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Education Opinion

Freedom to Debate: Is NCLB Working?

By Jessica Shyu — March 05, 2009 1 min read

Is NCLB working?

I’m a supporter of No Child Left Behind, not because it doesn’t need a ton of fixing, but because I believe it’s driving us in the right direction and holding us all accountable to children learning.

So when I heard high school students on National Public Radio tear NCLB apart at the seams and debate why it isn’t working, I cried. Not because I disagreed (there are indeed many reasons why it isn’t working), but because almost every student at the high school debate competition profiled on NPR attend schools where my first- and second-year teachers teach at. Those young adults go to some of the most under-resourced, under-staffed and under-rigorous schools in the lowest income communities of Washington, DC. And here they were, grappling with whether NCLB has worked.

I went on npr.org to see if anyone had left comments about how great it was that high schoolers were debating some of the most challenging questions we’re facing this generation. And to my surprise, no one had said anything about how great it was to hear this positive coverage of DC public high schools for once. Rather, it was a debate on-- you guessed it-- whether NCLB has worked. It was a lively debate from all sorts of directions, some I agreed with (that education needn’t be a scarce commodity) and others that I didn’t (that too much of our tax dollars are going toward our lowest performing students).

And then the obvious dawned on me. How different would this online discussion look if my own kids from the Navajo Nation could talk about how it wasn’t just fancy resources, but objective-driven teachers who got them to grow by 2 grade levels in one year? What would it be like if kids from the border towns of Texas could argue back that NCLB actually deprived them of a more holistic education? How would it sound if one of the DC student debaters could chime in about how accountability actually held his teachers to rigorous standards for once? (A student actually did defend NCLB for that reason in the news piece).

We all have our own opinions about NCLB and one day, my kids will to be able to analyze and rip your ideas apart, or defend them with their own insights. That is what closing the achievement gap will look like.

The opinions expressed in New Terrain are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.