Latest school performance data reveals conflicting state and
federal laws don’t accurately measure achievement nor produce
Much hand-wringing is undoubtedly occurring in homes, teachers’ lounges, principals’ offices and district headquarters in Morgan Hill after the tumble many public schools posted in the latest API scores.
We think that hand-wringing is more appropriate in the halls of Congress. These test scores, and, for that matter, the entire five-year No Child Left Behind experiment, show that the law is flawed and needs to be dramatically overhauled or scrapped.
We support the notion of accountability, but clearly this law has had too many unintended consequences. We all hear stories of teachers being forced to teach to the test, of creative teaching techniques being stifled, of students being drilled for tests and not experiencing the joy of learning, of school boards altering curricula not because the changes are in the best interest of students, but in the best interest, they hope, of test scores.
The law’s fatal flaw, we believe, is that it focuses on test scores, instead of focusing on producing well-educated students who will become lifelong learners.
We wish we had the answer to achieving accountability while preserving creativity in students and teachers and producing well-educated students, but we don’t – it’s a complicated problem and will likely have many solutions, not one simple solution.
However, we suspect that effective solutions will most likely spring up from the local level, not be forced down from federal level.
We also suspect that useful testing will be done for diagnostic purposes instead of punitive purposes, and will have results that are available to teachers instantly, so that they can address students’ challenges and leverage their strengths in the classroom, not months later when the data’s value is vastly diminished except to office-bound bureaucrats.
Congress is considering tweaking No Child Left Behind. At the very least, the law needs major changes, but we suspect that it would be best to simply end the program. No Child Left Behind’s unintended consequences have been severe. Those consequences will be borne by our society over the next few generations.
Let’s find a better way, and let’s allow educators, not bureaucrats, find it.