30 of 32 people found the following review helpful
The nationwide No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act is the latest attempt to reform American education. It is supposed to do this through enforcing a system of standards and accountability through standardized testing. According to the authors in this book, NCLB actually hurts, instead of helps, children, especially urban children.
The biggest problem is that NCLB has been underfunded, by anywhere up to $12 billion. The states have all sorts of new federal mandates, but not enough money to pay for them. Standardized tests are valuable as a measure of a student's progress, but they should not be the only measure, which is the case with NCLB. Portions of the school curriculum that don't directly deal with testing, like art, phys ed and field trips, will be dropped, as schools become little more than test-prep factories.
A school can be classified as Failing if even one subgroup in the school, like Asains or disabled students, don't do well enough on the test. The school must then pay to bus its students who want to transfer to a non-failing school. If it is an inner-city school, their resources are already thin enough. There probably aren't any non-failing schools nearby, and besides, they have no incentive to accept students who might bring down their test scores. Urban schools, and urban communities in general, need a lot more help than to be told, "Raise your test scores, or else." Many schools have gotten in the habit of making students repeat a grade, raising the chance that they will eventually drop out, only because they might negatively affect the test score for the upper grade.
The most well-known non-education provision in NCLB forces schools to give student contact information to military recruiters, or face a cutoff of federal aid. Any policy that prevents participation in prayer in public schools, as well as any policy that prohibits the Boy Scouts or any other "patriotic society" access to school facilities. For these and many other reasons, the list of states refusing to follow NCLB is growing.
This is an excellent book. It shows that the public pronouncements about NCLB are much brighter than the reality. It's short, easy to read and highly recommended
32 of 36 people found the following review helpful
on April 23, 2005
What is a well-educated child?
Is it one that can bubble in correct answers on a skills based test? Is life "multiple choice?"
Don't read this book if you don't want to become incredibly angry about what the NCLB is doing to our children. In an attempt to further the agenda that public schools are failing children, NCLB mandates (without adequate funding) are making teachers focus on basic skills to the detriment of higher level thinking. Teachers are being forced to focus so much on "drill and kill," students are hating school at an early age. Then, if schools don't perform adequately, they are punished and lose funding. If schools perform too well, they are scrutinized and suspected of cheating. As all of the powers that be argue over test results, children are the losers.
School districts are giving up such "fringe benefits" as recess, P.E., music, art, and performing arts, to make more time for worksheets. There is nothing for the soul anymore. Take a moment and reflect on one of your most positive memories as a child in school. Are YOU thinking of a worksheet? A test?
If your child is hating school, you have great cause to worry. Children that do poorly on standardized tests are considered for retention, after school programs, and other "interventions" that will make them hate it more. The testing only gets worse as they get older. Threatened with the possibility that they won't pass the tests for high school, many children give up and drop out. Then, your child really will have been left behind.
If you are wondering why your child doesn't love learning, and how come they feel like they are never working hard enough, you need to find out more about NCLB. This book is a great start!
While it is obvious that Melissa J. Chapman (apparently after reading my response to her review she deleted her comments) has an opinion that doesn't agree with the premise of this book, it is apparent in her review that she has not read this book, and therefore cannot give a valid opinion about its contents. I would say that if she actually did read this book, she should take the time to make a better argument for her statements. She obviously supports the ideology of NCLB because she is educated about testing, statistics, and measurement. I don't know if that qualifies her to say how NCLB is impacting classrooms. She qualifies anyone against standardized testing as engaging in "impassionate ranting."
I have been an elementary teacher for 16 years, hold a Master's Degree in Education, and hardly consider myself an uneducated and impassionate ranter. Statistics and measurement courses were a required part of my college degree. I am educated first hand by the detriment to classrooms that is the NCLB law. I have watched the curriculum in my classroom change students from energetic and enthusiastic learners to frustrated and defeated failures. I feel pressure from administration every day to eliminate the "fluff" of art, performing arts, P.E., social studies and more because of pressure to teach what will be tested. If our test scores don't improve dramatically, we will lose funding.
