This past week President Obama made a major education speech in front of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. In the speech Obama laid out his policy proposals for improving Americaâ€™s schools. The good news is that his plan, at least for now, proposes no new legislative initiatives. The bad news is that the president did not propose to end Bushâ€™s No Child Left Behind (NCLB) program. Thus, the president of change is once again reneging on his campaign promise.
This wouldnâ€™t be so bad if our education system was in good shape. The previous president was a neanderthal in many ways including his views on education. As a teacher myself, Bushâ€™s NCLB legislation is one of the many reasons why I chose to teach abroad. I can honestly say that I have never spoken to an education colleague who has any fondness for the program. The reason is simple: the NCLB program is exactly the opposite of what we should be doing to prepare our students for the world of the future.
So what does NCLB mandate? Essentially, the mandate is for schools to improve the academic achievement of their students. That sounds fair enough, but the problem is that it seeks to measure this achievement through standardized testing. What is wrong with this assessment approach since teachers have traditionally used tests to grade their students? Lots. First of all, and this is from my personal experience and the experience of many of my colleagues, enormous pressure is placed on teachers from school administrators to constantly work to improve test scores because if schools do not improve scores there are strict penalties like a cut in funding or outright takeover of the school by federal and state officials. Consequently, teachers have become test preparers instead of instructors of critical thinking and problem solving skills. The tests trump all beneficial features of a holistic education. There is not enough time for field trips, music, the arts, and physical education because maximum time must be given to drill and kill exercises in math and English to prepare for the tests.