Question on NCLB: To Kill or Not to Kill?

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To the Editor:

Diane Ravitch’s viewpoint in her Commentary “Time to Kill ‘No Child Left Behind’” (June 10, 2009) is about what I would expect. In the decade or so I have been in education and following her opinions, she frequently has expressed resistance to change.

In reading her latest diatribe, I am left with unanswered questions. If math and reading results have been so dismal despite the No Child Left Behind Act and the “reduced attention to such non-tested subjects as science, history, civics, the arts, and geography,” what would the results have been without such a limited focus? Stated otherwise, if educators cannot increase children’s performance with a narrow academic focus, why would performance improve after expanding the focus to other disciplines?

As a person who has successfully served (albeit on a small scale) children receiving supplemental educational services, I also question Ms. Ravitch’s assertion that tutored students derive no benefit from the extra assistance. Rather than a passing reference to “some studies,” information on which studies show this finding would have been a responsible inclusion.

Finally, what does work in raising achievement? We do not need another tearing down without alternatives for building up. Surely there are “some studies” showing that alternative schools or methods (the Knowledge Is Power Program springs to mind) have succeeded. I do realize that a Commentary is a very limited discussion of an issue, but again, another denunciation is of little help.

Margaret Case
St. Augustine, Fla.

To the Editor:

Having read “Let’s Not ‘Kill Off’ NCLB” (June 11, 2009), B. Alexander Kress’ online response to Diane Ravitch, I remain baffled by his claim that the No Child Left Behind Act is working. Although NCLB has helped draw much-needed attention to the achievement gap and highlighted certain underserved student populations, a point Mr. Kress underscores with a litany of statistics from the National Assessment of Educational Progress, the legislation’s usefulness ends there.

The fallacy of NCLB is that it fails to support schools—and the education professionals that lead them—in even beginning to correctly address the “problems” it identifies. Although the American Federation of School Administrators agrees with the goals of the law, we find the means to achieve those goals fundamentally flawed.

What is the use of citing gains in student achievement when those gains are measured by a broken instrument? Instead, what if we were to begin anew, with the federal government bringing together practitioners and academics on a regional basis to determine what it is that children-turned-adults will need to know and be equipped to perform over the next decade?

And what about developing similar “frameworks” for education professionals in addition to teachers? In a recent address to the Education Writers Association, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said: “Chaos outside the classroom breeds chaos in the classroom. Lack of cooperation among faculty is a failure of leadership. There are no good schools without good principals.” We have to ensure that someone selected from a pool of certified principals matches the needs of the hiring school.

It is time to scrap No Child Left Behind and start over with the accumulated body of knowledge it has provided. President Barack Obama has recognized that education begins at birth. Young children, eager to learn, who are educationally malnourished and deprived of the opportunities that this country has to offer will have a more difficult, if not impossible, challenge of successfully meeting their future. In order to move forward, we must first leave NCLB behind.

Jill S. Levy
American Federation of School Administrators
Washington, D.C.

Vol. 28, Issue 36, Page 27

Published in Print: July 15, 2009, as Question on NCLB: To Kill or Not to Kill?
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