When No Child Left Behind first went into effect, many in the education community immediately complained that the Act’s provisions were misguided. Today, with NCLB more than ten years old, it has become almost fashionable to eschew the pejorative components of the Act. The accountability portion of NCLB that currently sets a bar for achievement is the source of the Act’s greatest criticism. The federal Department of Education has heard these cries and is now offering states the option of pursuing a waiver from some of NCLB’s most stringent requirements. While I agree that the waiver will be a positive step for schools, I doubt that the waiver’s qualifiers will magically cause schools to flourish. It is important to note that a waiver will not eliminate using standardized tests as a way to measure a school’s effectiveness. But instead of a using a benchmark that all students have to meet, the state will use student growth from year to year on the tests to determine whether a school is making progress.
I support accountability, but struggle with the idea that you can determine a school’s effectiveness on three days of tests in April. These tests are good indicators of student learning, they are not however, the bottom line on determining whether our students are making the grade. Everyone agrees that we must prepare our students for the future by teaching next generation skills. It is ironic then, that our students are not being formally assessed in these areas. At some point NCLB will be reauthorized with a new set of provisions. It is important that our Senators Murkowski and Begich and Representative Young not waste the opportunity to help the Act do what it was intended to do in the first place, promote school improvement. The three days in April should only be a part of the accountability equation.