The goal of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) was that every child in the United States would be at grade level in reading and mathematics by 2014. The rightness of the goal shown so brightly that the impossibility of its achievement was totally obscured.
The problem that the Bush Administration and the nation was addressing was that American school children were falling significantly behind their European and Asian counterparts. When our children fall behind academically, the nation’s economic future is jeopardized.
The flaws in No Child Left Behind were threefold.
A Rush To Judgment
Perhaps the deepest flaw in the NLCB policy was that if American children are falling behind it means that the entire public school system has failed. In this assumption, every school in the United States is painted with the broad brush of failure. NCLB failed to look and learn from the schools that were succeeding. But even more, NCLB failed to consider other components that contribute to a child’s ability to learn; components such as, nutrition, income level, community, parental involvement, language barriers, homelessness, etc.
The second fundamental flaw in the NCLB policy was that it heaped the blame for the educational deficiencies squarely on the shoulders of teachers. Not only was it unfair, but it alienated the frontline workers in education who, in fact, were called upon to implement the policy. In addition, it raised the hackles of Teachers Unions across the nation.
Lack of Funding
The final nail in NCLB coffin was the nation’s inability or unwillingness to fully fund NCLB. The result was that the lack of federal funding to support the NCLB policy shifted the financial responsibility to individual school districts at a time when they were already experiencing budget deficits and deep layoffs.
The policy failed, not because it was a bad idea, but because the timelines were too short, the funding fell through, and administrators and teachers were not brought on board.