The NCLB law was accompanied by massive additional funding for schools throughout the country. Billions of additional dollars were given to schools around the country―the lion's share to the schools found in poor neighborhoods. Schools received this money so that they could hire additional teachers and purchase new books and other study aids. With the NCLB law, teachers were promised the carrot and threatened with the stick. Problem solved, right?
Problem far from solved... G. Gage Kingsbury, a testing expert who is a director at the Northwest Evaluation Association in Portland, had this to say:
“There’s not much indication that N.C.L.B. is causing the kind of change we were all hoping for. Trends after the law took effect mimic trends we were seeing before. But in terms of watershed change, that doesn’t seem to be happening.”Furthermore the original purpose of the law was to close the achievement gap between white students and other minorities. This hasn’t happened, as Sam Dillon of the New York Times explains:
The achievement gap between white and minority students has not narrowed in recent years, despite the focus of the No Child Left Behind law on improving the scores of blacks and Hispanics, according to results of a federal test considered to be the nation’s best measure of long-term trends in math and reading proficiency.The empty threat of defunding noncompliant schools has failed. The storm of protest by any community hit by the defunding sanction and the concomitant media blitzkrieg that would result, completely pulls the fangs from this punitive measure. It turns out that throwing money at the problem doesn't work either. In fact, even when teachers are offered hefty bonuses for achieving higher test scores in their classrooms, teachers fail to help the students improve these scores as this article by Christopher Connell reveals:
NASHVILLE – Offering middle-school math teachers bonuses up to $15,000 did not produce gains in student test scores, Vanderbilt University researchers reported Tuesday in what they said was the first scientifically rigorous test of merit pay.The most important person in this educational dilemma is the student. It's not possible to force a child to pay attention. We can't make a child try harder, study longer and with more diligence. We can punish if they don't, but the consequences game only takes us half-way. The other side is just important, the quid-pro-quo side...
In all of this educational brouhaha, perhaps the solution is to ask the student. What can we offer you the student that will cause you to try harder? How can we get you to take your expensive tax-payer funded educational opportunity more seriously? How can we make the curriculum more interesting? What can teachers do that would make it fun?
If I'd been asked that question as a young student, my answer would have been 'free-time.' To celebrate a great score on a test, how about a Get-Out-of-Homework-Free card? Competition can be easily created in any classroom. It's not only fun, it instantly captivates the imagination of students because everyone loves to win. Let the winners go to lunch five minutes early. They can beat everyone else to the lunch line. What hungry kid wouldn't give one-hundred percent for a reward like that?