A good name for a bad concept
Eduwonk is having a contest for re-naming "No Child Left Behind." With all due respect, I disagree with the idea of changing the name of this program. The name is perfectly appropriate; it is the concept that is flawed.
I should point out that I am looking at this from a high school teacher's point of view, and maybe an elementary teacher would see it differently. But the name "No Child Left Behind" implies that education is something that is done "to" or "for" somebody. As a person who deals with 15-18-year-olds, I can tell you that I can't educate anyone. I can't force any of them to come along with me. I can make it possible for every one of my students to be successful (and that ain't easy!), I can motivate, and I can make my classes as interesting as I possibly can. But I can't force my kids to become educated. It doesn't matter how hard I work at it, if my students are going to be educated, they are going to have to have some desire to do that, and they are going to have to do most of the work themselves. I can do everything in my power to give all of my students the opportunity to be educated, but I'm sorry--I can't ram it down their throats. "No Child Left Behind," just as the name says, is based on the idea that I can. And that's why the program is fatally flawed.
If we want reform that will improve education in America in a meaningful way, it needs to be based on the idea that we will provide the opportunity for a quality education for every child. That includes providing the best possible opportunities for kids with various learning disabilities. However, implicit in that concept is the acknowledgement that there will be kids who will turn their backs on education. Certainly we should try to motivate and encourage kids to take advantage of the opportunity, but eventually we must accept their decisions. If a student won't try or won't behave appropriately, that student should be removed from the educational setting or at least separated from those who do want to be educated.
I know I sound like a broken record when I keep saying this, but kids affect other kids in the classroom. When we say that we will leave no child behind, we are making sure that we will leave many behind that don't have to be. When we say that we will educate every kid whether they like it or not, and we will force them to stay in their classrooms no matter what they do or don't do, we are condemning countless kids who have wonderful possibilities to be stuck in those classrooms with them. For too many that means an inferior education or no education at all.