Everyone hates NCLB

Via Kevin Drum, I read this Economist poll about the popularity of No Child Left Behind. A rather overwhelming plurality of those surveyed said that it has hurt our schools. I don’t think I’ve met a single person who likes the law, although I chalked that up to the general political leanings of my friends. Perhaps repealing it would be something that can get “bipartisan support.”

On another note, the Wikipedia article says that people pronounce NCLB as “nicklebee.” Really? I have never heard that before. (Brandy, I’m looking at you).


8 thoughts on “Everyone hates NCLB

  1. Nope, never heard that one. Everyone around me calls it N-C-L-B or No Child Left Behind.

    And everyone (in the educational research community) hates it, pretty much. Most people think that standards and testing are a good thing in theory but have been so poorly executed that we’re better off without. There are a few people who think that we need harsher, nationwide standards, but I’ve generally found that it’s pretty easy to convince them that that would only exacerbate the problem.

    We’ve actually got a series of talks coming up on… Monday, I think? on improving NCLB. I think one of the talks claims that it actually has helped math scores. However, one of the big huge questions most people has is whether the tests are measuring anything meaningful/what we want to measure in the first place. Having a nation of kids who are better at taking standardized tests isn’t that helpful.

  2. What is sad about this bipartisan consensus is that there is good evidence that NCLB has been successful in improving math test scores.

    The above link is perhaps what a previous commenter alluded to. Anyway, I, for one, having taken a number of standardized tests during my education in the US, have no doubt either that these tests do an adequate job of measuring basic math knowledge or that basic math knowledge is something we generally want to measure in the first place.

    • Math is not the be-all and end-all of education though; as Brandy says, just because standards and testing can work in theory (which also implies just in one subject), that doesn’t mean they measure the right thing.

      Another point : innumeracy is endemic in the US. In the pursuit of “standards” would we rather promote basic numeracy or the ability to do multiplication tables? The test works on the latter, not the former.

      • Nevertheless, math proficiency is a pretty important part of what K-12 education is supposed to do.

        As for your second argument about standards and testing, its not specific to the NCLB, but rather applies to all tests everywhere. If you really take this argument seriously, you should be for the abolition of all testing in general.

    • I think that’s a pretty unfair characterization of my position. I am trying to point out that what we test may not be what we want to teach.

      You say “math proficiency is pretty important” but what does that mean? I’m not opposed to tests or standards, but what are the standards? What should people know? What skills should they have, given than some skills can be taught and evaluated more easily than others?

      It’s very easy to put the cart before the horse. Because we have a test for multiplication tables, clearly people should learn multiplication tables. That’s not science, that’s religion.

  3. It’s kind of like the health care bill: Supporters see it as an imperfect but important first step to achieving a better country, while opposition sees all the harmful unintended consequences (and parts that are more for politics than for helping people). But of course politicians want to have a feather in their cap, to tell their constituents that they helped get America back on track. Unfortunately that’s true all around.

  4. Another objection to NCLB is that, even if reading and math scores improve, it is at the expense of other subjects. From an economic perspective, anytime you design a high-stakes test, it means that things that are less relevant to that test get dumped. This means that home ec, arts, social studies, etc., but also anything in reading and math that isn’t tested.

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