Most of the older generation know the frustration standing in line, watching as a gangly teen with messy hair scans their purchases. In our story today; the teller scans a mans items, looks at the register, and announces to the man that his total is $19.27. The man checking out places a $20.00 bill on the counter, but as the teller enters 2000 and looks at how much change to return, the man remembers he has two pennies. Not wanting even more pennies, he places the two pennies on the counter. The gangly teen is completely dumbfounded. He doesn’t know what to do. He looks around in a panic. The man checking out, tells him kindly, eighty-five cents. But the kid still doesn’t know if that’s right or wrong, and has no clue whatsoever. He calls over a manager. After explaining it to the manager, the manger stands there rubbing his chin, also clueless. Exasperated the man takes the pennies back and says: “Just give me the seventy-three cents.”. The man had hoped to get rid of a couple pennies, but ended up with a headache and three more pennies instead.
The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB) was a U.S. Act of Congress that reauthorized the Elementary and Secondary Education Act; it included Title I provisions applying to disadvantaged students. It supported standards-based education reform based on the premise that setting high standards and establishing measurable goals could improve individual outcomes in education. The Act required states to develop assessments in basic skills. To receive federal school funding, states had to give these assessments to all students at select grade levels.
The 670-page No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB) was passed with strong bipartisan backing by the United States House of Representatives passed the bill on May 23, 2001 (voting 384–45), and the United States Senate passed it on June 14, 2001 (voting 91–8). President Bush signed it into law on January 8, 2002.
The primary sponsors of NCLB were President George W. Bush and Sen. Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts, a decades-long advocate for raising the quality of public education for all American children. It was coauthored by Representatives John Boehner (R-OH), George Miller (D-CA), and Senators Edward Kennedy (D-MA) and Judd Gregg (R-NH). One of the principal authors of NCLB was Margaret Spellings, who was nominated to Secretary of Education in late 2004. Spellings, who holds a B.A. in political science from University of Houston, has never worked in a school system, and has no formal training in education.
The problem with the legislation:
- The Bush Administration significantly underfunded NCLB at the state level, and yet, required states to comply with all provisions of NCLB or risk losing federal funds.
- Sen. Ted Kennedy, a sponsor of NCLB and Senate Education Committee Chair stated that: “The tragedy is that these long overdue reforms are finally in place, but the funds are not.”
- As a result, most states have been forced to make budget cuts in non-tested school subjects such as science, foreign languages, social studies and arts programs, and for books, field trips and school supplies.
- Teachers and parents charge that NCLB encourages, and rewards, teaching children to score well on the test, rather than teaching with a primary goal of learning. As a result, teachers are pressured to teach a narrow set of test-taking skills and a test-limited range of knowledge.
- NCLB ignores many vital subjects, including science, history and foreign languages.
- Since states set their own standards and write their own standardized NCLB tests, states can compensate for inadequate student performance by setting very low standards and making tests unusually easy.
- Many contend that testing requirements for disabled and limited-English proficient students are unfair and unworkable.
- Critics allege that standardized tests contain cultural biases, and that educational quality can’t necessarily be evaluated by objective testing.
- NCLB sets very high teacher qualifications by requiring new teachers to possess one (or often more) college degrees in specific subjects and to pass a battery of proficiency tests. Existing teachers must also pass proficiency tests.
- These new requirements have caused major problems in obtaining qualified teachers in subjects (special education, science, math) and areas (rural, inner cities) where schools districts already have teacher shortages.
- Teachers especially object to the Bush 2007 proposal to allow districts to circumvent teacher contracts to transfer teachers to failing and poorly-performing schools.
By 2015, criticism from right, left, and center had accumulated so much that a bipartisan Congress stripped away the national features of No Child Left Behind. Its replacement, the Every Student Succeeds Act, turned the remnants over to the states. The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) is a US law passed in December 2015 that governs the United States K–12 public education policy. The law modified but did not eliminate provisions of its predecessor, the No Child Left Behind Act, and relating to the periodic standardized tests given to students. Like the No Child Left Behind Act, ESSA is a reauthorization of the 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which established the federal government’s expanded role in public education. Like the No Child Left Behind Act, the Every Student Succeeds Act passed both chambers of Congress with bipartisan support.
The problem with the legislation:
- Nationally recognized tests are developed by national organizations.
- Everything is heavily reliant upon the Common Core which is wrought with its own set of problems.
- College admissions tests are designed to measure college readiness, not high school learning.
- The ELA portion of nationally recognized tests may adequately cover high school ELA classes, but the math, science, and civics portions of national tests often cover several subjects (like biology and chemistry) in one testing section.
- Calculating value-added at the high school level for state report cards could become very complicated, and even impossible, based on the grade in which students take the assessment.
- Performance assessments require significantly more time to develop, administer, and grade. Considering that some parents and teachers have recently been frustrated with when they receive test scores, it doesn’t seem likely that more grading time will be added.
- A lack of standardization in grading can lead to serious questions about validity and reliability—and the comparability that a fair state accountability system depends on.
