When I read or hear about educational practices that result from No Child Left Behind (NCLB), I thank my lucky stars that I have the privilege of teaching in a school where children are the focus rather than working in the business of education where the profitability (read success) of a school is measured. I also appreciate the fact that my students elect, and must be admitted, to attend my school (Choate Rosemary Hall), and I mourn those public school kids who are being held to a standard that has nothing to do with them. Jamie McKenzie wrote in 2006:

NCLB is another example of leadership blinded by ideology.

Driven by a few simple notions, the NCLB/Helter-Skelter scheme has been more about failure than reform. Convinced that fear, punishment and failure would bring about a great educational Renaissance especially when combined with school choice and privatization, right wingers have imposed a Stalinist regime on public schools that has as its chief accomplishment the affixing of failure labels on schools. Instead of improving the performance of students and narrowing gaps between advantaged and disadvantaged populations, the program has failed. Test results are flat. The gap remains. The nature of schooling has coarsened and the curriculum has narrowed. NCLB is full of sound and fury lacking in achievement.

It would make more sense to this blogger if the negativity of NCLB was recast in a more positive light by testing every child when they enter school to establish a baseline from which they might grow. Every student would be measured based on the progress made against the personal baseline. Schools would be evaluated based on the aggregate progress made by their students rather than their progress against an abstract goal that does not reflect the abilities of the students in those schools.

One wonders whether those who designed NCLB were aware of IQ, of the impact of emotional issues on academic achievement, the impact of poor nutrition on learning, and the impact of not speaking and reading at home on literacy skills. There is nothing wrong with setting goals and striving to achieve those goals; it is part of the psyche of youth. But all goals must be attainable or they will result in frustration, and ultimately, failure. When our students are winners, when they believe they can achieve realistic goals, our culture and society wins as well.

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