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Another Example of How the No Child Left Behind Law is Bogus

March 25, 2009 By John Fitzgerald, Education Policy Fellow

In terms of helping students achieve more in school, the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law has been a complete failure.

Closing the achievement gap was stated as NCLB's signature legacy. It was going to close the gap by mandating schools test students, disaggregate the results by minority status, then report the scores to the state. If the scores weren't up to snuff, the school was labeled as not achieving "adequate yearly progress."

As was apparent from NCLB's inception, the law's yardstick was rigged to cause schools to "fail."
The standard for AYP rises each year until every school must meet AYP by 2014 - clearly an unrealistic goal.

Special education students and English language learners are tested at grade level - clearly a standard meant not for success but for failure.

The test itself is an inefficient method of measuring student growth - a problem made worse by the Pawlenty Administrations insistence in linking teacher performance to student test results.

But there's a better, more compelling reason to dislike NCLB: It hasn't made a dent in fixing the achievement gap. Minnesota's black and Hispanic students are either dropping out of high school or failing to continue their post-high school education at a stunning rate whether you measure the issue using NCLB statistics or not.

The Minnesota Department of Education reports that blacks, Hispanics and Native Americans in Minnesota graduate at half the rate of whites in the state.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Census Bureau reports that 19 percent of whites aged 18 or older in Minnesota in 2007 had a college degree versus 12 percent of blacks, 30 percent of Asians and 8 percent of Hispanics.

It would stand to reason that a successful law would see positive results within several years of enactment, but that is not the case. Even using its own criteria, the law fails. A look at five years of results shows that the schools with the most minority students that "fail" grow each year.


One of the "catches" with NCLB is that punitive measures consist only of redirecting federal money to other enterprises. The bulk of the federal money is divvied to schools based on the number of students in poverty that attend the schools. In Minnesota, there is a significant correlation between minority students and students who live in poverty. Therefore, it is significant to see that well over half the schools with a 20 percent or higher ratio of minority students stand a greater chance of "failing" NCLB. It is also significant that these are the schools that will have federal funding affected, whereas schools with less poverty will see no financial penalty.

NCLB is a bogus law that produces false data. NCLB has not made a jot of difference in the achievement gap and has only brought financial harm to schools that need help.

Minnesota's future depends on a workforce that is educated at a level beyond high school.  The workforce needs to include everyone, not just students of a few ethnicities. Without expanding our educational resources, our state will become a very cold, very empty wide spot on the road between Chicago and Seattle. Waving at NCLB in our rear-view mirror is a good first step in fixing Minnesota's disastrous achievement gap.

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