Opinion
Federal Opinion

There Won’t Be Blood

By Eduwonkette — February 08, 2008 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

A wise woman once advised that name-calling is a poor substitute for a good argument. In my view, it is the feeble tool of last resort for desperate men who cannot win arguments on their own merits. It has no rightful place in policy debates.

Let me wrap up this debate over NCLB’s unintended consequences by recapping my central argument:

1) By mandating an escalating series of sanctions for schools that fail to demonstrate adequate yearly progress in reading and mathematics, NCLB has created incentives for schools to focus on reading and math, rather than other subjects. As our fearless leader once noted, “What gets measured, gets done.”

2) NCLB does not mandate that educators focus on reading and math to the detriment of other subjects. But NCLB is a policy predicated on the idea that incentives can fundamentally change behavior. We should *expect* teachers to respond to NCLB’s powerful incentives.

3) It therefore is not surprising that there is a growing body of evidence, both systematic and anecdotal, that many schools are devoting more instructional time to reading and math and less time on other school subjects, such as social studies, science, and the arts. This is particularly evident in schools most at risk of missing AYP.

4) If our national goals for public schools are to prepare young people to be competent, well-rounded and productive adults, we must assess how effective public policies such as NCLB are in achieving these goals.

There are a variety of revisions to NCLB that might be considered to enhance its ability to meet a broad set of goals for public education. Robert Pondiscio put it nicely when he wrote, “If the cure is worse than the disease, then find a better cure.” We could, for example, create incentives for teaching additional subjects. Or we could seek to build the capacity of schools to teach subjects such as social studies and science more effectively
alongside reading and math. But NCLB does neither of these.

Where do we go from here? We can continue to stand on the mountain and hand down outraged edicts to educators. But sternly lecturing our nation’s teachers will do little to change their behavior. If our goal is to ensure that children in all schools have access to a broad and deep education, we fail them by adopting this approach.

Bottom line: it’s reckless public policy to ignore the evidence that NCLB’s incentives have resulted in more attention to reading and math, and less attention to other school subjects.

Related Tags:

The opinions expressed in eduwonkette 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.


Commenting has been disabled on edweek.org effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Teaching Webinar
6 Key Trends in Teaching and Learning
As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and a return to the classroom for many—we come better prepared, but questions remain. How will the last year impact teaching and learning this school
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
Attendance Awareness Month: The Research Behind Effective Interventions
More than a year has passed since American schools were abruptly closed to halt the spread of COVID-19. Many children have been out of regular school for most, or even all, of that time. Some
Content provided by AllHere
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
Ensuring Continuity of Learning: How to Prepare for the Next Disruption
Across the country, K-12 schools and districts are, again, considering how to ensure effective continuity of learning in the face of emerging COVID variants, politicized debates, and more. Learn from Alexandria City Public Schools superintendent
Content provided by Class

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Federal Feds to Probe Whether Texas Ban on School Mask Mandates Violates Disability Rights Laws
The Education Department has already opened investigations in six other states that ban universal school mask requirements.
2 min read
A staff member holds the door open for kids on the first day of school at Goodwin Frazier Elementary School in New Braunfels, Texas on Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2020.
A staff member holds the door open at Goodwin Frazier Elementary School in New Braunfels, Texas in 2020. This year, Texas has prohibited school districts from requiring all students to wear masks.
Mikala Compton/Herald-Zeitung via AP
Federal New Federal Team to Work on Puerto Rico School Improvement, Oversight
The Puerto Rico Education Sustainability Team will focus on creating better learning environments and improving financial management.
3 min read
Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona visits the Emilio Delgado School in Corozal on June 30, 2021 during a visit to Puerto Rico.
Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona visits the Emilio Delgado School in Corozal on June 30, 2021 during a visit to Puerto Rico.
Teresa Canino Rivera/GDA via AP
Federal Pandemic Tests Limits of Cardona's Collaborative Approach as Education Secretary
He's sought the image of a veteran educator among former peers, but COVID has forced him to take a tough stance toward some state leaders.
10 min read
Education Secretary Miguel Cardona and Schools Chancellor Meisha Porter speak to Mia Arias, 10, during their visit to P.S. 5 Port Morris, a Bronx elementary school, Tuesday, Aug. 17, 2021 in New York.
U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona and Schools Chancellor Meisha Porter speak to Mia Arias, 10, during a visit to P.S. 5 Port Morris, a Bronx elementary school, last month.
Brittainy Newman/AP
Federal White House Launches Hispanic Education Initiative Led by Miguel Cardona
President Joe Biden said his administration intends to address the "systemic causes" of educational disparities faced by Hispanic students.
2 min read
Education Secretary Miguel Cardona writes down and draws positive affirmations on poster board with students during his visit to P.S. 5 Port Morris, a Bronx elementary school, Tuesday, Aug. 17, 2021 in New York.
U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona visits students in New York City at P.S. 5 Port Morris, a Bronx elementary school in the Bronx last month.
Brittainy Newman/AP