The once “Golden Answer” to educational achievement – the Common Core State Standards Initiative, is an educational initiative in the United States that details what K–12 students should know in English language arts and mathematics at the end of each grade. The initiative is sponsored by the National Governors Association (NGA) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) and seeks to establish consistent educational standards across the states as well as ensure that students graduating from high school are prepared to enter credit-bearing courses at two- or four-year college programs or to enter the workforce.
Common Core’s appeal is based on claims that:
- It represents a tighter set of smarter standards focused on developing critical learning skills instead of mastering fragmented bits of knowledge.
- It requires more progressive, student-centered teaching with strong elements of collaborative and reflective learning.
- It will help equalize the playing field by raising expectations for all children, especially those suffering the worst effects of “drill and kill” test prep.
Despite the base on which the Common Core was built, and the good underlying intentions, Common Core remains fraught with problems of its own. Stan Karp put it the best:
Today everything about the Common Core, even the brand name—the Common Core State Standards—is contested because these standards were created as an instrument of contested policy. They have become part of a larger political project to remake public education in ways that go well beyond slogans about making sure every student graduates “college and career ready,” however that may be defined this year. We’re talking about implementing new national standards and tests for every school and district in the country in the wake of dramatic changes in the national and state context for education reform. These changes include:
- A 10-year experiment in the use of federally mandated standards and tests called No Child Left Behind (NCLB) that has been almost universally acknowledged as a failure.
- The adoption of test-based teacher evaluation frameworks in dozens of states, largely as a result of federal mandates.
- Multiple rounds of budget cuts and layoffs that have left 34 of the 50 states providing less funding for education than they did five years ago, and the elimination of more than 300,000 teaching positions.
- A wave of privatization that has increased the number of publicly funded but privately run charter schools by 50 percent, while nearly 4,000 public schools have been closed in the same period.
- An appalling increase in the inequality and child poverty surrounding our schools, categories in which the United States leads the world and that tell us far more about the source of our educational problems than the uneven quality of state curriculum standards.
- A dramatic increase in the cost and debt burden of college access.
- A massively well-financed campaign of billionaires and politically powerful advocacy organizations that seeks to replace our current system of public education—which, for all its many flaws, is probably the most democratic institution we have and one that has done far more to address inequality, offer hope, and provide opportunity than the country’s financial, economic, political, and media institutions—with a market-based, non-unionized, privately managed system.
And as a result, the problems have become mountains which must be scaled by the student, the educator, and the parents.
- The arrival of the tests will pre-empt the already too short period teachers and schools have to review the standards and develop appropriate curriculum responses before that space is filled by the assessments themselves.
- Instead of reversing the mania for over-testing, the new assessments will extend it with pre-tests, interim tests, post-tests, and computer-based “performance assessments.” It’s the difference between giving a patient a blood test and draining the patient’s blood.
- The scores will be plugged into data systems that will generate value-added measures, student growth percentiles, and other imaginary numbers for what I call psychometric astrology. The inaccurate and unreliable practice of using test scores for teacher evaluation will distort the assessments before they’re even in place, and has the potential to make Common Core implementation part of the assault on the teaching profession instead of a renewal of it.
- If the Common Core’s college- and career-ready performance levels become the standard for high school graduation, it will push more kids out of high school than it will prepare for college. The most vulnerable students will be the most at risk. As FairTest put it: “If a child struggles to clear the high bar at 5 feet, she will not become a ‘world-class’ jumper because someone raised the bar to 6 feet and yelled ‘jump higher,’ or if her ‘poor’ performance is used to punish her coach.”
- The costs of the tests, which have multiple pieces throughout the year and must be given on computers many schools don’t have, will be enormous and will come at the expense of more important things. The plunging scores will be used as an excuse to close more public schools and open more privatized charters and voucher schools, especially in poor communities of color.
- Standards shouldn’t be attached to school subjects, but to the qualities of mind it’s hoped the study of school subjects promotes. Subjects are mere tools, just as scalpels, acetylene torches, and transits are tools. Surgeons, welders, surveyors and teachers should be held accountable for the quality of what they produce, not how they produce it.
- The world changes. The future is indiscernible.
- The Common Core Standards assume that what kids need to know is covered by one or another of the traditional core subjects.
- So much attention is being given the Common Core Standards, the main reason for poor student performance is being ignored; a level of childhood poverty the consequences of which no amount of schooling can effectively counter.
- The Common Core kills innovation.
- The Common Core Standards are a set-up for national standardized tests, tests that can’t evaluate complex thought, can’t avoid cultural bias, can’t measure non-verbal learning, can’t predict anything of consequence.
- The word “standards” gets an approving nod from the public because it means “performance that meets a standard.” However, the word also means “like everybody else,” and standardizing minds is what the Standards try to do.
- The Common Core Standards’ stated aim, “success in college and careers” is ridiculous, and nowhere near approaches said aim.
Regardless of what you believe regarding the aforementioned Acts and Common Core Standards Initiative, it is clear to anyone living in our present reality (gangly teens excluded) that our standards have fallen considerably. Whether you judge based off of what you learned at a particular grade level versus what your children are learning at that same grade level, or if you take a look back further to the 1912 curriculum for eighth graders and realize that most high schoolers of the current generation would be unable to pass, the end conclusion is the same. We are getting stupider. For now, the cause remains to be unveiled, though many point to technology.