NCLB Problems: Return of the Trojan Horse
Do not trust the Horse, Trojans… whatever it is, I fear the Greeks even bearing gifts, warned Laocoőnof Greek mythology even as the people of Troy opened their city gates to the one thing that could destroy them.
Education opened its gates to NCLB but the gift of government assistance, however well intended, now threatens to destroy rather than repair education. The Trojan horse has returned.
The publication of A Nation at Risk in 1983 fueled concerns about the state of public education, student achievement, and teacher quality. These concerns continue to dominate national discussion and political debate and despite the best efforts of people like David Berliner (1995. 2007) and Gerald Bracey (2002, 2003, 2004, 2007), most of that discussion over the last twenty-six years has not been based on fact or competent analysis.
Most troubling, is the federal government’s role in public education which continued to deepen in June 2009, when President Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) which included more than $100 billion, (the largest one-time Federal investment in education in our nation’s history) to “…help save and create teaching jobs, preserve needed learning programs, and increase college access.” (Ed.gov 2009)
NCLB has substantially shifted the locus of control of public education from the states to the federal government. Christopher Cross suggested that:
The No Child Left Behind act of 2001 transformed the federal government’s role in education, moving it, in a musical sense, from second chair status in the orchestra, to the conductor’s podium. The government is now almost literally in the position of setting the stage for all the other players. The conductor can call in the string section (highly qualified teachers), cue the wind-section (supplementary-service providers), maintain the drama through the percussionists (adequate yearly progress), and conclude with a stunning finish that brings everyone to their feet (accountability). (Cross 2006)
Some argue leaving no child behind has resulted in what former Secretary Paige called the “civil right of learning.” (Ed.Gov 2009) Teacher quality is a central component of NCLB. Every student must have a “highly qualified teacher” in every core area—or the school and the district will be punished and the parents given the choice to move their child to another school.
What is a highly qualified teacher? What is the most effective way to prepare highly qualified teachers? Although it is too early to know where President Obama stands, the clear message coming out of Washington, D.C. and the Bush administration during 2008 reauthorization debates was that the public cannot trust the states or colleges of Education to prepare high quality teachers. So much faith were put in tests that testing alone was regarded as equal to, if not superior to, traditional teacher preparation programs (Ed Gov 2009).
A few trends resulting from NCLB which threaten to undermine the quality of teacher preparation in our Colleges and Schools of Education include:
- Teacher preparation programs will be held more accountable for teacher quality, as measured by an increasing battery of tests and, ultimately, student achievement.
- Teacher preparation programs will face an increasing number of test-based alternative providers.
- Teacher preparation programs will be subject to greater levels of federal intervention and control.
- Teacher preparation programs will need to resist the inevitable impetus to become merely test-prep programs.
- Teacher preparation programs will increasingly be targeted as the cause of the inevitably growing number of schools judged to be “failing schools.”
- States and individual professional programs will need to cooperate and collaborate to produce a single, credible set of standards and passing scores to replace the current uneven and unconvincing set of teacher preparation expectations.
Ironically, NCLB advocates “research/evidence-based practice” yet there is a paucity of compelling scientific evidence supporting current public policy decisions related to public education. Schools and colleges of Education (and their faculty) must first commit to finding research based evidence to policy questions before data-informed practices can be adopted. Empirically based data is desperately needed to counter the pernicious but pervasive of the myths presently driving the discussion—e.g. “anyone can teach,” “Education courses are worthless,” and “students who go into teaching are among the least academically accomplished.” Systematic and compelling answers to literally dozens of issues are begged for:
- What skills and knowledge are critical to being an effective teacher?
- What subject matter knowledge is required to be an effective teacher?
- Does knowledge of pedagogy contribute to a teacher’s effectiveness?
- Are accredited programs superior to programs that are not accredited?
- Coats and Car Seats: A Lethal Combination?
- Kindergarten Sight Words List
- Signs Your Child Might Have Asperger's Syndrome
- Child Development Theories
- 10 Fun Activities for Children with Autism
- Social Cognitive Theory
- Why is Play Important? Social and Emotional Development, Physical Development, Creative Development
- GED Math Practice Test 1
- Problems With Standardized Testing
- The Homework Debate