From the Trenches: No child left behind…R.I.P.

Mike Lawson • Archives • October 19, 2006

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By Bob Morrison

Five years ago I wrote a somewhat controversial essay called The Perfect Storm where I predicted that the combination of proposed federal laws, now known as No Child Left Behind, and an eroding economy meant we would face the loss of programs in the coming years. I am not happy that I was right… nor am I happy for the pain and suffering this situation has caused many of our schools and many of our students. But I can tell you with all conviction that we now have the greatest opportunity in our history to advance music and arts education. And no I haven’t been drinking.

Why, you may ask? Very simply… and you are the fi rst to see me express this publicly: No Child Left Behind – as we know it – is dead… and, I might add, may it rest in peace. That is not to say that the effects will not linger. They will. But we are entering a new era where the testing frenzy and the fear that has gripped our classrooms has been recognized, the narrowing of the curriculum has been documented, and the public is now beginning to understand the suffering we, and more importantly our children, have endured.

A new report from the Center on Education Policy was released last month entitled From the Capital to the Classroom: Year 4 of the No Child Left Behind Act. The report documents the fact that 71 percent of the school districts (11,000 school districts) in the US have “narrowed the curriculum” to focus on reading and math. This includes 22 percent (3,500 school districts) that have reduced or eliminated music instruction.

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