Yahoo News asked voters to consider President George W. Bush's legacy as his presidential library opens Thursday in Dallas. Here's one perspective.
COMMENTARY | As a teacher in Davis, Calif., I think the legacy left by George W. Bush is one that seriously damaged our education system. Bush's No Child Left Behind law required schools to use standardized testing and penalized schools that performed poorly overall, as well as subgroups within schools that didn't make measured progress. NCLB also required student proficiency in math and reading by 2014.
By instituting his No Child Left Behind policy, Bush relegated public schools to the position of test preparation centers, and sucked all ability for creative, critical thinking out of our classrooms. No Child Left Behind, from the start, assumed that every child would be able to meet a set of standards regardless of ability, early childhood education, parental involvement, and motivation level. NCLB created a stratified education system that virtually segregated districts by race and socioeconomic level. Schools with underperforming sub groups fell into 'program improvement' status, which allowed parents to move their children to other schools that weren't in the same position.
In my community, a district with above average test scores, stable home values and a great deal of parent support, we still had schools fall into program improvement due to small numbers of underperforming students. Because these students were underperforming on tests, the NCLB law pushed the entire school into a panicked, reactionary state where the focus became more on how to help students pass a test, rather than approaching student education on the level each individual student required. As a result, parents unhappy with changes in school program were allowed to transfer their students to neighboring schools, which has created a racially and socioeconomically unbalanced program for all.
For me, No Child Left Behind defines George Bush's legacy through the mess it created in our school systems, and the tremendous effort it will take to clean it up.