Monday, March 16, 2009

No Child Left Behind Act

President Obama's education plan will leave the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB) largely intact for now. On March 10, he discussed education and proposed tightening standards and reducing dropout rates.

Officials have said President Obama will save his suggestions for No Child Left Behind until later this year, when Congress is expected to vote to reauthorize NCLB. The main goal of NCLB was to set nationwide standards for math and reading proficiency, which would raise overall test scores and student proficiency.

In 2004, a task force was created to analyze the effects of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. The executive summary of their findings can be found here. It is important to go over the findings of that task force to see whether any of the issues that they found with NCLB have been corrected since their report.

For reading from those who are against NCLB, Alfie Kohn is a perfect choice. Alfie Kohn is a well-known author of topics like education, parenting and human behavior. He is also a critic of NCLB. He speaks widely about these issues, and one of his essays on standards and testing can be found here.

As for those who are for NCLB, the US Department of Education has released studies describing the efficacy of NCLB. A study of NCLB's effect on New Jersey's schools can be found here.

After reading what both sides have to say, it is interesting to note the connection between NCLB and the Center for STEM Ed. They both have similar goals: more highly qualified teachers and educated students. However, NCLB takes an entirely different approach from the Center for STEM Ed.

NCLB stresses higher standards to have more "qualified" teachers, which sounds great, but doesn't provide enough funding for programs which make existing teachers more qualified or recruit even more qualified teachers. When school districts have to use funds to satisfy NCLB standards, they often have to take away funding from programs that they already have in place which would help to achieve these goals.

Also, the "achieve or be punished" way in which NCLB operates would push away teachers who do not meet the qualification standards proposed by NCLB. It is important to note that there is a teacher shortage which makes filling positions very difficult for high-need districts and high-shortage subject areas. Instead of solving the problem, NCLB seems to further it. When high-need school districts are having a hard time filling a position, often a substitute will end up teaching most of the class. Technically the substitute is not highly qualified for the specific subject area being taught, but NCLB would imply that these high-need school districts should choose to hire no one instead of someone who is not highly qualified by NCLB standards.

The Center for STEM Ed specifically addresses this by emphasizing the need for more teacher recruitment and preparation. They achieve this through the implementation of such programs as the Urban Teacher Academy, which encourages future teachers to work in urban and high-need school districts, and Tomorrow's Teachers, which furthers teacher recruitment in high school students.

It is very interesting to note the fact that NCLB and the Center for STEM Ed have similar goals, but go about achieving them in two very different ways.

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