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Four Myths of No Child Left Behind

Wednesday, May 1, 2013 -- Kristin Flynn

Since 2011, the U.S. Department of Education has granted waivers to 34 states and the District of Columbia exempting them from some of the core measures of No Child Left Behind (NCLB), and ten more states have waiver applications pending.

As Eric Smith, Florida's education commissioner from 2007 to 2010, points out in the April 29 Wall Street Journal opinion page, NCLB was based on the idea that schools should establish measurable educational goals and be held accountable for meeting them, and “This is the only proven formula for improving education in this country.” In his piece No Child Gets Left Behind Gets Left Behind he goes on to say that NCLB has “generated some amazing results, particularly in low-income minority communities,” and that opponents have relied on four myths to support wavers.

The myths include:

  • The federal government doesn't have a role to play in local education decisions.
  • Standardized tests are a poor means of measuring student learning.
  • NCLB unfairly holds teachers chiefly responsible for student performance.
  • The fact that so many states want waivers shows that the law didn't work.

Smith refutes these myths, while making the case that NCLB does indeed work. He goes on to say that despite the demonstrable overall successful results from NCLB that many schools can now repeatedly miss their annual measurable objectives with no significant consequences. This “isn't a reflection of NCLB's failure, but of failed political leadership in Washington.”

Of course, all of this is Mr. Smith's opinion, and the opinion we're most interested in is yours. Is Smith correct about either the myths or his refutations of them? Whatever your thoughts on NCLB, you might find the piece to be interesting.