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NCLB Act has done little to help kids in impoverished school districts

Diane Ravitch is a leading critic of current education policy in the U.S.
Diane Ravitch is a leading critic of current education policy in the U.S.
Photo by Michael Buckner/Getty Images

A recent American Educational Research Association study concludes that the Bush era No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) has had some positive effects.

The article claims that though the majority of teachers may feel that NCLB encourages “teaching to the testing” on core curriculum subjects, they still think they and their students benefit from the focus the act imposes. The report concludes that educators believe the cut-and dried NCLB regimen allows them more time to develop new educational approaches.

Last year’s American Enterprise Institute report for the National Research Initiative also bears out that NCLB has had some good results. The AEI authors say we have learned enough from first-generation initiatives, including NCLB, to “make future education efforts more productive,” especially at the local level.

However, as former Assistant Secretary of Education, Diane Ravitch continues to remind us, initiatives like NCLB have thus far done little to guarantee impoverished school districts will have essentials like counselors, up-to-date school buildings, and enough resources to ensure personal safety. Moreover, Ravitch and others think “top-down” Federal programs such as Race to the Top (RTTT) that have followed in the footsteps of NCLB have not corrected these failures.

Instead of meeting urgent needs of deprived kids, NCLB, RTTT, and politicians at all levels of government set performance goals that have proven unrealistic for these students. For example, the NCLB demanded 100 percent proficiency in just one year in reading and math for immigrant students.

Many educators believe most of the goals promoted through NCLB and other top-down government programs should remain secondary in importance to resolving social and economic issues in and outside local schools. We cannot hope that disenfranchised kids will somehow become productive citizens without coordinated grass-root initiatives to help them help themselves.