Friday, December 11, 2015

Obama Signs Rewrite of No Child Left Behind

As we learned in Ch 3 of the textbook, the 2011 No Child Left Behind Act imposed many federal requirements on public schools, such as class size and standardized testing.  It has been viewed by many as an overstep by the federal government of their powers, imposing on the powers of states and local governments, an idea called preemption. Preemption is derived from the supremacy clause in Article VI of the Constitution. It's now become more supported by Republicans in office as well as Democrats.

Since then, the Obama administration has progressively taking steps to alleviate some of the requirements.  For example, in 2012, Obama freed 10 states from the provision mandating a deadline for bringing all students to proficiency levels in reading in math.  In July this year, the Senate introduced a bipartisan bill revising the Law so that standardized testing performance is not as heavily weighted as a measure of the success of the school, and it was passed by both houses in November.  This is the first revision since its implementation. On the 9th of this month, another set of revisions was passed by the Senate and this article talks about Obama signing it into Law on the 10th. 

The bill maintains mandated standardized testing but gets rid of the harsh consequences for states and districts that perform poorly. The state and local officials can set their own performance goals.  It's now called the Every Student Succeeds Act.  Obama called the previous approach "one size fits all," whereas this reform is a "commitment to provide every student with a well-rounded education." Since it was bipartisan, Obama even referred to it as a "Christmas miracle." 

However, is it possible that the level of federal involvement in the educational system before was actually an effective tool to resolve or rectify racial discrimination in schools?  Since the original bill intended to make sure that states were giving all students, especially poor children and those who need assistance the most, equal chances to succeed by implementing consistent standards and federal oversight, will more freedom to the states to set their own standards still ensure this? Or will it bring mostly positive changes? Is it even a fair requirement for a school to be punished if not all its students meet proficiency requirements given that every individual is inherently different and learns at a unique rate? 

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Annika Olives said...

I think that ESS will be better than NCLB for a variety of reasons. It gives states the flexibility to implement their own assessments that will accurately track development. It gets rid of "Adequate Yearly Progress" reports, which required schools to report test scores every year and receive a consequence if they didn't meet their goals. Every child had to have a math and reading score at their grade level, no matter if they entered school a few years late.

I don't think that there will be more racial discrimination with the implementation of this law. Schools were already racially segregated on account of the NCLB--if a school had a group of disadvantaged students, it brought the entire school down, so many counties have taken to shuttling all the under-performing students into one school.

However, some critics argue that ESS sounds better than it truly is, and that, in reality, not a lot will actually change in schools themselves. I guess we'll only see how effective this act truly is in the coming years.


Nicholas Tong1 said...

Whether or not we remove the "one size fits all" performance goals, you can still say that racial discrimination is being reinforced. On one hand, if we keep the "one size fits all" performance goals, then we could argue that racial discrimination is perpetuated by the fact that schools in well-off white neighborhoods consistently meet the goals, while "ghetto" neighborhoods full of minorities consistently miss the goals.

I believe that removing the "severe" consequences would benefit the less privileged schools, however. Some schools have more to work with than others. For example, the safety of the neighborhood, as well as the backgrounds the students come from can either make the schools' job of meeting testing goals harder or easier. It would therefore be unfair to punish a school for circumstances it cannot control.

Ultimately, I feel that the Every Student Succeeds Act helps scale the playing field to each individual school's needs. That mandated standardized testing is still maintained is a fair compromise to gauge a school's standing, while still allowing the school to aim for its own stars.