Some educators said they see problems with the three-year-old No Child Left Behind Act, a federal education law enacted in 2002.
According to the U.S. Department of Education, No Child Left Behind was enacted to close the achievement gap between children, and ensure that all students achieve academic proficiency.
While No Child Left Behind sounds like a good idea on paper, schools are now being forced to focus more on taking and passing tests than on the process of learning, said Kathleen Van Antwerp, lecturer in the CSUN Child and Adolescent Development Department.
“(No Child Left Behind) is not allowing teachers the time to develop student/teacher relationships,” Van Antwerp said. “They’re not teaching to the individual child, and not recognizing the individual. Many children will not be able to learn in a test-based educational system.”
Under the act, schools must develop a system to measure the progress of students and make sure that all students are meeting state-regulated grade-level requirements, according to the DOE.
Students are tested on their progress, and annual state and school district report cards inform parents and communities of the progress made during the year, or conversely, the progress that still needs to be made.
If schools do not meet the minimum requirement set forth by the state for two consecutive years, parents have the option of transferring their children to another public school, or to a charter school.
No Child Left Behind cannot satisfy all three domains of what Van Antwerp called the holistic approach to education, including meeting a student’s biosocial, psychosocial and cognitive needs, Van Antwerp said.
“(No Child Left Behind) will base the educational system on tests, while ignoring development,” Van Antwerp said.
“We have to recognize the different learning styles of students,” said Warren Furumoto, director of the Center for Academic Preparedness at CSUN.
“You have to be more accommodating to the needs of the students, which I don’t think (No Child Left Behind) allows for.”
Gary Ratner, executive director of Citizens for Effective Schools, said the act is essentially leaving schools stranded.
“(No Child Left Behind) leaves schools out to sea as to how to meet their requirements, then threatens them with sanctions,” Ratner said.
“How do you expect people to react when they’re threatened with sanctions? They concentrate on raising test scores.”
According to the Citizens for Effective Schools’ website, penalizing schools that fail to sufficiently raise their test scores has resulted in schools lowering their academic goals, narrowing the school curriculum to focus on test taking, and excluding low-performing students from testing.
Among the low-performing students are students who do not speak English as their first language, as well as lower-income and developmentally-challenged students.
“It’s more difficult for students (to pass the tests) if they don’t speak English,” Ratner said.
“Not all poor and limited-English students have the same (educational) issues,” said Terri Schwartzbeck, a policy analyst for the American Association of School Administrators.
“(The tests) compare this year’s third graders to last year’s third graders, and it doesn’t take into account where they started, or what challenges they’re facing.”
Though some educators find No Child Left Behind to be ineffective, they said it is beneficial that the government is recognizing the need for reform in the American educational system.
“(No Child Left Behind) is working in the sense that it’s captured the public’s attention that kids are way below where they need to be academically,” Ratner said.
“Any time I see the government take an interest in education, that’s good,” Van Antwerp said. “(No Child Left Behind) demonstrates that our government wants educational reform, and that we want accountability in our schools, and that’s a positive.
“Hopefully we can use this as a stepping-stone for educational reform. We need to teach kids how to think, not what to think.”