By many measures the 2001 No Child Left Behind Act was a failure. Kids have been burned out by constant standardized testing; teachers have been held to impossbile standards; and parents have been frustrated by educational expectations that are nearly impossible to understand.
No Child Left Behind had positive outcomes, too. Teachers are now more qualified than they were a decade ago, and achievement gaps among socioeconomic and racial groups have decreased.
Seeking balance, in 2015 Congress replaced No Child Left Behind with the Every Student Succeeds Act. By the new law, each state is charged with creating a plan to comply with national educational standards.
As such, North Carolina finds itself at a crossroads. Partisan politics have created gridlock almost any time we need to reach accord. Healthcare, jobs, taxes, and economic development have all become bargaining chips as politicians posture instead of working toward progress.
Recently the legislature considered a bill that would tweak educational curricula to include a conservative favorite — the gold standard. The change did not pass, but it gained major support among lawmakers who wanted students taught that government should have limited ability to tax, should limit alliances with foreign government, and should back all money with gold.
Even though it died in committee, the bill portends what could happen as the state government sets its new educational standards. There’s no doubt that we need a change, but it must be a change that is in students’ and teachers’ best interests.
A major criticism of No Child Left Behind is that the emphasis on testing led to teachers teaching to the test, and even cheating. It’s important that we find ways to track success without putting undue pressure on educators. We must also find ways to even the playing field and allow all students — those in rural areas, those in poor neighborhoods, and those with varying backgrounds — to have the same chance at educational success.
The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction is holding comment sessions around the state to allow the public to weigh in on NC’s new education law. It’s essential that they receive feedback from every parent, every educator, and everyone who has a stake in the future of our state.
The sessions are from 4-6 pm as follows:
- Wednesday, April 13: Ashley High School, 555 Halyburton Memorial Parkway, Wilmington
- Thursday, April 21: Green Hope High School, 2500 Carpenter Upchurch Road, Cary
- Tuesday, April 26: Mallard Creed High School, 3825 Johnston Center Road, Charlotte
- Wednesday, April 27: North Pitt High School, 5659 NC Highway, Bethel
- Tuesday, May 17: East Forsyth High School, 2500 W. Mountain Street, Kernersville
- Wednesday, May 18: Charles D. Owen High School, 99 Lake Eden Road, Black Mountain
If you can’t make it to a session, weigh on on the NCDPI website. It’s essential to speak up so that lawmakers don’t get away with playing politics with our kids’ futures.