Many States Opting to Leave Behind 'No Child Left Behind'

In early 2002, President George W. Bush signed into law the No Child Left Behind Act. Since its inception, the law has been met with confusion and animosity. Recently, President Obama has agreed to provide waivers that would allow states to opt out of this controversial program. So, have we seen the last of this education policy?

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No Waiver Left Behind

Colorado. Florida. Georgia. Massachusetts. New Jersey. Oklahoma. Tennessee.

In September, MSNBC.com reported that states were 'lining up' to opt out of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) program. Many of those who haven't yet gotten in line are at least considering doing so.

So far, 11 states have applied for these waivers, meeting the November 14th first-round deadline. As many as 28 states had indicated they would do so following the president's announcement in August. Many of the remaining states from that list are expected to file waiver applications by the second deadline, scheduled for mid-February.

'Teaching to the Test'

Basically, many felt that the testing standards imposed by the NCLB program left teachers 'teaching to the test' rather than teaching to the children, referring to the mandated standardized testing given to all 91,000 public schools across the United States. Test results are used to determine both teacher performance and student achievement.

Does this mean schools will no longer address accountability? Not at all. As one spokesman for a South Carolina superintendent told the Associated Press in September 2011: 'The waiver is not about getting out of accountability but a different way to meet the goal of accountability.'

In other words, states now have the freedom to develop their own systems that will include new teacher-evaluation methods and reforms to lowest-performing schools.

An 'A' for Effort

While Obama called NCLB flawed, he did point out that it had 'admirable goals' such as higher standards, accountability and closing the achievement gap that exists between students of different ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds.

But while Bush's plan gets an 'A' for effort, it fails in execution. Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, said it was a program of 'good intention and bad implementation'.

Obama's decision to abandon NCLB comes at a time when the United States is slipping behind many other developed countries when it comes to education. The president pointed out that the flaws in the NCLB program hurt rather than help schoolchildren. 'Our kids only get one shot at a decent education,' he said.

Life After NCLB

What opting out of the NCLB program means most of all is that schools no longer have to adhere to the law's requirement that all students be proficient in reading and math by 2014 or face unfavorable ratings and penalties.

This isn't to say that schools will simply allow students to fail. But the opt-out leaves schools with more ways in which to measure student progress than by using only test scores, which is the singular method NCLB employs.

It has been said that the cheating scandals that hit some school districts across the country over the past year, including those in Atlanta and Los Angles, might have been spurred in part by the focus placed on standardized tests under the NCLB policy.

In exchange for the waivers, states will need to agree to implement higher standards by 2014. These standards will include having students 'college or career-ready' rather than proficient in specific subjects. President Obama was quoted by CBS News in September as saying, 'The most important thing we can do is make sure that our kids are prepared for this new economy.'

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