To the Editor:
It seems that Katherine Schultz, in “The Small World of Classroom Boredom” Commentary, June 21, 2006), has taken the No Child Left Behind critique to a new low by suggesting that “U.S. schools are now mimicking the kind of traditional education system that Sri Lanka inherited from its colonial past”—a proposition that is sure to fire up opponents of the federal law while contributing little to the discussion of improving student achievement.
That this nation’s school curriculum is, in Ms. Schultz’s view, “by and large, remote, providing little connection between the classroom and students’ lives,” is hardly a result of the No Child Left Behind law, as anyone who has passed through a public school in the past 30 years can attest. The problem isn’t the law, but rather the way that states have decided to implement it and the ways in which schools modify their curricula as a result.
Improving student motivation requires that teacher-training and inservice programs instruct teachers in how to design and implement lessons that engage all students while simultaneously preparing them for standardized tests. The two goals are not antithetical. Balancing student engagement and test preparation requires knowledgeable teachers who can skillfully and artfully develop meaningful lessons, administrators who understand teacher evaluation and professional development, and schools of education that are willing to work closely with local districts to design and implement meaningful professional-development programs. Systemic changes in the ways that teachers and administrators conceive of their work will be necessary to make real headway toward increased student achievement.
Essays berating the No Child Left Behind Act and making specious comparisons to third-world countries from individuals who are charged with training teachers and school leaders are less than helpful. Perhaps if those in higher education spent more of their time developing and studying innovative instructional practices that foster increased student achievement, and less time attacking the law, the United States could regain its status as the nation with the premier education system in the world.
Scott A. Fellows
A version of this article appeared in the July 26, 2006 edition of Education Week as Trashing ‘No Child’ Law: Substitute for Innovation?