Another day, another wasteful federal dollar spent. This time the culprit is No Child Left Behind (NCLB), the massive federal education program passed with overwhelming bi-partisan support in Congress and signed into law by President George W. Bush in January 2002. NCLB was intended to improve education standards in America's dismal public schools. It should have been named No Bureaucracy Left Behind instead.
I opposed NCLB from the beginning. Why? Because education is a local concern. There is simply no way that all public schools from New York City to Alaska have the same problems that require a one-size-fits-all solution. Our public schools are in desperate need of reform. Nobody would argue with that except the teachers unions, which have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo. But throwing money at schools and requiring national testing is like cutting off a limb when the whole tree is rotten and should be cut down. Money and testing will not solve the root problems of our public education system, which in many cases are too pernicious to be handled by bureaucrats in Washington, D.C.
In the years since its enactment, NCLB has done little more than add another layer of bureaucracy to education. Has it made successful progress towards assuring that every American child can read and do math at grade level by 2014 and that all teachers are "highly qualified?" The results are not encouraging.
The report from the Department of Education (DOE) states that NCLB is fulfilling its promises because "all 50 states and D.C. assess students in grades 3-8 and once in high school in reading / language arts and mathematics; the percentage of classes taught by a highly qualified teacher has risen to over 90 percent; nearly 450,000 eligible students have received free supplemental educational services (tutoring) or public school choice." This tells us very little about actual student achievement. DOE says student reading and math scores are improving but not that every child in America can read and write at grade level yet. State test scores may be improving but what has happened is that schools are teaching to the test and have lowered the standards for "proficiency" because so much of their funding relies upon good scores. Whether that means students are learning skills they will retain and use for life is a different matter altogether.