Do you think NCLB is good for all students? Concerned about the self esteem of borderline students.

Expert Answers
Lorraine Caplan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I would imagine that you will receive many responses to this inquiry, and you might want to put it on the discussion board, so that we can have a kind of dialogue. 

I think that NCLB had one positive effect.  It made people start thinking and talking about education, and it symbolized an effort to make education a national priority. That was a great benefit, but that was the only benefit, in my opinion.

The biggest problem with NCLB is the tendency to "teach to the test."  This tendency is the result of creating so many dire consequences for the school that produces poor test scores.  This tendency to focus almost exclusively on tests that  measure only one's ability to take standardized tests,but that do not measure one's learning, has harmed our students in innumerable ways.

First, where is the joy in learning when the focus is on standardized tests? Second, where is the classroom in which a child may construct his or her knowledge through experiential means?  Third, what happens to teachable moments, which are like diamonds sprinkled through the teaching day? Fourth, since we have tested almost exclusively for math, reading, and writing skills, what has happened to art, music, and even social studies and science? Given enough time and space, I could go on to infinity with my list of harms.

Now, as for standardized testing, I agree that we need to measure the progress of students.  But the results of these tests are to hold a school's feet to the fire (a poor metaphor, I agree), not to help individual students.  If we are to leave no child behind, why are we not required to use testing to assess the progress of the individual? Why are we not then required to use that assessment to improve that student's learning?  It is nice to know the big picture, but we are teaching trees, not forests. (How is that for a mixed metaphor?) 

How does standardized testing measure learning?  It does not.  It measures a student's ability to use standardized test-taking strategies, those we have all been taught, for example, to eliminate the two most unlikely answers and focus on the two that remain.  Can the student who is able to do this make connections among ideas, think critically about problems and solutions, or approach problems creatively?  Maybe, but maybe not.  How will we ever know? Our next Einstein or Hawking will not emerge as the result of standardized testing, nor will our next Picasso or Mozart.

This is turning into a bit of a rant, but I am not done yet! NCLB is indicative of a movement to conduct education with a business model.  This was great for the Model-T, but I am not interested in an assembly-line classroom. What is the bottom line in education? What makes us "profitable"?  The profit of the public education system lies in the future, and is thus immeasurable. Our product is the future participant in democracy, a thinking, working, and responsible participant whose work and ideas will contribute to the greater good.  NCLB has dismantled that ideal to the detriment of all of us. 

Jen Sambdman eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I teach remedial English and about half of my kids are deemed behavior/emotionally compromised or at-risk youth with a sprinkle of ESL kids here and there. About 98% of my kids having an IEP (Individual Education Plan). NCLB doesn't provide differentiation that we all, but especially teachers in my position, have to use every day in our classrooms.

My kid who reads at a 6th grade reading level when he is a junior taking this test is not going to be able to do well to show that he is getting the education he deserves. Yeah, he is a junior reading at a low level, but if the state was aware of the fact that when he came to me freshmen year he was at a 2nd grade reading level they could see there is TREMENDOUS amounts of learning happeneing. He is learning and learning well. Granted he is not where his peers in the regular or advance track are but that is not because he is not being taught properly, it is because he has developmental, learning, emotional and all kinds of other disabilities that hinder the learning and connective process.

As crappy as it may sound, it is a realistic thought that maybe 1 of my graduating seniors a year (out of about 12) will go on to community college. Most will work in a factory setting or a specialized field like welding or linemen. That is what they do. That is what they are capable of. I am not dealing with Harvard bound or even state university bound kids here. NCLB doesn't show the value of discussion, examination and rhetoric discussed in my classroom to get my kids to learn how to think an idea through and question and analyze for their own purposes to become productive members of society.

What about my freshman this year who has a processing problem where she cant use her mind's eye? You ask her to describe her sister physically and she cant because she cant create pictures from memory in her mind. She recognizes her sister, but cant tell you about her. How is she going to fair according to NCLB? She has made great progress already but she isn't going to shatter the test scores and earn the school any points.

It is all a bunch of baloney if you ask me. You have to gauge students' learning on an individual basis, just like we are all asked to teach them as individuals, but there is no feasible way to do this. Period.

Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The previous posts did a very good and thorough job of explaining their points of view.  I might want to posit one other element about the notion of NCLB and standards based reform in terms of at risk students.  I should begin with my own view on it, which is that the difference between NCLB in theory and in practice are two different elements.  Part of the growth of standards based education reform (SBER) and, in particular, NCLB was the idea that many of our students were becoming lost in terms of measuring their progress and identifying where improvement was needed.  The understanding at the time was that teaching was imprecise, vague in its identification of goals and objectives and subject to interpretation.  The desire to streamline learning in terms of SBER and its accountable counterpart in NCLB was driven, in part, in the desire of being able to identify in students what students had to know in order to be deemed competent and how the needs of all students can be met.  At risk students were deemed as being able to benefit the most from SBER and NCLB because there would be strict recoding of what these students knew and what they needed to know.  The ability to identify and diagnose such elements would allow a greater relevancy in the education of all students.

