No Child Left Behind
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A QUICK REVIEW OF RECENT POLICY may clarify why
there is concern about the provisions of NCLB, which appear to focus
attention on the learning of each and every child. Federal requirements
related to state policies have, in general, been limited to concerns
about civil rights, support for disadvantaged and handicapped students,
dissemination of models for improvement, and research and statistics.
The generation of national, not federal, standards and curriculum
goals — what should be taught — began in the late 1980s
in mathematics, and later in the sciences, arts, civics, history
and language. Following a statement of National Educational Goals
by the nation's governors, states for the most part voluntarily
adopted or adapted subsets of standards to guide their teaching
and assessment policy.
Many of the standards communicate on a general level what is to
be learned but do not provide sufficient guidance for some teachers
to select appropriate instructional methods, sample texts or analytical
methods. Take, for example, this from California's History-Social
Science Standard 6.1: "Students describe what is known through
archaeological studies of the early physical and cultural development
of humankind from the Paleolithic era to the agricultural revolution."
This standard is so broad in its coverage that it is difficult
to know what to teach and what will be measured. Consider attempts
at specificity — for example, these from Grade 6 History-Social
Science Standards 6.1.2 and 6.1.3: "Identify the locations
of human communities that populated the major regions of the world
and describe how humans adapted to a variety of environments"
. . . "Discuss climate changes and human modifications of the