1. News & Issues

Obama Bungling Education Reform by Pushing NCLB, Stringency

By March 14, 2011

Follow me on:

President Obama is beginning to seriously bungle his signature issue of education.

But apparently, neither the President nor his Chicago basketball buddy, Education Secretary Arne Duncan, have noticed the bold writing of failure on the wall.

Last week, Secretary Duncan revealed to Congress that this year, an almost preposterous 82% of all U.S. public schools will fail standards required by the No Child Left Behind Act... up from a 37% failure rate in 2010.

How does President Obama propose to dramatically reverse the failing course of U.S. public education?

By reauthorizing No Child Left Behind, modified by Obama's pet education reform program, Race to the Top, which requires "states to raise their standards for teaching, learning, and student achievement." (Source - President Obama's March 14, 2011 speech on Education).

Simply put, the Obama administration wants to raise standards because 82% of public schools are already failing existing standards.

Further, the President is pushing to raise standards by rigidly using his five Race to the Top reform requirements... the very same five reform requirements implemented in 2009 and 2010 that inherently affected the shocking upward spike in schools failing to meet existing NCLB standards.

Huh? Over the past decade, the American people have grown sadly used to illogical gobbledy-gook emanating from the White House. But the President's speech today might take the gobbledy-gook prize.

The facts are this:

  • The No Child Left Behind Act has obviously failed when 82% of all public schools have failed to reach its vaunted standards.
  • Raising standards even higher is laughable, as is loading more and harder standardized tests and measures on students and teachers.
  • A motherlode of top-down testing, and linking teacher salaries to test scores, only encourages teaching to the tests. It encourages neither learning nor skill-building. It clearly does nothing to inspire students.

At the basis of NCLB's drive for more and higher academic standards and measures is the errant conceit that every child should attend college. President Obama repeated that fallacy many times in his speech today.

Both Harvard-educated Obama and Harvard-educated Duncan firmly believe that, as the President remarked, "if you want a bright future, you're going to need a college degree or advanced training."

All middle-class and working parents realize, though, that...

  • every child is not meant to attend a four-year college;
  • every child isn't interested in attending a four-year college;
  • every child is not suited for a stringent college prep curriculum;
  • every child does not possess the maturity to directly enter college after high school;
  • every family can't afford to send their children to a four-year college, at least without incurring back-breaking debt.

And in 2011, a college degree is absolutely no guarantee of employment.

In his March 6, 2011 column, Degrees and Dollars, Nobel Laureate economist Paul Krugman deftly explained what every middle-class parents understands today:

"... the notion that putting more kids through college can restore the middle-class society we used to have is wishful thinking. It's no longer true that having a college degree guarantees that you'll get a good job, and it's becoming less true with each passing decade."

Don't get me wrong: I'm an ardent believer that every child should be educated to reach his or her top academic and career potential, which is a complex and individualized stew of characteristics and talents. Of our four children, two graduated from California public universities, one eventually from a for-profit university, and yes, our youngest is an undergraduate at an ultra-elite Ivy League school. I support a college education for the right reasons and in the right circumstances. But not every child need attend college to attain a secure, satisfying future.

The obvious solution is this: President Obama and Education Secretary Duncan should... must... change their education reform focus to growing and and inspiring the talents, skills and passions of American children.

No Child Left Behind must be changed to veer sharply away from being solely based on testing, testing, testing, and from punitive measures designed to penalize teachers, students, school districts and entire states for not living up to the federal government's narrow, top-down, one-size-fits-all version of "reaching every child in America."

Otherwise, the No Child Left Behind Act should not be reauthorized, but be left to expire and die.

Based on President Obama's speech today, he's set to badly bungle his earnest bid to reform U.S. public education by seeking to perpetuate the failing, present-day system built on stringent nationalized tests and standards.

Share your thoughts here at About.com at Readers Respond: Should "No Child Left Behind" Be Junked?


Comments are closed for this post.

Leave a Comment

Line and paragraph breaks are automatic. Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title="">, <b>, <i>, <strike>

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.