American politicians often like big goals and lofty aspirations which can be summed up in a sentence. To be the first to send a person to the moon is one that springs to mind. And it’s the proof of course, that sometimes they get there.
No Child Left Behind is just one such lofty aspiration. It aims to ensure that every child in the US achieves a basic level of literacy by 2014 – that no child is left behind. While literacy is a focus, it seeks to drive up standards in the American public school system in a range of other areas too.
Since its introduction in 2001, this federal legislation has been controversial. It seeks to create robust accountability for primary and secondary schools through the use of targets, rewards for high performance while forcing under-performing schools to offer students the choice of an alternative provider, or extra tuition.
Its critics say, amongst other things, that the legislation punishes schools in need of support, narrows the curriculum offered to young people, that it’s overly focused on standardized testing, and that its attempts to offer a choice of provider are difficult to implement.
Supporters tend to argue that in fact NCLB’s emphasis on testing provides the only real data that can uncover under-performance in relation to basic skills, and that direct accountability is the best route available to performance enhancement.
It’s a fascinating debate, and one with real resonances with our experience in this country.
So it is with pleasure that we will welcome Ray Simon, US Deputy Secretary of State for Education to the RSA to talk about the issue on the 27th February as one of our series of lectures arranged in association with Edge. Follow this link to find out more, book your place, and take part in the discussion already running on the RSA site.