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Wednesday, May 22, 2024
The independent student publication of The University at Buffalo, since 1950

Law left to fail

Reform of No Child Left Behind a waste of time

The American education system has been in trouble for quite a while. The first attempt to fix the weakening system was the No Child Left Behind Act enacted by President Bush.
It failed.
Now instead of being truly innovative and inspired, the current administration seeks to fix the gaping holes in the law. The new law is meant to give schools greater flexibility to meet standardized test scores, along with new ideas to assess teachers.
The bill has support across the aisle. Not many politicians would actually bog down laws to help educate the future leaders of America.
But why are America's leaders trying to fix a bill that already has failed?
Anyone that has been following the American education system knows it needs a lot more then just reform. It needs a facelift.
The answer isn't more funding; the amount of inputs going into the public education system in the past 40 years has been staggering. In an article entitled "The Economics of Schooling: Production and Efficiency in Public Schools" by Eric Hanushek, an expert in educational policy, Hanushek found that in the past 40 years, the United States has increased its spending for public schools from $18 billion in 1960 to $132.9 billion, while seeing tests scores drop like a rock.
This means that as more money is spent per student, students actually do worse on standardized test scores. In fact, during that same time period, the number of teachers with master's degrees and at least four years of teaching experience has also risen.
So let's think about this. If spending more on students and better-educated teachers leads to worse test results, then other factors are at play.
One conclusion that can be drawn is that a better-educated teacher isn't necessarily a good teacher. When math and reading scores are falling behind, then schools should be trying to attract better teachers in those areas. In other industries, if a person is the best at his or her job, he or she is paid accordingly. If math and English teachers are in higher demand, they shouldn't be paid the same amount as, say, a gym teacher or social studies teacher.
Comparing the United States students to those of the rest of the world shows the true flaw in our education system. According to another paper by Hanushek in 1998 titled "FRBY Economic Policy Review," the United States has almost always fallen below the median test score since the 1960s, no matter which group of countries is taking the test.
The results should be shocking to most, considering the United States has a highly skilled labor force that has sustained the country's economic dominance.
For the American education system, quality has been replaced by quantity. The United States had a labor force with more years of schooling than labor forces of other countries, but those years entail lower-quality education. The era of American dominance in the global economy due to a superior workforce is ending.
There are things besides increasing spending that can be done to improve Americans' education level.
Parents need to stress the importance of a good education, regardless of socioeconomic class. Education provides the foundation for opportunities to better a person's life.
Great teaching must be encouraged and rewarded. If the government is serious about improving the quality of education in this country, then real steps must be taken to get the best from teachers. Lackluster efforts should no longer be tolerated.
Lastly, the government's band-aid fix of the No Child Left Behind Act won't cut it. Having school districts operate with the threat of losing federal funding only makes that district teach to the exam rather then actually educating its students.
America is sick of being an average student. Just passing doesn't cut it anymore.


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