Lessons to Be Learned from the Failure of NCLB

Lesson #1 (from my first post): In any future school reform, take human nature and human motivation into consideration. NCLB was flawed from the start once principals learned their schools would be labeled according to their students’ test scores. Principals lost sight of their mission, which is to make sure students are being  well prepared throughout the year so that they will be successful in  the following grade. Under NCLB many principals directed teachers to spend classroom time preparing students for state assessments in reading, writing, and math, rather than teaching them a meaningful curriculum.

From Alex Tabarrok of George Mason University comes a cautionary and true tale about human motivation. How do you stop sea captains from killing their passengers? Heed it well. The audio podcast is from NPR’s “Planet Money Team.”

How do we know which incentives work  — and which destroy the very ends we aspire to? According to Tabarrok, “a good social order combines self interest with social interest.”   Sorry, NCLB. You’re just missing the right stuff.

And what does Daniel Pink have to say about motivation? Here’s  food for thought about what motivates both students AND teachers.

Lesson #2 (see October 7, 2010 post) : School reform initiated at the national or state level must be based on sound and unbiased research.

Lesson #3 (see November 8, 2010 post):  Change in education is a slow process that starts in the early grades. The shock wave resulting from NCLB is not the way to change education.

Lesson #4 (see November 8, 2010 post):  If we are to improve, we must be given the resources to do so. Simply saying, “Here, improve your scores each year, or get fired” won’t get results.

Lesson #5 (see November 8, 2010 post)We should not penalize the students who are already doing well by insisting that they participate in the drill and kill exercises which supposedly will help the other  students pass their tests.  The students who are doing well should not have to take these tests in the first place.

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1 Kay Prince
March 26, 2011 at 10:32 am

Thank God that there are professional educators actually “in the trenches” who are are trying to save public education! My thanks to each of you for spreading the word of the DAMAGE that No Child Left Behind is doing to our best and brightest students. I believe that parents as a whole are concerned about the education of their children and that they want the best for them; unfortunately, they assume by the title of NCLB that the law is a good thing when, in deed, it is NOT. Because it does NOT teach critical and analytical thinking skills and instead teaches-to-tests, it requires the strongest students to slow or halt their pursuit of a real education in order to assigned as a “buddy” to try to get simple facts across to their often disinterested and/or slower learner “buddy.” Those who don’t understand NCLB do not understand the legal requirements for 504 students–or else they don’t care. Consequently, NCLB makes the DUMBING-DOWN of our children a LAW!!!!!! I have seen that occurring in the classroom; it is really happening with legal endorsement!


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