The Obama administration announced yesterday its intention to revise the No Child Left Behind Act which has been in place for nearly 10 years (for more information on the Act, take a look at Wrightslaw: No Child Left Behind.) The Act had its supporters and detractors. We’d probably all agree that teaching children toward a single test is pointless if our intention is to create thinkers and decision makers. Research on the success in student achievement was surprisingly modest given the expense of the program. For some, the Act provided funding opportunities that helped schools desparately in need. The final score? It really depends on who you ask.
But I’d like to suggest that we take something else away from No Child Left Behind. Maybe we could think of it as own sort of exit exam, or maybe a skills test that our children would be able to pass so they will leave home with everything they need. Maybe this exam would range from simple to complicated, just like the range of skills needed to pass school assessments. Some simple items? Can our child look people directly in the eyes during conversations, or pay a complement? On the more complicated end of the test, maybe there would be an item having to do with keeping a budget or developing a solid social network. And just like the original No Child Left Behind, if our kids can pass these areas of the test, our financial situation improves as they move out into their own adult situations. The better the range of skills, the more chance for social and job success.
There is one advantage our parents-based No Child Left Behind program has over the school version, and that is we know our children on an individual basis. We know their strengths and weaknesses, the ways they have fallen down in the past, and what works best to pick them back up. Whatever skills we choose to focus on in our own children’s programs, they will serve our kids individually, which is something no state or national education system can only hope to approach.
So, as No Child Left Behind evolves into our next national education effort, and as we watch our school districts and textbook publishers scramble to meet their next challenge, we can take some time to decide where to set the achievement bar in areas that our schools are not responsible for.