Tom Chapin Asks for your Help Disemboweling ‘No Child Left Behind’

It seems Tom Chapin is no fan of Mr. Bush’s No Child Left Behind law that established standardized testing in schools. If you think this doesn’t matter because your kid is in diapers, read my sentiments about the documentary Two Million Minutes from a couple months ago.

Chapin has produced Not on The Test, a music video that hits the point home.

You can download the song, CD cover art and even the video at

There are many criticisms of the law, but Chapin takes aim at how the tests lead schools to “teach to the test” — teaching a narrow set of topics and factoids… discouraging creative thinking and problem solving. A traditional full curriculum that creates well-rounded individuals gets tossed in favor of focused engineering of students to assure they pass a particular test because the stakes are too high to spend much time on anything else.

One of many side effects has been the de-emphasis and sometimes elimination of art, music or other non-test courses, a situation that Chapin wants to see reversed.

Chapin’s point is to move you to act by way of speaking out. Read his thoughts on the issue: Why this song?

Blind folks using screen readers (such as my aunt) who also have Flash-impaired web browsers can read the song lyrics at the bottom of the Why this song? page.

I welcome your thoughts on the issue, or perhaps a debate on whether disembowel was a proper word choice for the article title. I considered eviscerate, but decided I wanted a word with a little more grit.

After reading about test-oriented essay writing in Study Great Ideas, but Teach to the Test, I wonder whether vocabulary is ever explored beyond being a bullet point test item.

What are you doing right now to expand your child’s vocabulary? Reading a diverse selection of books from the library is our start. I also like to repeat things my 3-year-old daughter says, but with richer words, often posed as a question.

  • How did you wound your knee?
  • So you graciously seek my consent in order to procure a chocolate chip cookie for you to masticate?
  • You would like to slather the peanut butter on the bread by yourself? Please, may I do the honor? I have worked my entire life for this culminating moment. I find it difficult to relinquish control of the spreading knife now.

Okay, I embellished a little in the last two examples, but you get my point. Everyday moments are teaching moments. You’d better get used to it if, like me, you plan to supplement your child’s schoolroom education.


12 Responses to “Tom Chapin Asks for your Help Disemboweling ‘No Child Left Behind’”

  1. Stephanie says:

    I have to totally agree with you. My son is in 1st grade and they have decided to set math goals for them – while I agree everyone should have some goals they are simply doing this so the teachers can keep in check with NCLB and the requirements. They are doing “time tests” in 1st grade – I don’t recall doing time tests much before 3rd grade – and now they are actually expected to read already when they START kindergarten. I do work with my children at home – but if I am to teach them to read already BEFORE they even go to school – 1) why should I send them to school then if I can do their jobs at home. 2) what is a teacher’s job?

    They have raised the cirriculum standards so much that the averge 6 year old, in 1st grade, in our school district (small, rural at that) – has no less than 1 hour of homework a night – I personally think that is a lot for 1st grade. But, my opinion has never mattered before. I spent 5 years working in an elementary school – and it’s sad to say kids do not get to be kids anymore!

    April 15th, 2008 at 5:27 am

  2. Sara says:

    I’m hoping that NCLB gets scrapped before my kid is in school. One of the most important things you can do for a child’s education is to instill in them a love of learning, a desire to explore, ask “why?” and then try to find the answer. By teaching to the test, you are teaching that learning is nothing more than a means to an end, and not a process that can continually enrich your life for years. Education is not just about vocabulary, spelling, reading, and math skills. Rather, those along with critical thinking and analysis are tools for investigating the world as you move through it. You can’t inspire kids by teaching a means to an end. You can inspire them by letting you know that you are giving them the tools they need to be anything they want in life. Instilling such an approach to education and learning will bring with it a sufficient mastery of academic subjects. Unfortunately, even an excellent mastering of academic subjects will not guarantee an ability to think critically and make the most of you life. And in that, the education system is failing our children and our society.

    April 15th, 2008 at 10:56 am

  3. alianora says:

    Im a teacher, and trust me, we hate it as much as other people do.

    I posted about how I feel about it, and why here:

    Thanks for the links, will check them out.

    April 15th, 2008 at 12:20 pm

  4. Cindi says:

    Hats off to Harry’s brother! I totally agree with his view point. Teacher’s will have my sons practice various types of writing because that will be on the standardized tests. I am glad my children are in honors classes because they are given more creativity access. Things do need to be changed and soon! Thanks for your information.Cindi

    April 15th, 2008 at 1:56 pm

  5. Chief Family Officer says:

    We teach a lot of concepts, even if they’re not completely understood. For example, my husband and I are both lawyers, so we discuss our cases with our three-year-old. We talk about the purpose of advertising, that companies are in it to make money. I teach my son about personal finance and spending money wisely. We also seek to expose them to lots of different experiences – a variety of foods, place, people. :)

    April 15th, 2008 at 7:16 pm

  6. Ray says:

    The federal government is not forcing school districts to comply with NCLB. The districts do it voluntarily. They lose some federal funding if they don’t, but they’re not required to comply with the regulations. It’s all about the dollars. Not the kids.

    Ask your local school board why they refuse to leave the pack and not comply with NCLB standards. Put the blame where it belongs.

    April 17th, 2008 at 5:56 am

  7. Tara says:

    I worked as a paraprofessional (teacher’s aide) in a class with students with IQs of no more than 25. The state required us to test these kids ON grade level because of NCLB. This was insanity. These kids were doing good to hold their own heads up. I hate NCLB.

    April 17th, 2008 at 8:42 am

  8. Kim/hormone-colored days says:

    One more reason to love Tom Chapin!

    I have two academically gifted kids and public school was, sadly, a disaster for my older one. NCLB pays no attention to children who perform above grade level. Just because a child reads advanced books at an early age doesn’t mean he’s done learning. If we’re going to set learning goals for children, there should be appropriate goals across the learning spectrum.

    April 18th, 2008 at 2:04 pm

  9. Tanya says:

    Around my house, we refer to NCLB as “no child gets ahead” because no one seems to focus on good grades anymore. The teachers are wasting their time making sure that no child feels left out instead of preparing the children for real life.

    April 19th, 2008 at 8:18 am

  10. LiteralDan says:

    This is one of several torpedoes the Bush Administration has sent into America’s future.

    It’s just sad, really. Maybe with time, outrage will be widespread and focused enough to send NCLB back to the trash heap where it belongs, and we can let people who have some experience and know what they’re doing have some say in what our national education policy will be.

    April 19th, 2008 at 12:55 pm

  11. brettdl says:

    Tanya, I call NCLB No Child Gets an Education.

    Thanks for the video, I had not seen it before.

    April 26th, 2008 at 7:39 pm

  12. NicInNC says:

    I hve been outraged over NCLB since my children have started school. I have one daughter that is so stressed out over school that she is on medication for her stomach. She’s made A’s, B’s and C’s on her report card, yet we have been told twice already that if she doesn’t pass the end of grade test, she’ll be retained. She has failed all her end of quarter tests. Yet, when it comes to projects or regular classwork, she gets good grades! What does that tell you? That they need to LAY OFF on the testing! I’m praying that getting rid of NCLB is the first thing on the agenda for the new president.

    May 15th, 2008 at 5:33 pm