Students from Batchelor Middle School in Bloomington took on issues with the No Child Left Behind Act in a documentary that just won a national award.
The students won Third Prize in a contest sponsored by C-SPAN. In order to participate, middle school and high school students from all over the nation had to answer the same question: how has a policy, legislation or action taken by one of the branches of the federal government affected you or your community?
Eighth Grade Students Sejal Rajamani, Nikki Nguyen and Piper Watson, with the support of their teacher, Jeff Rudkin, answered with their documentary titled “No Child Left Behind: Time to Change.”
“I think we’re emphasizing that No Child Left Behind is old and needs to change and standardized testing has a lot of flaws,” Rahamani says. “Although the government should be informed on how school’s are doing, standardized testing might not be the way to do it.”
When asked how No Child Left Behind has affected her life, she said it makes her feel stressed.
No Child Left Behind was passed under the George W. Bush administration. It has increased the time dedicated to standardised tests in the classroom. As a result, not only students, but also teachers and schools get evaluated solely on the performance of these tests. According to Rudkin other criteria should be taken into account.
“Do they do community service, things like that, a lot of things that play into a school’s grade rather than a single test that lasts a few weeks,” Rudkin says.
Many schools around the nation have also had to cut down on electives, to accommodate the time and money that taking this test demands.
“We’re lucky we have a school that still has electives and supports a well-rounded education,” Rudkin says. “But a lot of schools across the country are having to cut electives, like P.E., to focus on this test.
When asked about an alternative, Rudkin answered that the core idea of No Child Left Behind is commendable. He says it’s the way the law has been implemented through a single standardised test that fails to work.
The problem, says Rudkin, is that legislators are not willing to sit down to talk about the alternatives.
“The legislators aren’t willing to sit down and talk with teachers who have ideas on how to improve it,” he says.
For Nguyen, one of the students, the solution has to be found closer to home, within the community.
“I think we should bring it down to a local level so the people in the community can address what needs to be done because they probably know more about what’s going on in the community than the state or national government,” Nguyen says.
ISTEP+, the standardized test in the state of Indiana, is taken every Spring in subjects such as English and Math.