Rethinking Federal Educational Policy

Brandon Campbell ’18 evaluates whether or not the educational policies of No Child Left Behind positively influenced the American school system.

On Saturday, Oct. 24, President Barack Obama released a video that asked for a renewed discussion on one of the United States’ mostly hotly contested education reforms: The No Child Left Behind law. President Obama called for Congress to look at how disagreeable the legislation can be and how unfortunately influential it has become.

The No Child Left Behind law, which was signed by President George W. Bush in 2002, was intended to close achievement gaps between the academic success of minority and low income students and their more prosperous peers.  Additionally, it aimed to both mandate standardized testing for all students from third to eighth grade, thus ensuring proficiency in reading and math. 

In a video posted to Facebook, President Obama stated that “learning is about so much more than just filling in the right bubble,” and therefore him and his administration are going to “work with states, school districts, teachers and parents to make sure that we’re not obsessing about testing.

While these efforts to ensure that all children are on equal-education footing with one another are well meaning, they have left thousands of school districts in disrepair for failing to keep up with overzealous requirements and have created even stronger disparity between those districts that have kept pace and those that have been left behind.

Beginning in 2012, the Obama administration began a waiver system that would grant certain states relief from penalties of The No Child Left Behind Law. Currently 41 states and the District of Columbia are approved and awarded the flexibility that comes from these waivers. Washington was among those 41 states however in April of last year, the education department revoked the waiver after state lawmakers did not make standardized test scores a component of teacher evaluations, one of the fundamental requirements of the federal bill.  

Washington was the first state in the country to lose its No Child Left Behind waiver, and has since had to declare that about 92 percent of schools were considered “failing” in the eyes of the federal government. As a result, the federal government regained control of about $40 million given to the state, and forced schools to offer students bussing to non-failing schools or pay for private tutoring, according to the Seattle Times.

Legislation that began with overwhelming bipartisan support, sponsored by former House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and the late Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass, has since dissolved in a highly partisan and disagreeable issue. The numerous unintended consequences of the No Child Left Behind law have reinforced the wrong behaviors and attitudes towards education reform in school districts across the nation. Rather than recognizing growth and progress, the law has created a system where school districts look for ways to protect themselves from aggressive requirements and ensure that their district is not one of the many across the nation that are being left behind.


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