Fixing No Child Left Behind Requires Parent and Student Commitment

After nine years of reviewing the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), the public formed a strong enough opinion that their voice finally reached the top decision maker of our country. President Obama declared on March 14, 2011, that the NCLB Act needed fixing. I agreed with the president’s main points about NCLB’s purpose and also with the changes he proposed. Read on to discover how the changes the president suggested will not only impact classroom teaching, but how the changes will also require parents and students to make the effort successful.

Since its inception on January 8, 2002, the NCLB Act has impacted my students significantly. My current sophomores were merely six years old at the time. For each of the past nine years, these Michigan students took the state assessment known as the MEAP test, in order to gauge their proficiency of state standards in various subjects. Their school district was supposed to improve overall scores by a certain percentage to show “Adequate Yearly Progress” (AYP.) Inevitably, schools were charged with 100% of their students meeting a particular cut score that fluctuated year-to-year.

According to President Obama’s speech titled, “Fixing No Child Left Behind”, NCLB’s major problem included the use of a cut score. He stated that 80% of our nation’s schools would be labeled as failures based on the current mathematics behind the assessment, despite this not being the case. In fact, meeting the cut score seemed so insurmountable that 15 states resorted to lowering the cut score in order to deem its schools successful.

I wholeheartedly agreed when President Obama suggested that instead of using cut scores, my students would be deemed successful if they were ready for either a career or college upon graduation. In that simple concept, my teaching goals became student centered rather than test centered. I could believe in that goal, but would my students?

I discussed the president’s notion with my sophomores. At first they seemed frustrated that NCLB changes would be enacted this fall. The president’s modified NCLB would mean all students would have to put forth effort for 13 years straight rather than cramming for an annual exam. Some students were resistant to this concept and said, “This is just the president’s way to make school harder for us.”

As we continued our discussion, however, it became evident that a guarantee of success either in a career or at college would be worth their extra continual effort. Students believed that receiving high quality teachers who would be held accountable for their teaching would make learning easier and more fun. They also supported the president’s emphasis on funding education to help them with college, to improve poor schools, and to hire excellent teachers.

The NCLB Act impacted parents, too. To prepare students for life after high school and get them ahead on a path to academic excellence, parents should instill a love of learning. They should work to build their child’s self-confidence, establish disciplined behavior, and encourage a strong work ethic. These skills carry over into the classroom by developing inquisitive students who persevere when given a challenge.

Finally, over 42 states recently adopted common core standards, making it easier for students to transition between states or communities. The common core standards established the same standards for all school districts, thus making it easier for parents to know the academic expectations of their children. A school district should take proactive steps to educate their local community about these common core standards to make it easier for parents to participate in their child’s education.

With the modified NCLB Act in place, teachers and parents can use it to structure education, and help students become productive citizens of the 21st century.

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North Central Regional Educational Laboratory
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