing advanced placement courses, and the rate of passing of advanced placement tests; and
• a clear and concise description of the State’s accountability system, including a description of the criteria by which the State evaluates school performance, and the criteria that the State has established, consistent with subsection (b)(2) of this section, to determine the status of schools regarding school improvement, corrective action, and restructuring.
None of this information is required to be released. Is it any wonder that American school children are behind their foreign counterparts in every single academic category? It’s to be expected.
What’s unexpected is that American school children feel good about being dumbed-down. Even though they know they’re not achieving anywhere near what is possible, they’re okay with that. This is the end result of homogenization.
Across the country, parents are preparing for the annual ritual of shopping for school clothes and supplies. The back-to-school sales are starting, and parents are pulling out their checkbooks to pay for the coolest binder, the hippest backpack, and all the bling required to attend public school these days. But is anyone preparing for the actual education part? Apparently not.
Parents can’t depend on government-run schools to disclose critical information, and what you don’t know can cost both you and your child. There’s more to preparing for the school year than charging up your credit card at the local big-box store and sending your well-blinged kids off to school. Educators are more concerned with complying with government regulations in order to get government money for themselves. Whether your child excels is at best a secondary concern.
In order to ensure your child isn’t left behind, ask the hard questions at your school board meetings. Communicate often with your child’s teacher. And perhaps most importantly, don’t allow your child to accept mediocrity as achievement. Being fat, dumb, and happy is not a worthy goal.