Educational historian Diane Ravitch explains why NCLB has failed, and what we can do about it.
Diane Ravitch: I expect that No Child Left Behind will be reauthorized because the people in Washington, D.C. who work in the Congress and serve in the Congress are totally clueless about what a disaster No Child Left Behind is throughout the country. Here we have a law that sets as a goal that by the year 2014 100 percent of children will be proficient in reading and math. This is a goal that has never been reached by any nation in the world, or any other nation in the world. It’s a goal that will not be met by any state in the United States. And we’re close to 2014, and right now about 80 percent of our public schools are considered failing schools by No Child Left Behind standards.
If the law were not reauthorized, we would, by the year 2014, have close to 100 percent of our schools considered failing schools.
This is such an insane law that it’s hard to imagine why it hasn't been repealed or why the accountability provisions have not been repealed. What this law has done has been, first of all, the federalized control of public education to the point where people now are looking to Congress to say, what are the rules by which we’re supposed to operate our local schools? And Congress is calling the tune. We have a federal system, and the federal government before No Child Left Behind really was not the decider. The decision point was at the state and local level, not in Washington, D.C, so we have federalized control of education. We have also set into motion -- not we, but the No Child Left Behind -- has set into motion a process that causes almost every school in the country to be considered a failing school.
I think the reason that we’re now having this sense that there's a crisis is because of No Child Left Behind, because it has unleashed all of these attacks on public education, setting totally unrealistic goals. And while it’s important to work to close the achievement gap, all of the solutions seem to be based on the No Child Left Behind framework of only schools and only teachers must be held accountable. There's nothing about accountability for the leadership. There's no accountability at the district level. There's no accountability for Congress itself.
The law has failed and the slate should be wiped cleaned and they should start, I believe, they should start by saying, what's the purpose of the federal role in education? And the number one purpose, the reason it was passed for the first time in 1965, it was called the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, was to level the field for poor children, to make sure that the districts enrolling large numbers of poor children had adequate resources. That's a very, very important role. And we’re moving now, particularly with the Race to the Top, we’re moving towards a competitive model of saying states should compete for federal funds. And I think that's a mistake, because some states will win, many states will lose, and that repudiates the whole purpose of federal aid education. rn
Directed / Produced by
Jonathan Fowler & Elizabeth Rodd