President Obama has called for Congress to "fix" the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law before the start of the next school year, following claims that the law's exacting standards would brand more than 80 percent of schools as "failing." The president wants to overhaul President George W. Bush's signature schools policy by revising teaching standards and rewarding schools for high performance, rather than applying rigorous federal standards and punishing schools for doing poorly. The president also insists that Congress not reduce funding for education. "We can't cut the things that will make America more competitive," he said. Can Obama turn the much-criticized No Child Left Behind law into successful policy, or would he be better off starting from scratch? (See Obama's comments)
This law was a failure from the start: It's time to accept that the entire premise of No Child Left Behind was "based on a myth," says Diane Ravitch at National Journal. Namely, the claim that rigorous testing in Texas had produced a record level of academic success. The only problem? "It wasn't true." Students in Texas are no better off now than they were then — and nationally, students are far worse off. No Child Left Behind should be scrapped as soon as possible.
"Stop setting impossible goals"
Obama's plan for reform could work: Obama's plan is to reform No Child Left Behind in line with his Race to the Top program, says an editorial in Tufts Daily. That initiative rewards schools that do well, and offers incentives to high-achieving teachers, as well as students. Importantly, it motivates schools to "produce good results without threatening them." Any plan modeled on Race to the Top could "change the way education is treated in this country."
"Time for positive reinforcement in education reform"
No, this proposal seems doomed to fail, too: The president's Race to the Top program has actually contributed to the "shocking upward spike" in failing schools, says Deborah White at About.com. That's because it, too, is all about "testing, testing, testing" — in this case, the teachers and school districts rather than the kids. This "motherlode of top-down testing" will do nothing to inspire students. Obama must go back to the drawing board.
"Obama bungling education reform by pushing NCLB, stringency"
And politically, Obama's fix is a tough sell: Everyone in Washington agrees that No Child Left Behind "needs to be fixed," says Meredith Shiner at Politico. For months now, a group of bipartisan lawmakers has been attempting to "lay the foundation for education reform." But almost all agree that the president's September deadline is far too optimistic — especially with John Boehner, "one of the chief co-sponsors" of the original bill, in the Speaker's chair.
"Could 'No Child' get left behind?"
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- This is what happens when Republicans actually enact their radical agenda
- The Obama administration's nonstop incoherence on ISIS
- How to be the most productive person in your office — and still get home by 5:30 p.m.
- 6 super-helpful iOS8 tricks you probably don't know about
- 43 TV shows to watch in 2014
- How I dug myself out of debt — and stayed that way
- 6 things the happiest families all have in common
- Why so many Christians won't back down on gay marriage
- Russia is stealthily threatening America with nuclear war
- The science of sex: 4 harsh truths about dating and mating
Subscribe to the Week