On March 13, 2010, the Obama administration set out its proposed revisions for the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB).  I’m keenly interested in this move for a number of reasons, primarily because I have three children who will be affected by it.

NCLB is widely believed to have been very well intended, one of the few actions by President H.W. Bush that I think has any true merit.  Unfortunately, put into use, it has many practical flaws, many which should have been anticipated and others perhaps not.  I don’t think it is a complete failure in that it had some positive results, but by far, not what was intended – there are children “left behind” regularly and as a nation, we are certainly falling far behind in our children’s education, especially in science and mathematics.

Some basic successes include increased test scores, increased accountability for low-performing schools, narrowed educational disparity between white and minority children, the choice to enroll at a different school if the home school is considered failing, and increased funding to “Title I” schools (schools with more than 40% of children receiving free/reduced price meals).

Some of the oft-noted criticisms include a learning focus on standardized tests, no provisions/incentives to provide for above-grade performing or gifted children, lowered state standards so as to appear more successful, creatively classifying low-performing and at-risk children so as to appear more successful, lack of non-English assessments for non-English speakers, and a narrow scope of testing/curriculum, among other problems.

The changes would overhaul this system and attempt to focus on many of these criticisms.  You can read more of the proposed changes here.

The proposed changes call for states to adopt standards that ensure students are ready for college or a career rather than grade-level proficiency — the focus of the current law.

The blueprint also would allow states to use subjects other than reading and mathematics as part of their measurements for meeting federal goals, pleasing many education groups that have said No Child Left Behind encouraged teachers not to focus on history, art, science, social studies and other important subjects.

And, for the first time in 45 years, the White House is proposing a $4 billion increase in federal education spending, most of which would go to increase the competition among states for grant money and move away from formula-based funding.

By 2020, all students graduating from high school would need to be ready for college or a career. That’s a shift away from the current law, which calls for all students to be performing at grade level in reading and math by 2014.

Give more rewards — money and flexibility — to high-poverty schools that are seeing big gains in student achievement and use them as a model for other schools in low-income neighborhoods that struggle with performance.

Punish the lowest-performing 5 percent of schools using aggressive measures, such as having the state take over federal funding for poor students, replacing the principal and half the teaching staff or closing the school altogether.

Some critics contend that not all children need to be “college-ready” because many will go on to service industry jobs or other fields that don’t need college degrees.  Even so, I think it’s an admirable effort – even someone who is not bound for higher education is done no disservice by preparing him or her should she decide to attend – there is nothing bad about pushing kids to reach their potential, even while realizing that some have more potential than others.  In addition, kids would be offered career training, for those who are not college bound.

As divided as the country is on the healthcare issue, education might be one of the concerns that brings the country closer – every parent, every family, wants the best for their children.  By all accounts, left and right, but most importantly by educators, our children are simply not being served well by NCLB.  I think this education reform package will be a really positive move that may cost us in the short term, but reap dividends later. 

I’ll be keeping my eye on these developments and doing some more research on this matter – I haven’t done all my research yet, I’ll admit, but what I have seen does look positive as a parent.

What is a well-educated child worth?  I’m not sure, but I’d estimate quite a bit in terms of innovation for our country, scientific developments, even just self-sufficiency or being a productive member of society. 

Perhaps more telling, what does a poorly-educated child cost us in terms of social assistance, in terms of prison upkeep, and in terms of perpetuation of poverty?  A lot – a whole lot.



  1. Chauntae said,

    March 30, 2010 at 12:04 am

    Wow. I don’t know what to think, either. I’m with you. Interesting, for sure. Would definitely cause me to consider regular public education for my children because as it stands right now, there is a very strong possibility that next year they will be attending a charter school.

    • March 30, 2010 at 10:13 am

      The charter schools here are often sub-par. The few that I know are good (very very good) look for at-risk youth by choice as one of their criteria. We’ve been very pleased with the kindergarten teacher at our local school – I can’t get over the fact that they have learned syllables, punctuation including quotation marks, addition and subtraction… I am sure we didn’t learn any of that until much later!

  2. March 31, 2010 at 12:35 pm

    […] Reconciliation Act was signed this week.  The Obama administration has set out some huge, promising changes to NCLB.  He unveiled a comprehensive energy plan just this […]

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