‘Waive’ goodbye to No Child Left Behind

The failures of NCLB have led many states to try and find ways around the law.

David Steinberg

It was recently announced that 1,056 schools out of 2,255 in Minnesota, eight more than last year, are not making âÄúadequate yearly progress.âÄù The crime, however, isnâÄôt that slightly more schools are failing this year than last, itâÄôs that almost half of all schools are failing. This is due to a failure in how the No Child Left Behind law is set up, and also because of a more systemic collapse in schools themselves.

Results have been inadequate for NCLB since it was signed into law in 2002. The program is set up to be punitive in nature, decreasing the resources failing schools need rather than sending more. Shutting down schools means more kids will travel to other schools, creating larger classrooms and less one-on-one help for students in need. And we need a way to judge studentsâÄô progress that goes beyond the usual standardized tests.

âÄúThe system isnâÄôt fair,âÄù said Dave Heistad, testing director for Minneapolis Schools. And heâÄôs right âÄî it isnâÄôt. âÄúAdequate yearly progressâÄù means one fourth grade class getting better scores than the previous yearâÄôs fourth grade class. That measure does not compare the same students, and is just one example of NCLBâÄôs failures.

Minnesota, at the state Education CommissionerâÄôs direction, will apply for a federal waiver from the law, which will make them exempt from, among other things, a 2014 deadline for 100 percent of students to be proficient in math and reading. Many other states will join Minnesota in asking for a waiver, including Wisconsin, Iowa and Illinois. Perhaps this is an indication that the law needs a serious overhaul.

The failings of a program canâÄôt go unchanged nine years after its enactment. By making the system reward-based instead of punitive and finding a new way to assess progress, we can help improve studentsâÄô learning rather than discover how easily they can pass a test.


David Steinberg welcomes comments at [email protected]