Demonstrated dramatically in the case of an Atlanta school scandal, in which teachers admitted to changing test scores in order to meet the demands of the school superintendent, No Child Left Behind puts the focus in the wrong place. In the words of Dianne Ravitch, former Assistant Secretary of Education under President George H. W. Bush, the “simple minded and singular focus on test scores distorts and degrades the meaning and practice of education.”
Well-formulated standards are of great use in creating a collective vision of what a good education should include, and of course it is incumbent upon any good teacher to have a thorough mastery of his or her area of expertise. However, when curriculum standards are reduced to scores on multiple choice tests, the ideals of quality education are narrowed in the extreme.
The current emphasis on high stakes testing and government mandates is a huge distraction for teachers that takes their focus away from the individual skills, talents, and needs of their students. The emphasis in NCLB is not on quality education but on standardization and accountability. It is difficult to find anything in the law that is truly student-centered. Though it is certainly intended to benefit children, it does not speak to the individuality of learners, or to the individual skill and creativity of teachers. Instead it mandates progress and prescribes punitive action when adequate progress is not achieved.
The political / educational context and environment being what it is today, does not promote a student-centered perspective. There are still wonderful teachers who maintain a student-centered focus even as they deal with government mandates. However, without the resources, class size, facilities, and communityvision to support this focus, teachers are often alone in their efforts to discover and implement effective educational practices. There is nothing in the philosophy underpinning our most recent reforms that would suggest a student-centered focus.