I believe that I would be hard pressed to find any adult who would not support policies that will improve our education system. What benefit would there be for any Americans to intentionally ruin our public school system? The public education system exists to prepare our citizens and residents to be responsible members of American society.
However, somewhere along the way, we decided that American students were not learning enough stuff in school. Apparently we were not keeping up with several other countries - and we will NOT be beaten by OTHER countries. Something had to be done to regain our prominence. It was simply unacceptable that American students were scoring below foreign students in any subject area. Never mind the fact that our public schools actually educate ALL children in our country in every subject area.
So, a plan had to be developed to re-establish our dominance in the world. We thought that by clearly defining specific learning goals, we could ensure that all students ascertain basic knowledge in order to be promoted, to graduate, etc. Of course, we held each individual state responsible for determining the "clearly defined learning goals" and our federal government held money over our heads as a carrot to make sure we acquiesced. We certainly cannot hope to provide any kind of education for our children without that necessary federal funding.
Next, the federal government told us that we had to test our children to prove that they are actually learning the "clearly defined learning goals" of our state. They did not provide a test, instead they told us to generate our own tests for our own unique sets of goals. So, billions of dollars of education funding that is supposed to be helping our students learn, is being used to develop tests, administer tests, score tests and publish test results.
Of course, we had to hold teachers accountable for whether or not their students were mastering the clearly defined learning goals. So we now needed to use MORE of the education funding to provide bonuses for the teachers whose students score the highest on the assessments. Now, not only are the students spending more time on testing than on learning, but the teachers must essentially force-feed content to the students, rather than igniting curiosity or striking the imagination of our 7, 8 , 9 and 10 year-old children.
We all know that students were, in fact, learning prior to NCLB. What they were NOT doing was spending more time on testing than on learning. They were not doing homework for 2 - 3 hours a night in elementary school. They were reading because they loved reading, not because they were required to read at least 30 minutes every night. They were spending their elementary years as children and playing OUTSIDE after school instead of sitting to do homework. Perhaps we should consider NCLB to blame partially for our childhood obesity epidemic. Children need to be allowed to be little, have fun, and trust that teachers will help them learn all that they need to know. But how can they trust their teachers when the government does not?
We all also know that teachers did their job because they loved to help children. Now teachers are leaving the profession at an alarming rate. They feel that their hands are tied and they can no longer make learning a joyous experience for children. On top of that pressure, they face the humiliation of being "graded" against each other and held accountable for every child's learning, no matter how much support they receive from parents, no matter if children are handed to them prepared, no matter whether children actually come to school every day.
Teachers are miracle workers. I have heard many stories of amazing efforts and dedication beyond belief. But most importantly, they are professionals. They are continuously trying to improve their craft and feel the weight of the world on their shoulders when they cannot make a difference for one child in their class - nevermind that they have succeeded with the other 21 students. They are devastated over the lack of success of the one they could not manage to reach. Give them a break. Trust them. Set high standards and give them the money to spend on the students' learning. No Child Left Untested needs a serious overhaul.