No country for children

No Child Left Behind indentifies problems, but doesn’t offer solutions.

After five years, the U.S. House Education and Labor committee will discuss No Child Left Behind, as the law is up for reauthorization. Last Monday, the committee began a months-long debate on the issue.

In Minnesota last year, 38 percent of nearly 2,000 schools did not pass the NCLB student performance goals – the state’s worst performance. Sixty-six Minneapolis schools, including every high school, and 53 St. Paul schools did not make adequate yearly progress as well.

Though 121 state schools that failed the year prior improved last year, many schools in Minnesota and the United States, especially in urban communities, continue to struggle despite the institution of NCLB.

The law’s purpose is to hold schools and teachers accountable for student performance. This is done through standardized tests that break down student scores by race and income to show each group’s progress or lack of progress. Sanctions are then given to schools that do not pass the NCLB dictated performance goals.

No school is unique in No Child Left Behind – a school in Edina is no different from a school in North Minneapolis. The higher poverty rate, lack of school funding and minority population is not taken into account when the North Minneapolis school fails and the Edina school passes. The North Minneapolis school will face federal penalties, while the Edina school will be commended. NCLB can identify a school’s failure, but the initiative does not offer a solution – only consequences.

Simply, under-funded schools in poor, minority-populated communities cannot improve if their stability is threatened by the U.S. government for poor test results when any other result is impossible.

This common scenario has forced schools throughout the country to cut humanity and art classes so students can devote extra time to practice for the NCLB test. In just a generation, the United States will be populated with a majority that only knows how to pick between A, B, C and D.

It is important to hold schools and teachers accountable, but not at the expense of critical thought.