I think it is time for the American people to examine one of the backbones of George W. Bushs first administration, the No Child Left Behind Act. Passed in 2001 with much fanfare, No Child Left Behind has been relegated to the back seat of political priorities, but that does not mean its impact has been any less drastic.
The basic premise behind No Child Left Behind is to assure the American people that children are indeed learning in public schools. It ties public funding to improvement on standardized test scores in reading and math. If a school fails to improve, federal funding is revoked until required scores are reached.
Therein lies the plans central flaw: tying success to funding. Typically, failing schools are in low-income areas, and pulling federal funding will only compound these schools problems.
The children attending these schools are surrounded by poverty, the schools themselves are falling apart, and more often than not, their parents are either unable or unwilling to participate in their education.
Unless the Bush administration is willing to tackle the underlying issues of poverty, pulling funding will only make things worse. It forces teachers to focus on the basics, and subjects like art and music are left by the wayside. If No Child Left Behind continues, America will have a generation of students who can read, add and take standardized tests, but are unable to think for themselves.
No Child Left Behinds other flaw is that it treats teachers like enemies rather than allies. Rarely do teachers go into the profession for the money.
Teaching is an exhausting profession that pays poorly and requires a lot of sacrifice. Teachers are expected to be friends, role models, guidance counselors, social workers and even parents to 20 or 30 students. Teachers understand better than anyone that a standardized test score cannot reveal a childs true aptitude, and some very bright children simply do not do well on standardized tests.
Pulling the funding of a failing school will only limit the ability of a teacher to discover how best to teach each particular child. It will force rote memorization and teaching to the test, instead of creating a unique, creative child who can reach their full potential.
In creating arbitrary nationwide standards, No Child Left Behind generalizes education. While every child needs to learn the basics, it is more important for each child to be equipped to solve problems and think creatively.
Chances are that Washington D.C. policy-makers have no idea what it is like to be a teacher, so maybe we should leave decisions up to local school boards and teachers, the people who are actually qualified to make them. It is time for the federal government to finally trust our nations educators.
Staff writer Maura DeChant is a junior from West Bend, Wis. She majors in English and history.