The Senate recently approved a revised version of “No Child Left Behind”, otherwise known by some as “No Child Left Untested”. This is the first time in 14 years a revised education policy has passed in the Senate.
The House has its own version which now requires a face-off, Senate vs House.
As Jennifer Steinhauer of the New York Times reports, both bills prohibit the federal government from setting academic standards as Common Core has done. As a teacher I know that when a new student arrives in my classroom, especially from another state, there is no way I can take for granted that specific mathematics, reading, science, and history skills have been introduced or sufficiently mastered.
Presently, if a student is from certain regions of the country, his/her preparation will most likely be superior or lacking – the federal government setting standards and evaluating them through testing could alleviate this problem.
In both versions local governments receive more control, but funding and federal government involvement policies differ.
The sticking point lies between Democrat and Republican views of how much the federal government should be involved.
The House version, proposed by Republicans, includes provisions which decrease the role of the federal government and allow low income students to transfer federal dollars between districts. While it caps annual spending, it would also let parents opt out of federal testing requirements, and do the same with Common Core.
The Obama administration believes this could shift needed funds away from districts in need and because the House bill does not require states to match federal funding, instead relying upon federal dollars, would allow states and localities to cut local education funding. The House bill also eliminates dedicated funding for school improvement.
The House bill would eliminate 70 federally funded education programs and instead offer block grants to states which would then create their own education requirements.
The Senate bill, backed by Democrats, continues to rely upon states administering tests and provides funding for school improvements. It says nothing about overall funding, however, leaving this to be decided in committee.
The Senate bill adds new programs, especially early education programs and eliminates or consolidates some. Democrats want schools to be held accountable to some form of government while recognizing that states should have more say in how test results and similar evaluation measures are utilized.
Tests would still be a significant accountability factor.
No Child Left Behind is an excellent example of the saying, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”
We have evolved from the 1970s, “It’s All about Your Self Concept!” approach in which giving a failing grade was discouraged; to the 1980s and 1990s, “Everybody Gets a Trophy!”; to the 2000s, “No Child Left Behind!” in which everybody is tested and the tests are watered down so that most can pass; to the quandary in today’s Congress with states sick of entire school years devoted to preparing students for testing rather than learning .
Will we revert to the 1970s or 1980s approaches? Or can we actually progress and employ reasonable testing and teachers’ and colleagues’ observations to evaluate achievement which is reasonably in line with other students throughout the nation?
Congress will decide?