"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

20 Reasons to Eliminate NCLB

A number of organizations have adopted a strategy of hoping to fine-tune NCLB when it comes up for re-authorization next year. Personally and professionally, I see no possiblity of using the word "fine" (even hyphenated) in conjuction with this cynically-devised policy that is having such devastating effects on children, schools, parents, and teachers. And unless eliminated next year, you ain't seen nothing yet.

Thanks to Monty Neill for inspiring me to come up with these 20 Reasons to Eliminate NCLB:

20 Reasons to Eliminate NCLB
  1. An education policy built on impossible performance demands that assure the failure of the majority of American public schools should be eliminated, not reformed.
  2. An education policy that has the same impossible demands for most English-language learners and special education students should be eliminated, not reformed.
  3. An education policy that traumatizes children, destroys the desire to learn, and corrupts the purposes for learning should be eliminated, not reformed.
  4. An education policy that uses fear, intimidation, and retribution as motivation should be eliminated, not reformed.
  5. An education policy that uses a single assessment once a year to make life-altering decisions should be eliminated, not reformed.
  6. An education policy that ignores poverty as a chief determinant in academic performance should be eliminated, not reformed.
  7. An education policy that creates two different school curriculums, one for the children of the poor and one for well-funded successes, should be eliminated, not reformed.
  8. An education policy that uses skewed and manipulated research from the National Reading Panel to devise a national reading strategy should be eliminated, not reformed.
  9. An education policy that uses the strain of test score competition to undercut public cohesion and civic commitment to democratic goals should be eliminated, not reformed.
  10. An education policy that shrinks the American school curriculum to two or three subjects that are tested should be eliminated, not reformed.
  11. An education policy that discourages diversity and encourages homogeneity in schools should be eliminated, not reformed.
  12. An education policy that supports the use of tax dollars to fund private schools rather than public school improvement should be eliminated, not reformed.
  13. An education policy that advocates the use of public money to pay private contractors to run public schools should be eliminated, not reformed.
  14. An education policy that is built on unfunded and under-funded mandates should be eliminated, not reformed.
  15. An education policy that reduces or eliminates local and state decision making by citizens should be eliminated, not reformed.
  16. An education policy that mandates that military recruiters have access to student information should be eliminated, not reformed.
  17. An education policy that inflames a teacher shortage in order to replace professional teachers with individuals who have passed a teaching test should be eliminated, not reformed.
  18. An education policy that is used to reward tax dollars to insiders and cronies for their political support should be eliminated, not reformed.
  19. An education policy that uses paid propaganda to advance its agenda should be eliminated, not reformed.
  20. An education policy that puts test scores in the place of the intellectual, social, and emotional growth of America’s children should eliminated, not reformed.
10 Action Strategies for Eliminating NCLB
  1. Hold a public forum in your community to explore and explain these points.
  2. Organize community and neighborhood potluck dinners with teachers and parents to talk together about how NCLB is affecting children and school.
  3. Persuade your organizations to pass resolutions calling for the repeal of NCLB based on these points.
  4. Collect signatures on a Petition to Eliminate NCLB based on these 20 points. Publicize your results in the local media and send copies of resolutions and petitions to your local and federal elected officials.
  5. Write letters-to-the-editor and op-ed pieces for your local and regional newspapers, making these points.
  6. Get your local school board to pass a resolution or hold a community forum about eliminating NCLB.
  7. Contact your U.S. senators and representatives about eliminating NCLB: Call them, write or email them (send these points and other information), and set up meetings with them in your district (bring a group of children).
  8. Contact your state legislators to enlist them in the effort to eliminate NCLB; get state legislatures to pass resolutions.
  9. Parents: Join the NCLB-mandated Parents Advisory Board at your child’s school. Bring the 20 Reasons to Eliminate NCLB to begin a dialogue.
  10. Organize a public protest or march on test days or days given over to test preparation.
If you do not have the documentation you need to explain the 20 Reasons, or if you can't find it on this or other websites, contact me via email.

