Should all K-12 students be required to learn exactly the same things to exactly the same level of proficiency?
Prior to the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act (2002), many schools used a tracked model that directed students into courses appropriate for their intellectual development and long-term goals. The mission of schools using this model was simply to assure that all of the enrolled students could learn to the best of their abilities. This was often measured by the ability of the student to find a meaningful method of self-support as adults. For some, this meant preparation for college as they would be pursuing the required advanced study that would assist them in moving into the professions. For others, trade preparation or basic life skills were required. While the mission was to see all students learn, the goal of education was to assure that they learned what they needed. What was needed was considered unique to each student.
Today, the mission of seeing all students learn remains the same. However, after 2002, the goal of the schools changed via legal mandate. Under NCLB (2002), the goal was now for every student to learn the same things to the same level of proficiency. No longer were students considered unique individuals with distinctive desires and needs. All students were suddenly considered homogenous and required to share the same needs regardless of their level of intellectual ability or their individual giftings. While the irony remains in the modern emphasis on diversity being packaged in a monochromatic model of education, the point remains that the NCLB mandate has removed the sense of humanity from students. Not every child is capable or desirous of becoming a doctor, university professor, or information technology engineer. Indeed, society would not function without individuals employed in the seemingly commonplace occupations. These occupations typically do not require college degrees. So, the goal of preparing every child for college attendance seems an unreasonable expectation. Much like setting a goal of painting 100 percent of the homes in America chartreuse, the goal of identical learning is simply unrealistic.
If diversity is truly valued, diversity in educational outcomes must be valued as well. So, while assuring that all students learn is a worthy mission, the goal of every student achieving the same level of learning is not a reasonable goal.
No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act of 2001, Pub. L. No. 107-110, § 115, Stat. 1425 (2002).