I am all for holding teachers accountable for their performance in a classroom. I only recently removed my daughter from a classroom where the teacher clearly had her own agenda to dismiss the teaching of writing because she obviously lacked the skills to do it. She didn't teach reading to the more capable students because I guess she felt they didn't need it. This is a teacher whose test scores were actually quite good. Why? Because capable students will score well on these tests anyway, in spite of a poor teacher. Were the tests an accurate reflection of the quality of teaching going on in the classroom? I think not. My child was coming home crying nearly everyday and for the first time saying that she hated school.
I agree with Melissa that we should educate ourselves before coming to a judgement. Actually reading this book and making some valid points about its premise is something that Melissa should do. Then we could read her review and hold some validity to her statements. If there is any impassioned ranting going on here, I would say that Melissa is the only one engaged in it.
Let's hold teachers accountable for not only teaching kids what they will need to know, but also make it a positive and fun experience going to school and feeling some level of success. NCLB only addresses half of the equation. Sadly, the more important half is missing.
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on February 24, 2006
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I am a teacher at a small rural school. The horrors of the way this law is implemented is far-reaching, even to our area of strong local control. The NCLB law is going to do the opposite of what it's well-intentioned (hopefully) authors wanted - destroy public education and create a wider chasm between the haves and have-nots. All good teachers know that this law leaves very little time or energy to teach the way we know REALLY attends to the development of children and is forcing the best teachers to consider leaving the profession. Many of us won't because we care about the kids so much.
This book, written by true experts in the field of educational research, explains so beautifully the reasons why the law is no good for our schools, and like the child in the EMPEROR'S NEW CLOTHES it tells the truth and screams to be heard. Somebody...PLEASE...send a copy to Mr. Bush.
30 of 37 people found the following review helpful
on April 26, 2006
Honestly, I really, really wanted to like this book. But after reading through it twice, I just couldn't.
First, the book is not quite what it is advertised to be. In the description above, you will see that it is listed as 152 pages. It isn't. It is 132 pages, and if you remove the endnotes and author biographies it is only 119. But, to be fair, that is a very small point.
My main concern with this book is that the same small set of concerns is repeated over and over. I have no doubt about the quality and standing of the authors; the problem seems to be that each author is able to explain their point so clearly that having it repeated does little to add to the argument.
If you do buy this book, skip straight to pages 102-104. In this short summary, you will be given a very brief overview of everything that has gone before. True, you will not get the detail, nor the reasoning. But it will give you basis enough to move on from there.
I have nothing against either the authors, nor the message of this book. I just think that the editors have taken a series of excellent, but similar, journal articles and printed them one after another. And maybe, this time, they would have been better served by having one powerful article with a long list of qualified authors.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on March 21, 2006
This book should be required reading for every administrator and teacher in the public school system -- possibly for every parent as well, particularly those who give any sort of credence to standardized test scores. Undoubtedly a polemic, this book still provides too much important information to discount. The authors of this collection of essays generally agree that public schools should be accountable; but they very carefully and thoroughly outline why NCLB is not the appropriate or accurate way to do so.
13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on August 23, 2005
This book changed my understanding of the No Child Left Behind Act. With a name like that, anyone who denounces it sounds like a horrible person; in fact, it's a corrupt and faulty system that's destroying our school system.
The passage of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) legislation in 2002 was the result of bipartisan effort. In the wake of the September 11th attacks, the members of Congress came together to produce something positive for the American people, and especially for those most vulnerable to the fear and negativity of reality: our children. The motive for many of the people involved in the creation and passage of this legislation was to do something good for our public school system. The bill promised a great many things, including increasing funding for schools that serve the poor; ensuring that educators are highly qualified; and holding federally funded schools accountable for raising achievement of every student by breaking down the achievement data.
Few people would object to such aspirations. So why is it that in the two years since NCLB went into affect, educators, legislators, parents, and states are up in arms about NCLB? The authors of this book make a case that NCLB, rather than intending to improve public education, actually undermines the public school system, and does more damage than good to the students it claims to help.
