California Requests to be Left BehindThursday, May 24, 2012 By Jenn Rivas
California has requested a waiver from the unpopular No Child Left Behind Act. The NCLB Act is a federally funded program implemented in 2001 that gives disadvantaged students more opportunities for academic growth. The act sets high standards for schools nationwide to meet and measures how well a school does with (you guessed it) standardized testing. If the requirements are not met, a school is deemed insufficient, and the government takes over and dictates what the school’s funding goes to. This is the aspect that is most heavily criticized. Many educators believe putting so much emphasis on tests is irrational. After all, there are so many different factors that affect a student’s education. Not all students are great test takers, which is a factor that brings down scores, not to mention confidence. Opponents also protest that the money is spent in places that don’t exactly better the student’s education. They argue that it depends on the community and environment in which students are being educated. According to California education officials, the API is much better at measuring which schools are in need of improvement. The California State Board of Education has asked for a waiver to renounce the NCLB guidelines and set up its own system of measuring a school’s performance. This new system would focus on three things: “End[ing] a formal designation that has demoralized teachers and tied up funds that could have been more precisely targeted on schools that are most in need of improvement… Giving districts greater spending flexibility to improve student achievement, and a transition to a single transparent accountability system.” Most of all, the board wants to limit the amount of standardized tests that incorrectly label schools adequate or inadequate. However, the state’s request for a waiver doesn’t specify exactly how the state is going to change the accountability system to accurately judge who needs improvement. And ironically, the state API is mainly based on testing. If the state wants to move forward with the waiver it must first come up with a plan that keeps students, California communities, teachers, and of course budgets in mind. Otherwise the waiver will just be seen as another useless complaint about the education system.