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Comment Of The Day: Poor Score For Education Law

Earlier today, Josh argued in favor of reauthorizing No Child Left Behind, citing a Center for American Progress report that showed that the law has improved education, even if it is insufficiently funded. Commenter jfelliott drew on his first hand experience to disagree with Josh’s assessment, and also disputed fellow commenter lymon1’s description of racism in the operation of the school choice provision:

 NCLB has driven a lot of good teachers I've worked with -- not to mention myself -- out of the profession.  Its provisions for "highly qualified" teachers are so confusingly written that the largest school district here in San Jose ruled that Resource classes for special education students are illegal and that you can't have modified curriculum for students being mainstreamed into academic classes because either requires a teacher dual-"specialized" in both their subject and special education (ie. would have two master's degrees).  This then opens the schools to lawsuits under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, since in order to meet the requirements of NCLB, they can't insure the entitlements of IDEA.  NCLB is written poorly and was not crafted with the practical effects in mind.  I know no teachers -- and I know many, thanks to my work -- who think it is a good law.

Lymon1, I hardly think racism has much to do with limiting school choice provisions.  The physical limits on class size simply prevent the admission of children into schools operating at or near capacity.  In addition, there may be state laws or policies governing class sizes.  Schools are typically funded per-pupil, meaning that for every kid that leaves a school, that school receives less funds.  Under NCLB, schools that fail to meet certain benchmarks lose their federal funding; this is bass-ackwards: "Let's take money away from the schools that need it most!"

The testing provisions of NCLB are the worst.  There are few provisions within NCLB that exempt special education students from the testing or modify it for them; such waivers must be sought on an individual basis by each school district with the state.  If such a waiver isn't granted, then the special education students are evaluated on the same basis as their typically developing peers, and count against the "totals" of the school.  There is such a focus on the content of tests that children aren't being taught how to learn anymore.  The process of thinking and evaluating is left aside for the ability to regurgitate factoids, easily forgotten and dismissed.

There are some good aspects to NCLB, sure.  And the spirit of the law is laudable.  But it needs some major overhauling.