By Ben Atlas:
Graphic by George Hwang:
With the 2012 elections coming up, some members of the senior class will be eligible to vote. The odds of California voting in favor of re-electing Democrat and current president Barack Obama seem overwhelming, considering that since 1986, California has always voted for the Democratic candidate. However, when one examines the current president’s future effects on educational policy, it becomes apparent that it may be time for some change we really can believe in–change in California’s voting record. California and Gunn would be better off voting against Obama in 2012 because Obama’s educational policies are known failures.
[pullquote]California and Gunn would be better off voting against Obama in 2012 because Obama’s educational policies are known failures.[/pullquote]
When President Obama took office in 2008, many of his backers were hope- ful that he would drop the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). NCLB was created by Democrat Ted Kennedy and Republican George Bush to raise school standards throughout the nation and to provide funding to schools that met the standards. At first, this seems like a reasonable plan. However, several gaping flaws are apparent. According to Obama’s own Education Secretary, Arne Duncan, “NCLB allows, even encourages, states to lower their standards. In too many classrooms, it encourages teachers to narrow the curriculum. It relies too much on bubble tests in a couple of subjects. It mislabels schools, even when they are showing progress on important measures.”
Despite obvious flaws, Obama common misguided rebuttal continues to push NCLB, insisting that with a few policy changes, the problems can be solved. The few changes to the original act were directed towards reforming math and English departments. While this is reasonable, reforming these two creates a lopsided curriculum—history and science are dwarfed, and the value of two core subjects in American education is greatly decreased.
Another major problem with NCLB is that it encourages teaching to the test rather than the material. NCLB rests on the notion that if teachers’ students don’t meet specific standards on a test, funding for that school gets cut. Often times the teacher deemed responsible for the unsatisfactory scores can be laid off.
To save his or her job, a teacher is more likely to teach what’s on the test rather than teaching what is applicable material. Career, social, verbal and a number of other essential life skills simply don’t show up on a Scantron, and Scantron-based tests are NCLB’s only means of teacher evaluation.
Furthermore, studies by famed economist Steven Levitt show that teachers have been driven to cheating in order to meet standards. The choice of cheating becomes very appealing to struggling teachers when the alternative is potentially the loss of their job. Yet another glaring problem that NCLB attracts is good teachers potentially losing their jobs.
Since the continuation of NCLB in 2008 under the Obama administration, 300,000 teachers have lost their jobs. A common misguided rebuttal would claim that the 300,000 teachers were inadequate. However, tests just don’t eval- uate everything. With no room to deviate from the curriculum and standardized tests, ingenuity and creativity in teaching are stifled as the NCLB makes no distinction between the lazy teacher who is unable to teach and the brilliant mind who teaches in his or her own way.
Obama’s educational platform follows the same, flawed policies as did the much-lauded former President George Bush. The NCLB Act encourages teachers to lower their standards and teach what’s on a test rather than what students really need to know, offers the tempting decision of academic dishonesty to avoid being laid off, smothers out-of- the-box teaching styles, and has resulted in 300,000 potentially capable teachers losing their jobs since Obama took office.
Currently, most Gunn students, and most Californians all congregate under the same candidate, as they have for nearly 24 years. In the upcoming election, newly registered voters and other California citizens should reject Obama and his flawed educational policies. Now there’s some change that we could really believe in.