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Obama on No Child Left Behind (page 2)

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Updated on Jul 26, 2010

There have been a number of criticisms of NCLB over the years:

Lack of Flexibility

“I think the major flaw with NCLB is that they treat all schools as equal,” says Adam Thibault, Policy Director for Strong American Schools, a nonpartisan public awareness and advocacy organization. “Schools are not given credit for making incremental improvements, and I think there has to be more flexibility within the system.”

Obama addresses this concern by suggesting a system that evaluates continuous progress along the learning continuum. This would mean using assessments for schools, teachers, and students that take into account their starting point as well as their resources.

Punitive Approach

Another criticism has been the emphasis on high-stakes standardized testing as a means of measuring student learning. Many believe that since NCLB, teachers have become overly focused on the testing rather than student learning. “It’s unfortunate,” Reed says. “NCLB has emphasized a deficit approach to teaching and learning rather than building and celebrating successes.”

Obama’s plan clearly states his belief that schools should be supported to improve, as opposed to focusing on punishments.

Standardized Testing

Reed is also concerned with the superficial nature of what standardized tests ask students. “I think we should be using authentic assessment practices,” Reed says. “End-of-year assessments could be developed where you look for opportunities to see how young people used their knowledge in meaningful ways.”

Obama has said that teachers should not be forced to spend the academic year preparing students to “fill in bubbles on standardized tests.” He says he will improve the assessments used to track student progress to measure readiness for college.

Teacher Qualification

Chavez would like to see a reevaluation of teacher qualification—specifically, what it means for a teacher to be highly qualified. Chavez doesn’t believe teacher education programs are necessarily the best way to train a teacher; having people who have a demonstrated proficiency in the subject that they’re going to teach, she says, is vital. “I think we need to be open to thinking more creatively and getting experienced professionals who want to be in the classroom and who want to share their expertise,” says Chavez. “I’m 61 years old, and I might know a great deal about constitutional law and American History, but if I wanted to teach part-time in the public school system after I retired, I couldn’t begin to do that.”

Obama’s Teaching Service Scholarship program will prioritize recruiting math, science, and technology degree graduates, and his Teacher Residency Program can place trained subject matter experts in high-need districts. Obama points to New York’s Math for America as an example of a successful program that “helps to build a community of excellent teachers to serve in high-needs areas.” Though the details of Obama’s teacher scholarship and residency programs are yet-to-be-seen, it is clear Obama has plans to recruit teachers who are not on the standard teacher education program track.

Future of NCLB
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