Jim Horn


  1. I am a teacher in a PI school.
    It is so apparent in my school in Oxnard, CA that what is passing for "improvement" is undermining the quality of instruction and the learning outcomes in my students. I can barely see my way through to do my job, much less be effective with students.
    In fact at Hathaway I would say my perception is one of mass frenzy on site and an atmosphere of eroding core teaching praxis and replacing it with fairly poor textbook generated pacing and content that assures us no outcome but keeps reiterating that it's based in "data driven" programs. Experienced teachers obviously retire and leave, newer teachers lack skills, voice , understanding of why things are really getting ridiculous.Many are reflective enough to challenge the assumptions for these are sophisticated societal issues being addressed in a very unsophisticated manner. I doubt Bush can articulate his retorhic well enough which is why his architects do the planning for him. No Child left Behind was about all he got from his attendance in the plans, and indeed their best piece is controlling the rhetoric.
    Anyway, I appreciate this list. Certainly after listening today to a County presentation on "year 3" in Underperformance world and the Federal "take" on the rectification of teachers I am examining the why of my teaching life. After 23 years dedicated to the poorest students in CA in the Salinas Valley, South Central LA and in Hueneme District I find myself dealing with those I think who see the whole NCLB notion as a way to privatize, make a buck off audits, data, proscribing program pieces and taking the teacher and literally flailing them alive.And getting paid big money doing it. At bottom that drives this for the people I engaged. And as that person who stayed in the classroom dedicated to students who watches many of these figures flee to run DataWorks or other agencies/companies that are collecting the big bucks by maintaining this big lie I ask myself..what can be done? In my world I talk. Often teachers ask me to stop-questioning basic assumptions is a no, no. I seek outside connections and help. I try to write and talk to those we work with. But you know as I sat today in this meeting, in part why I found your site, it occurred to me my kids and parents are further from a voice in this picture than ever before. We know they are too poor, language hampered, possibly not even correctly papered, they can't come in to advocate, some lack the skills and tools educationally to have the view articulate enough, that places me, this elementary teacher into an advocacy role. Concurrently my District is mandating my voice, scripting, proscribing and reacting to the act and its bite . Lost in all of this is the little girl on my apple carpet with a family in a garage that needs her stabismis addressed or the little boy unready to take on a curriculum paced beyond him who is now the room "problem". Now I go to my yard at recess, a place I've known for 12 years, and watch chaos. I observe without a doubt children in stress, children depersonalized, children shoved in "universal access" who should be doing something very different. Maybe even painting. It's like watching and living a human nightmare. I'm in as unethical a position as ever in my life.
    I appreciate this site. I wish you might write for me where you think this gets us to if you go to the ultimate end point. I know privitazation is one aspect but I look further. I do not see how mutual cooperation and survival, respect and the values that built America are in play here. I see a thing eating its young. I see children as commodities. I see ultimately a permanent underclass, a creation of a divide of have/havenot that's unbrigable via educational systems. Its so fundamentally clear here in poor South Oxnard.I'm ashamed really that this country could unlease this on our children and doubly ashamed I am forced into it's implementation.

  2. Anonymous5:41 PM

    The NCLB is misnamed. The true name is LNCGA. Let No Child Get Ahead.

    Kelly Presley
    St Louis

  3. Anonymous7:29 PM

    In response to Sarah's comment:
    I share your pain. What can we do? The 20 suggestions are a start, but until we get our students' parents mobilized, we are going to lose. I teach in a poor school, and we are in year 4 of not meeting our AYP. Recently I noticed that our principal has been attending a LOT of meetings in Columbus. (I am from Ohio.) I know from the Ohio Deaprtment of Education that we are due for further sanctions, so I speculated to my peers that something was cooking. They thought that he was being trained to take over our district's Reading First program, but come to find out, I was right. He was vague, but this has to do with the next level of punishment that we are going to get when our kids do not pass the test in the spring.

