Holding Students Accountable For Their Education


When the No Child Left Behind Act passed through Congress in 2002, its supporters hoped it would increase accountability of teachers and schools towards education. Whether as a consequence of this act or despite of it, the outcome has been quite the opposite. Students are becoming less and less accountable for their education and their grades, and particularly at the high school level the United States is falling behind other countries.

The No Child Left Behind Act, in a nutshell, requires states to administer standardized tests at certain grade levels. The goal was to set high but achievable standards to improve individual outcomes in education. However, because NCLB does not assert a national achievement standard and instead expects each state to develop its own standard and method of testing, state education standards are being lowered so that students pass state proficiency tests.

Because the students don’t have to work hard in school, they choose not to. They can retake tests, turn in assignments late, receive partial credit. These things sound fine on their own, individually, but may become an avalanche of unnecessary advantages in which students coast through school and don’t care about their grades, because they don’t have to work for them.

There may be higher graduation rates, sure, but maybe there shouldn’t be. Maybe not everyone has what it takes, or cares enough to put in the work, to earn a diploma. The diploma itself does not have actual value, it’s the supposedly valuable education and hard work you did in order to earn that diploma which society should be valuing. We are forgetting that a diploma is something you earn, through dedication and hard work, rather than something you receive for showing up to class nine months out of a year for four years.

Is the solution to get rid of these gray areas? Is the solution to have federal proficiency standards rather than state? Our standardized tests right now by which our proficiency is tested are STAAR (previously TAKS). The ‘T’ in both acronyms stands for ‘Texas’, because both are designed and distributed by Texas. If a switch was made to a national standard, would standards continue to drop? The change needs to go deeper, and a shift in the attitude towards education is necessary. Students must begin to take their education into their own hands, and not expect it to be handed to them.