No Child Left Behind: Frustrated Educators, Advocates Call For Overhaul

WASHINGTON -- Education leaders, teachers and their advocates gathered at the American Federation of Teachers national conference this week and expressed deep frustration at the lack of movement to overhaul the vastly unpopular No Child Left Behind education law.

On Monday, Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) characterized the situation to great applause as a "reluctance to move ahead on what everyone in the country wants, every school district wants, that is change this No Child Left Behind law right now."

Norton criticized the GOP as being the roadblock, despite states from all over the country asking for an overhaul.

"The Republicans do not want to give this president a victory of any kind even if it turns out to be a victory for the children," Norton said.

Montana recently decided to freeze the state's targets for proficiency, essentially opting to disobey NCLB. This move prompted the U.S. Department of Education to tell the state their federal funding could be in jeopardy.

Alyson Kleinman, a high school social studies teacher in a small district just outside Denver, Colo., said she's watched the law have a "profound" effect on English and math classes.

There is teaching for the test, she told The Huffington Post, explaining that it puts a lot of pressure on educators.

"I think they need to take some of the emphasis off the testing, because that's not the only measure for the kids," Kleinman said. She explained some districts are trying to measure using portfolios, in-class assignments or observations by other teachers.

Kleinman also said the tests don't take into account different factors in the student's background, such as family and home environment and parental support.

Larry Finch, a social studies teachers from Florida, told HuffPost that timed tests are ineffective because students learn differently and demonstrate their learning in different ways.

A recent report by the National Research Council of The National Academies, "Incentives and Test-Based Accountability in Education" found a negative effect as teachers began tailoring their teaching to ensure students pass standardized tests.

"When evaluated using relevant low-stakes tests -- which are less likely to be inflated by the incentives themselves -- the overall effects on achievement tend to be small and are effectively zero for a number of programs," the report stated.

The report also stated it was not fair to criticize teachers for "teaching to the test" after forcing them to subject their students to narrow standardized exams.

Recent breakouts of cheating scandals across the country have been used as evidence by AFT president Randi Weingarten as negative consequences from a heavy focus on testing.

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has reported there has been little progress on NCLB, despite President Obama setting the summer as a deadline for reforming the law.