California lines up with twenty-six other states to apply for a waiver from the rigid constraints of the Federal No Child Left Behind Act or NCLB.
NCLB was the Bush administration reauthorization of Elementary and Secondary Schools Act. Current Education Secretary Arne Duncan himself states that the regulations are “…far too punitive, far too prescriptive…” and “…led to a narrowing of the curriculum. None of those things are good for children or, ultimately our country.”
On August 23, 2011, California’s Education Chief Tom Torlekson, wrote to Secretary Duncan requesting immediate relief from the act that is four years overdue for reauthorization.
Under the current system, high performing schools can be labeled failures even if a small number of students do not make “adequate gains” according to the law – gains that can be unrealistic. Indeed, schools are branded as failures even though they meet 93.7 percent of all criteria. Superintendent Torlekson suggested that relief come in freezing the 100% proficiency requirement by 2014 to last year’s levels.
Under the act, English Language Arts and Math test scores matter; however, history, science, critical thinking and student aptitude are not considered. NCLB forced schools to move away from critical thinking skills and teach to tests with narrow perimeters.
As politicians toss around plans for school accountability – let’s hope they consider the newly adopted Common Core Standards and an accountability system that measures individual student growth – not the arbitrary, narrow targets of criterion based tests.
California State Superintendent Tom Torlekson’s Letter to the Federal Government: http://www.cde.ca.gov/nr/ne/yr11/yr11rel60.asp