The authors claim that, alongside the technical issues with NCLB (including under funding), the very premises upon with the legislation is founded are faulty. Already, we see the results of the law, including
· School quality declining.
· The children of the poor receiving even more limited instruction because their schools will be the first to be reported as failing.
· NCLB making the public schools even less accountable to the public.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on May 8, 2006
This is a very interesting book with some great opinions of the No Child Left Behind Act. I feel that the authors really found the holes in the education act and in the way in which states are being held accountable for their schools performances. I found some of the information to be shocking because it seems as though the public should know all of the facts but they do not have any idea. I also really appreciated the fact that with each critique of the act, the authors offered up some alternative solutions that might work better. I am not sure if these solutions will ever be seen through but they were all really nice ideas.
I will say that this book was extremely one sided and it was difficult to read without getting a chip on my shoulder. I ended up having to go and find more information about both sides of the arguement so I could make a more educated decision on my thoughts about the act. As a future teacher my life is directly influenced by this act so I need to make sure I know all of the facts before I start being someone within the system of education.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on August 5, 2007
This is a must read for anyone who is impacted by public education in this country - parents, educators, businesspeople. We need to get angry about the No Child Left Behind Act and this book will get anyone who reads it angry. It is a series of well written essays by educators and it does an excellent job of exposing the damaging nuances of this Act that are not widely broadcast. If the concept of public education is important to you, read this book.
14 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on October 12, 2005
Cutting through political jargon, Deborah Meier and a powerful coalition of contributors illustrate how the 'No Child Left Behind Act' is a heavily loaded weapon attacking many groups of children within---and ultimately undercutting the functionality of---our public schools.
Schools are supposed to comply with every tenet of this law--but are not receiving the extra money needed to do it. Therefore the federal government will then-step in and sanction those same schools for their 'failure', and perhaps create a backdoor to privatization.
In the process, NCLB comes down the hardest on some of the same groups who had actually hailed it's passage in the attempt to equalize educational quality. The civil rights groups hailing the law had good intentions, but they did not scrutinize how the law ultimately would evolve during implementation.
America's decentralized education funding system (p.6) increases the chasm which students and their schools are expected to cross to recieve a 'good' education. We continue giving different groups of kids different quality resources and then seriously expect them to have exactly identical results. Consequently, the implemented law now stresses educational equality of testing results--which in turn, supposedly judges if a child is 'smart'.
Everything being tied to the results of one test places a significant amount of pressure upon anybody. I can only imagine what it psychologically does to a public school student who has honestly tried the best they could--and might have even loved to learn.
The federal government insists that all children can process information in the same exact manner--those who cannot will be penalized for their 'difference'. This itself is an excuse to undermine special education and that program's emphasis on 'individualized education plans' for eligible students. For that matter, it also attacks bilingual education and other programs which have recognized that the nation's students are not little robots in training.
With emphasis on rote memorization, another criticism of this law is that it dumbs down the United States public education system. Because the poorest school districts are having to allocate what monies they do have to the testing program, they cannot teach their students the critical thinking skills which would help them attend college. Only the richest (and not incidentally whitest) school districts in America would be able to steer their students towards a college track--provided those students were even encouraged to stay in the school.
While schools cannot openly exclude the neediest populations anymore, I am concerned that these student groups could be pushed out in order for a school to improve it's test score ranking--and avoid receiving federal sanctions. Never mind if that student is actually attempting to learn in the classroom. Never mind if that student has a perfect GPA and successfully performs 'college prep' work.
I also appreciate that this work has ideas for overhauling that same law. Identifying a problem is empowering, but eliminating it enables people to make real change in their communities. This is an important book for educators, public officials, parents, community activists, and/or the students affected by NCLB. It provides critical 'education' about the realities of early 21st Century public school policy.
11 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on August 6, 2005
If you're already skeptical about the No Child Left Behind law and want to learn more, this is a concise summary of opposition arguements.