Harm of NCLB to be eclipsed

By Dr. Walt Chappell, member, Kansas State Board of Education.

Recent ads in Kansas newspapers have told the truth about the unacceptable level of reading and math scores for Kansas students. Yet, for Diane DeBacker, the State Education Commissioner, and education lobbyists to continue to deny these documented results from Kansas schools is a disservice to our students, their parents and taxpayers. This massive cover-up has gone on for years and needs to stop.

All outside indicators of how well our schools are doing show that the federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) mandates have been a major disaster and a tremendous waste of taxpayer money. Our students are not dumb plus our teachers and school administrators are doing what they have been told. But, largely due to these bureaucratic regulations, most students who graduate from American’s schools have not been taught the employable skills needed to compete for jobs in the global economy.

This is not just a Kansas problem. Anyone willing to look at the facts can clearly see that major changes must take place in what and how we teach America’s children the concepts and skills they need to be productive adults. Yet, the Federal and State education bureaucrats and their lobbyists keep claiming that there is nothing wrong with public education — just give them more money to spend.

Since the Montoy court decision in 2005, the Kansas legislature has appropriated $1 billion more for schools. But for the past 10 years, NAEP, ACT and SAT test scores still show that only about one-third of our students are “proficient.” With this new money, Kansas school districts hired over 6,000 new employees. And, since 2005, they had accumulated $868 million in unspent cash balances — an increase of 90 percent. Clearly, spending more tax dollars is not the answer to higher student achievement.

In Kansas and the nation, one in four students do not graduate. Of those who do graduate and go to college, over 30 percent need remediation. Only half finish college yet most end up with huge student loans to repay — whether they earned a degree, can find a job, or not.

A national commission has reported that 30 percent of high school graduates do not score high enough on aptitude tests to qualify to join the military. And, since the NCLB emphasis is only on teaching and testing reading and math, few students graduate with knowledge or skills for any other career.

Clearly, the NCLB mandates from federal bureaucrats are failing to prepare our students and putting our teachers in a “no win” position of “teaching to the test.” But, the majority of the State Board has “rubber stamped” Diane DeBacker, the Kansas Commissioner of Education’s request that Kansas schools comply with the new Federal mandate to replace the Kansas standards with something new called the “Common Core Standards,” or CSS.

However, there is no research to show that CCS will improve student achievement or that they are more relevant to what students need to learn. Yet, like NCLB, they will force teachers in every school to focus primarily on just reading and math so students can pass computerized national tests — which will replace the state assessments. As a result, there will be less time to teach all other subjects such as science, technology and careers.

CCS are an unfunded federal mandate which will cost Kansas taxpayers millions of dollars to implement. These “new” standards were written by unknown, unelected, and unaccountable academics who have close ties to private publishing companies which will make billions of dollars of profits at the taxpayers, students and teachers expense. As a result, no Kansas elected official will be allowed to make key decisions about what and how students are taught in any K-12 school.

The Kansas legislature and local school boards need to be strong and say “enough of this nonsense.” NCLB has not worked and CCS will be more of the same — but worse.

Our students and nation are at risk of losing much of what previous generations have worked hard to achieve. Let’s put an end to the federal NCLB and CCS in Kansas schools, and let our teachers teach the employable skills our students need to earn a living wage and keep America strong.

More information that Chappell has gathered may be found at his website, Walt Chappell: Main Issues.


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