    In the meantime, we are working on fluency with DIBELS with no regard for comprehension. All the fun of third grade has vanished. Our kids are diligently competing to be the first to color in their benchmark graphs. The arts? What are those? Each day I remove a group of students for "intervention outside the 90" while their classes learn Science and Social Studies. What happens in the upper grades when these kids have no knowledge in the content areas?

    Lately I have been doing my own reading on the effects of lead poisoning in low-income areas. There is a convincing argument that this could be a cause of the inability to learn that is exhibited by poor children across the nation. While screening is required, it is often omitted, overlooked, not done, whatever. Well, if a "literacy specialist" can demand that I perform progress monitoring on my intensive students every week, don't I have the right to demand that someone check their lead levels in their blood at least once before they enter school? Where are all my union dollars going?
    And, if the causal relationship between low-income housing, lead poisoning, and the failure to succeed in school can be proven and publicized, well, we have something here that will dwarf the tobacco settlement. Is anyone working on this? By the way, I will require a public apology from all the politicians from the top down who have implied throughout all this NCLB fiasco that my students could learn to read if I would only try.

    I found the lead poisoning information through EDDRA. It is at

  4. Anonymous9:47 PM

    I agree with all of this. I'm a college student that will be starting my student teaching in a couple weeks and this topic scares me to death! I want to help reform NCLB, but I don't even know where to begin...

  5. Dear Anonymous,

    If you would like to help, you can go to www.educatorroundtable.org
    and sign on to the petition or join the organization and get involved.

    Judy Rabin

  6. Anonymous10:47 PM

    The NCLB left my daughter behind. The Vandalia Butler School District in Ohio had us buy a cap and gown but when my daughter missed the OGT by a few points they told her she was not worthy to walk with her peers on graduation day. Her entire education experinece was shattered by one test. Sad.

  7. I find it kind of interesting how often the word "cynical" is used in conjuctino with the NCLB regs. I do it myself

  8. Anonymous11:32 PM

    My child is in the grasp of NCLB as he is falling further and further behind in school because the teachers are fixated on what things he doesn't do well and not allowing him to go on with the cirriculum and stay up with his peers. He is being put in a class that is stuck on the same thing taught (or not) over and over while the rest of his class progresses because he didn't master the "math fact" the way everyone else did. I want to home school and am getting closer to making that decision because I can't get the teachers to teach. They're so fixed on what he needs to pass the CRCT and he's falling so far behind in learning the things he needs to (specific to math) to finish the year and be successful next year. I know it's not the teachers fault but this is ridiculous.

  9. Anonymous10:26 PM

    I am a high school teacher and dread to see the day when the child fails the state testing for the fourth or fifth time, sees no other end but death and commits suicide. Will NCLB stand up and take responsibility? Not all students are college bound and blue collar material. I see this coming soon!!!

  10. I've been studying technology integration into learning in my Graduate studies this semester. One very important thing brought up about NCLB is this-- NCLB gives funding and cirriculum time to teaching methods based on scientific proof of their effectiveness.

    This is all well and fine, because I do believe in science, except for the fact that technology (especially educational technology) is fast-evolving. Funding for research takes a long time and then the actual studies take years. Meeanwhile they are researching already out-dated teaching methods.

    What that means is that there will never be solid scientitic backing for any CURRENT technology-integrating teaching method, but intelligent, creative teachers will still find ways to effectively use them. Because of NCLB they won't be allowed to try new things to help engage an increasingly apathetic generation of students.

    NCLB is asking teachers to be test-regurgitating robots instead of instructors.

  11. It is not asking, Amy--it is forcing. Nationalized standards of any kind demand that your philosophy and goals and ideals MUST align with that of the Federal Government. There is usually a logical problem, and with NCLB it is the Fallacy of Idealism. Look it up--what NCLB fails to see is how it keeps students who don't give a shit in class no matter what the cost to other students. And for those who have made the Fallacy of Idealism their guiding virtue in destroying districts like LAUSD, there are students who don't give a shit--it has nothing to do with bad teaching, and it does not make them a bad person, though they often become one when forced to be in classrooms