Having said this, I think that the implementation of SBER and NCLB has probably done more harm than good.  In no way was the standards movement intending to create public schooling in the manner it is now, where high stakes standardized testing controls so much of schools, teachers, administrators, and, of course, students.  The idea behind it was to empower students, making them aware of what they were learning, why it is important and critical, and how they, themselves, would know why they were learning what they are learning.  The reality is that it has been misapplied and the result has been fairly painful for students who are at risk of failing or who have been deemed as "not successful" via the results of a standardized test.

hero5 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I agree with all of those that posted before me. NCLB has been extremely harmful to our students with special needs. Many students are persuaded to drop out of high school and to continue their education in 'night school' and get the GED. Again, I don't have the link for that as I have read so many articles. I do know for a fact it is happening where I teach.

I do want to mention the students that are advanced or gifted. NCLB has affected them in a detrimental way as well. When we begin to teach to a test instead of individualizing instruction as much as possible every child loses. With all of our focus on borderline students we are losing our low level learners and our high level learns as well. It is assumed that our advanced students will achieve no matter what. They simply like to learn and are fast learners so they will be fine. This could not be further from the truth. If they are not challenged and consideration is not given to their needs we will lose them too. A gifted child, when lost, worries me just as much as a special education child.

What it comes down to is that these are all children who deserve our time and attention and all the guidance and knowledge we have to offer. When we feel pressured to have every child pass or test or our school funding and our jobs are at risk, we're losing sight of the reason that we are teachers.

ksduncan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The previous points are all very eloquent and appropriate. I feel that NCLB is a huge detriment to the special needs population and to those students who do not fit the "average" profile. The idea that all students should pass a standardized test to meet specific criteria goes against some of the main premises about individualized education. In the classroom teachers are expected to individualize lesson plans and assessments to fit the students needs. However, giving all students one test and expecting a specific outcome is unfair. Not all students test well despite the fact that they may possess the knowledge, and in some cases be advanced for the their age. They cannot demonstrate this on an outcome based test. Now these tests have become high stakes- forcing students to pass them in order to advance a grade or graduate with a diploma. NCLB leaves no room for alternative means of assessment. I see it basically as a way for politicians to manipulate statistics that "show" how they are improving the educational system and appease the public. Those in the public who are not aware how the system works, which is pretty much anyone not involved in an educational profession, only see the grade assigned to a praticular school or district with no idea of hwo that grade was attained. There are just too many fallacies to NCLB.

brettd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In my state, we refer to it as No Child Left Standing.  Despite a few positive aspects, such as restarting a national education dialogue, it has mainly just led to a high stakes testing atmosphere that is killing creativity and analysis in our students.  These past two years we have seen the first students come through who have taken the NCLB mandated exam since 4th grade.  They are markedly different in their motivation and drive to learn - what is the correct answer and what is the minimum I need to know for the test? becomes the driving force.  Learning for learning's sake has been thrown under the bus.

What's more, now that we are in a national recession, many states are cutting back on their statewide exam so that is cheaper and simpler to administer, removing any real value the test may have had.

Many people also don't realize a little known clause in NCLB that requires high schools to provide military recruiters with the personal information of students, including phone numbers, unless the student/parents specifically opt out.  No opt out form is provided, you have to create your own.

I'm not a fan of NCLB, to say the least.

lynn30k eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Exactly. As the previous poster says, the kids with IEPs are really badly affected by NCLB. By 2012, everyone is supposed to be proficient?? Really? Granted, there are alternative tests for kids who function at a very low level, but we are supposed to keep the number taking alt. tests low or it reflects negatively on the school. I teach children who will never test at that level, as either their learning disabilities, distractability or other issues will simply not allow it, no matter how many accomodations and modifications are made. We were actually told, a couple of years ago, to ID the kids who were on the borderline between levels, and concentrate more of our efforts on them. Are you kidding me? I have to teach ALL my students to the best of my ability, and was offended that such a suggestion would even be made.

Anyway, NCLB does indeed suppose a business model will effect change, and I am in the business of individualizing my instruction....cross purposes, at best.

fernholz eNotes educator| Certified Educator

As a middle school Reading teacher I feel the pressure of NCLB. Our Superintendent and school board have started pointing fingers at certain individuals. It seems like Reading and Math teachers are those most affected by this.

This is my third year teaching and I feel like I'm doing the best for all my students. I approached our principal with information about ability grouping based on NWEA/MCA scores. As I was preparing for the meeting I thought of questions he might ask. Differentiation came to mind. Some of my students still need help with phonics, while others are reading at a 10th/11th grade level. It's nearly impossible to differentiate without hurt feelings.

Overall state testing measures student achievement, but how many of our students are giving their best effort? Some students are dealing with problems at home and can hardly think straight in school. Should our funding be taken away when we are the schools who truly need help?

timbrady eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Nothing is good for ALL students.

The problem(s) that I suspect NCLB tried to address were  1) some students were not getting an appropriate education and 2) some students were getting a sub-par education because there were no standards they had to meet.  Although academic freedom is a good idea, there have to be some basic ideas/concepts/facts that are part of everyone's "good" education.

