Pietro 1 Danielle Pietro John Papay EDUC0410B 27 April 2012 Failing Successes How NCLB Turns Winners into Losers Introduction Teachers at Rachel Carson Middle School in Herndon, VA have had enough of No Child Left Behind. Based on the state’s traditional accountability standards, their school was one of the best in Virginia; when the new federal system under NCLB was enacted, however, their success story fell apart, brought down by sub-par subgroup performance in math and NCLB’s unrealistic goals. Over the past year, the construction of townhouses and apartments has increased the district’s population, and for the first time, Rachel Carson had enough African American students to qualify as a subgroup under NCLB (Hanna). Regardless of high English scores and passing math scores as measured against the previous year’s Average Yearly Progress targets, the school fell short the following year, and “the benchmark percentage for passing the state SOL assessments increases in each subject each year” (Frattali). For Rachel Carson, the failure of seventh grade African American math students to reach proficiency standards has not only led to a failure designation but has also forced the school into a race to bring a few students up to speed while teaching them new material before they have to take a more difficult version of the test as eighth graders (Hanna). Though the 2010-2011 school year was “the first time that [the school] did not reach the benchmark in any subject for any subgroup” (Frattali), Rachel Carson faces serious sanctions if it continues to miss its AYP targets. As such, this “academic powerhouse” (Chandler) has powered down and started teaching to the test in an effort to avoid punishment, which, ironically, would involve exactly the lack of freedom the school has self-imposed, as
Pietro 2 punishment for missing AYP for consecutive years involves the state enforcing sanctions that restrict administrative and curricular freedom (McGuinn 180). Teachers “complain that NCLB has sucked the creativity out of their lesson plans, forcing them to narrow their curriculums and teach only those concepts that will be on state tests” (Webley). But NCLB was passed with a purpose, and it was not to eliminate the joys of teaching and learning. In fact, “Rachel Carson showcases exactly what NCLB set out to do: gather detailed demographic data on student performance and light a fire under complacent schools […] Rachel Carson is exactly the type of school that, before NCLB, could have easily glossed over the scores of its lower-achieving students” (Webley). And NCLB worked in that regard, bringing to the forefront groups of students that had been largely ignored; such neglect is not necessarily purposeful, but exists across the country nonetheless. The No Child Left Behind Act succeeded in calling attention to the achievement gaps between the majority and various minorities, forcing the nation’s schools to acknowledge and work to remedy such inequalities. Before Rachel
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- No child left behind Act, NCLB