The Beginning of the End for No Child Left Behind?

The phrase “standardized testing” elicits a wide variety of responses from educators, with most ranging between outright disgust and resigned acceptance. The 2001 law has caused the most sweeping changes throughout the nation’s education system in decades. No Child Left Behind (NCLB) requires yearly standardized tests be administered in order for public schools to receive federal funding, and schools that don’t improve consistently every year are punished. All of this may be about to change.

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According to recent articles from CNN and Education Week, teachers may soon have a little more control over what happens in the classroom and how students are tested. Currently, if public schools can’t meet certain “proficiency” standards, they have no choice but to accept funding penalties. However, the Obama administration recently made it a possibility for states to opt out of some requirements set by NCLB. Allowing states to claim these waivers will give state educators more power over achievement standards and the ability to treat public schools individually rather than as a single state-wide entity.

As of November 17, 2011, 11 states have applied for exemptions from the strict guidelines laid out by NCLB. A panel of judges, consisting of think tank researchers, state education workers and even school district educators, will approve or disapprove these requests as soon as December (more details of the process found at the Education Week blog). A second round of requests will open up in mid-February of 2012 and thereafter on a rolling timetable, allowing states that still believe they may benefit from exemptions to apply.

While the philosophical differences in this recent plan and NCLB are few, they are significant. Where public schools must adhere to a strict timeline for improvement under NCLB, the waivers will allow states to adopt their own timetables based on more localized information. Despite being still based on standardized testing, at least the new requirements have more of a chance to directly impact students.

It’s my view that the smaller the laws get and the more focus we pay individually to students, the better. I realize it’s impossible, given fewer teachers and more students than ever, to personally make sure every student learns to the best of their ability; but we can try, can’t we?

What do you think of NCLB and the role of standardized testing? Let us know below.

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