In 2002, the No Child Left Behind Act was championed as the solution for the many failures of the American school system. With its basis on standardized methods of learning for all students, the hope was that a uniform comprehension of essential concepts could be achieved by all students, regardless of economic situation, race, or ethnicity.
However, No Child Left Behind was eventually shown to have several shortcomings that ultimately thwarted the process of true learning in favor of “teaching to the test” in an effort to ensure that students could master the concepts that they’d be quizzed about in a test environment, with no promise that they’d actually retained any skills that would help them succeed in life.
It was soon discovered that the implementation of the Act would require large amounts of funding that many school districts simply were not able to access. An endless cycle began when already under-funded schools had their state funding cut, but were warned that they must continue to comply with all federal mandated standards, or risk losing federal funding. To compensate, many schools were forced to cut back on their funding to subjects that were not tested through No Child Left Behind, such as music, art and foreign language studies.
Additionally, each state can write its own standardized version of the No Child Left Behind tests, enabling them to cater to areas of known weakness. In a constant effort to achieve satisfactory test scores and receive a steady flow of federal funding, schools have focused on adjusting the curriculum subjects in ways that will produce high test scores, rather than fostering the constant learning of essential concepts.
Educational reform will be a long process that takes patience and hard work to achieve, but advocates are hopeful that a system can be put in place that emphasizes genuine learning over standardized test scores.