At its heart �No Child Left Behind� is about holding American schools accountable for giving each child an equal chance at a good education. No one disagrees with the sentiment. What is debated is precisely what has always been debated in education and what will probably continue to be debated forever. That is, (1) What should our children be taught? (2) What is the best way to teach them? (3) How can we know that the way we�re teaching works? (4) How can we know if we�re teaching the right things? (5) What makes a good teacher? (6) What do teachers need to do their jobs well? (7) How can we make sure our answers to such questions are carried out? John Dewey himself could not concoct a more daunting list. NCLB advances some concrete answers to these philosophical questions:
- Children should all be taught the same thing throughout a state, to be determined by the state and set out in a series of �standards� for each subject and grade level that name facts, skills, and even attitudes. Most states have modeled these standards on national prototypes.
- Children should only be taught with methods and materials that have been scientifically researched and determined to effectively accomplish the standards.
- We can know that education methods work in the same way we can know that medical methods work: data collected in accordance with the scientific method.
- A good teacher is an expert in his or her subject matter who has received training in pedagogy.
- Teachers need cash incentives and professional development resources to do their jobs well.
- The education system can be held accountable by testing every student every year and publishing all the data. Furthermore teachers and administrators will lose their jobs if their students consistently fail to make �adequate yearly progress.� *
There are some other selling points, like parents getting to choose to send their children to another school if it is underperforming and fewer strings on federal grants, but otherwise that�s the gist of it.
* The department of ed web page defines AYP as follows:
�Each state begins by setting a "starting point" that is based on the performance of its lowest-achieving demographic group or of the lowest-achieving schools in the state, whichever is higher. The state then sets the bar--or level of student achievement--that a school must attain after two years in order to continue to show adequate yearly progress. Subsequent thresholds must be raised at least once every three years, until, at the end of 12 years, all students in the state are achieving at the proficient level on state assessments in reading/language arts and math.