By Wiha Powell
Decades ago, the United States ranked first in the world in the number of young adults who had high school diplomas. As of today, compared to Europe and Asia, 15 year-old students in the U.S. are ranked just above average in reading and science and below average in math. Moreover, according to OECD (Organization of Economic Co-operation and Development) 2009 Program for International Student Assessment, the United States ranked 17th in reading, 23rd in science, and 31st in math.
One of the major issues with our education system is the declining knowledge and understanding of history, geography, grammar, civics and literature. However, in the attempt to solve the education dilemma politicians, community leaders, along with the education community all sing the same old song, “students fails because expectations are not high enough” or “we need more accountability”. With this lingering tune, the only solutions that they proposed is to pump more money into the education system, so that teachers receive better pay and children are placed in smaller classrooms in order to receive enough attention.
Yet, with such significant changes within our education system the question remains, “Why are our students becoming more and more illiterate each year?” Furthermore, is pumping more money into schools really addressing the problem or is there an unknown secret political agenda? Instead of ‘adding fuel to fire’, these ‘education experts’ should focus on the root of the problem-No Child Left Behind Act.
After taking office in January 2001, former President George W. Bush made education his number one agenda. His first policy proposal was the “No Child Left Behind” Act (NCLB Act). According to the President, he wanted to tackle the growing problem of illiteracy among American children and the low standard of test scores. His policy addressed three specific ideologies:
1) annual testing for grades 3-8 to ensure that schools are actually teaching children;
2) give parents the choice to find schools that produce results within their district. However, President Bush gave schools specific time-period to improve and if they failed, parents have the option of going to a more successful school by way of a voucher plan;
3) “flexibility for accountability,” which means giving the control back to local and state schools boards. However, it was made clear that federal funding will stop if failing schools fails to improve. The Act’s main purpose is to have every student in America be proficient in reading and math by 2014.
On the surface, the NCLB Act seems like a fresh new start for the American’s education system, but carefully sifting through the act proves otherwise. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), high schools across the nation are receiving a significant amount of attention from both state and federal interest groups. These high schools are being called upon to renew their curriculum, methodology, as well as teacher/student relationship in order to better serve the needs of the students.
Currently, there are a record number of high school graduates who are not adequately prepared for postsecondary education or for the competitiveness of the workforce. According to NCSL, a survey done by Achieve Inc. stated that college instructors estimated that more than 40 percent of high school graduates are not ready for college courses, and up to 30 percent of first-year postsecondary education students take remedial courses upon entering college. In the same survey, employers estimated that 45 percent of high school graduates lack the skills to advance beyond entry-level jobs.
At this time, the Obama Administration claims that the NCLB Act shines light on achievement gaps and increased accountability for high-need students; however, it encourages states to lower their standards and narrow their curriculum to focus mainly on test scores instead of student growth and gains. The goal of the Obama Administration is to find a way to give states and districts flexibility to develop solutions locally under the NCLB Act to address their educational challenges while protecting children and holding schools accountable for better preparing young people for college and careers.
It is extremely clear that the NCLB Act is not practical and it is also clear that over the last decade the federal education policies that are being introduced are leading our education system down a destructive path that has severely impacted the traditional public school system. Our education system is desperately crying out for help; to solve this problem America needs to attack the root-the different non-functional education program of the federal government, e.g., the NCLB Act. If it does not work, get rid of it. It is about time the government takes the political agenda out of education, and return back to the traditional education system where students actually learn skills such as reading, writing, science and math that prepare them for college or careers.