No Child Left Behind: The 2008 Presidential Candidates’ Positions

So what is No Child Left Behind?  And what are the 2008 presidential candidates’ positions on this controversial legislation?  Here’s a little NCLB 101, and what Obama and McCain plan to do about this legislation.

What is No Child Left Behind?

The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 was a federal law passed under the Bush Administration to increase public school accountability.  It also increased the focus on reading in the public schools, and gave parents more choices as to where to send their children to school.  NCLB is part of what’s known as “standards-based education reform,” which involves reforming schools primarily through improving kid’s test scores.  Schools that fail to meet the NCLB standards are held accountable and are penalized in various ways–including offering parents the option to transfer their kids out of schools who fail to meet the standards two year in a row.

The goal of NCLB is to raise standards throughout America and to put pressure on under-performing schools to improve.  However, NCLB has received a great deal of criticism, and many Democratic and Republican lawmakers want to either scrap it or make significant modifications.  Some criticisms of NCLB include:

  • NCLB puts expectations on poorer school districts to perform on par with richer ones– without significantly increasing funding to make this possible.
  • NCLB puts too much pressure on teaching kids to do well on standardized tests, which is not always the equivalent of learning skills and knowledge that students need to know.
  • NCLB encourages teachers to spend too much time on rote memorization of information needed to do well in standardized tests, as opposed to on applied information.
  • Schools lack incentive to fund programs for gifted or high-achieving students, since these students already score well on tests.
  • Schools may benefit from letting poor performing students drop out or leave the district, as this will make the school’s scores rise.
  • School districts and states have found ways to manipulate test scores.
  • NCLB encourages schools to cut programs that are not needed to do well on test scores, like art, music, and physical education.

Barack Obama on No Child Left Behind

Barack Obama is no fan of No Child Left Behind.  Here’s what he has to say about it:

John McCain on No Child Left Behind

John McCain calls NCLB a “good beginning.” His message is to improve it and not discard it, and warns that it’s important to not discard it altogether.  Here’s what McCain has to say about NCLB:

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