The problem has become "teaching to the test."  Theoretically this should not be a problem if the test tests the things students must know.  (You might recognize this as Outcome Based Education ala Bill Spady).  If the tests are good, they will be a guide to good teaching.

Perhaps its application is a bit too proscriptive, but I think the concept is good ... but it needs to be revisited/reworked periodically to keep IT on task.

dkgarran eNotes educator| Certified Educator

NCLB isn't helping anyone. Special education students are protected by laws which require teachers to go above and beyond as far as accommodating those students' needs. What is most frustrating to me is the fact that there is no legislation to protect the "smart kids." Where are the laws mandating services for exceptionally gifted students? And where is the motivation to help "average" students improve their grades and meet their potential?

As a teacher, I have no problem with standardized tests; how will you know if I'm doing my job otherwise? However, high stakes testing alone is not enough to assess a teacher's performance.

ask996 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Definitely not.All good teachers recognize (and research proves this) that students must be viewed as and taught as individuals. The NCLB negates this by mandating that all students reach one standard. The very nature of NCLB is, in fact, leaving some of our children behind.

Take our special education kids for example. In order to help them rise to the levels that NCLB mandates, many special education teachers find that they must teach to the test. When this occurs, our special education kids miss out on the adaptive skills and life skills that are more relevant to their lives than any standardized test.

Lorraine Caplan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Insofar as borderline students are concerned, I have read in various articles that the borderline students, those who are close to passing standardized tests, are the students who presently receive the most attention.  They are the students who are most likely to boost a school's scores.  Apparently, the students who will be competent or proficient and the students who are unlikely to pass are the ones being neglected right now.  This is yet another reason to find fault with NCLB.  I apologize for not being able to provide any sources for this information, but I read too many articles on education these days! 

amy-lepore eNotes educator| Certified Educator

No, I don't.  Just as a lesson plan isn't going to be a good fit for all students, neither is a plan like NCLB.  I am not suggesting that schools shouldn't have accountability and that all students shouldn't be pushed to learn, but they shouldn't be pushed to learn in the much the same way.  No two people are exactly alike, and no plan is going to completely and satisfactorily meet all student needs.

rolltide12 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

NCLB testing just reveals the levels of students.


Blaming a NCLB for a school's poor performances is like a fat guy blaming the mirror for his weight problem.

NCLB just revealed objectively what we already knew. 

barb1011 | Student

I teach in an economically disadvantaged area.  Most of my students speak English as a second language.  Many are ESE students.  To hold all children to the same criteria goes against everything we hold dear.  Each child has to be taught what they need to know to be successful and to have choices to make.

NCLB assumes college is for everyone.  How about funding trade schools and other alternatives.  In addition, each state develops its own state test.  Having looked at many, there is no equity.  In some states the tests are a joke.

gpapa | Student

I agree with many of you that NCLB isn't helping many of our students. First I'd like to say that I think NCLB has good intentions (having 100% of children proficient), but are these intentions even realistic? NCLB has all children take the exact same standardized test and groups all children together not considering differences among children and not considering how children with disabilites may perform.

Another thing I've noticed simply by observing in schools is the push towards math and reading because these are the main things tested on NCLB.  How is this beneficial to our students to mainly focus on two subjects during the day? Is this hindering many students who excel in other subjects? NCLB has seemed to cause teachers to teach towards to the test and simply focus on math and reading and I think that's really taking away from children's education.

judsonsmith | Student

In Response to dkgarran:

The 'smart kids' as you put it, are indeed protected.  Many times the Special Education Department will be listed as "Department for Exceptional Students".  The reason for this is that it allows a wide range of students to be put under this umbrella.  In the system I am currently teaching in, the director is responsible for any instruction outside of the normal classroom instruction.  This includes the gifted children.  The teachers who are teacheing these gifted students have to have special certification to teach the class, just like special education teachers do, the students are required to receive so many hours per year in gifted instruction as well.  There is protection for the 'smart kids' as you say.  People just do not generally hear about it.

vic609 | Student

I teach in a Texas school and I for one believe the NCLB leaves behind so many students that have problems and it punishes schools that need more money not less to bring up their test scores.  The only ones benefiting are the corporations that sell textbooks and a canned curriculum to the schools.

laura1986 | Student

I feel that NCLB is not the best.  We are teaching the test and leaving so much other important things out of school and learning.  I feel that children these days are missing out on things that we got to do in school.  I also feel that this is bad for teachers, there is so much stress put on teachers with all of the testing that some only think of this and cannot enjoy teaching the children which is what they were hired to do.  I do feel that testing is good and that it is needed but I think that we all need to remember the other important things that need to be taught during school for the students.

benmack | Student

The simple answer to this question is NO!  It has created a situation whereby allstudents are to be placed into the same types of classes and expected the same results.  This is tremendously unrealistic as all students has different needs, especially those receiving special education services.  I currently teach in a class with 25% of the class are those receiving special education services, but not in my class, including one autistic.  This would not be problem if it weren't for the other  27 students, that's right I have 35 students in this class.  This is a direct result of NCLB and the true tradegy of the situation is that there is no governement funding to support me or the students.  I could go on and on but for my first post I will keep it short.  Government programs without governemnt funding don't work!

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