No Child Left Behind

The No Child Left Behind Act supports standards based education reform to set high standards and establish goals to improve education.

LEARNING OBJECTIVE

  • Evaluate the arguments for and against the No Child Left Behind Act

KEY POINTS

    • The Act requires states to develop assessments in basic skills. States must give these assessments to all students at select grade levels in order to receive federal school funding. The standards in the act are set by each individual state.
    • Schools receiving Title I funding must make Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) in test scores; each year, its fifth graders must do better on standardized tests than the previous year’s fifth graders.
    • Critics argue the focus on standardized testing as the means of assessment encourages teachers to teach a narrow subset of skills the teacher believes will increase test performance, rather than focus on acquiring deep understanding of the curriculum. This is referred to as teaching to the test.

TERM

  • No Child Left Behind ActThe No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB) is a United States Act of Congress that is a reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which included Title I, the government’s flagship aid program for disadvantaged students. NCLB supports standards-based education reform based on the premise that setting high standards and establishing measurable goals can improve individual outcomes in education.

No Child Left Behind Act

The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB) is a United States Act of Congress that is a reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which included Title I, the government‘s flagship aid program for disadvantaged students. NCLB supports standards-based education reform based on the premise that setting high standards and establishing measurable goals can improve individual outcomes in education. The Act requires states to develop assessments in basic skills. States must give these assessments to all students at select grade levels in order to receive federal school funding. The standards in the act are set by each individual state. NCLB expanded the federal role in public education through annual testing, annual academic progress, report cards, teacher qualifications, and funding changes. The bill passed in the U.S. Congress with bipartisan support. President Bush signed it into law on January 8, 2002 .

Provisions of the Act

Schools receiving Title I funding through the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 must make Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) in test scores (each year, its fifth graders must do better on standardized tests than the previous year’s fifth graders). If the school’s results are repeatedly poor, then steps are taken to improve the school.

Schools that miss AYP for a second consecutive year are labeled as being “in need of improvement” and are required to develop a two-year improvement plan for the trouble subject. Students are given the option to transfer to a better school within the school district, if any exists. Missing AYP in the third year forces the school to offer free tutoring and other supplemental education services to struggling students. If a school misses its AYP target for a fourth consecutive year, the school is labeled as requiring “corrective action,” which may involve wholesale replacement of staff, introduction of a new curriculum, or extending the amount of time students spend in class. A fifth year of failure results in planning to restructure the school; the plan is implemented if the school fails to hit its AYP targets for the sixth year in a row. Common options include closing the school, turning the school into a charter school, hiring a private company to run the school, or asking the state office of education to run the school directly.

The act also requires schools to let military recruiters have students’ contact information and other access to the student, if the school provides that information to universities or employers, unless the students opt out of giving military recruiters access.

Increased accountability

Supporters of the NCLB claim one of the strong positive points of the bill is the increased accountability that is required of schools and teachers. The yearly standardized tests are the main means of determining whether schools are living up to the standards that they are required to meet. If the required improvements are not made, the schools face decreased funding and other punishments that contribute to the increased accountability. According to supporters, these goals help teachers and schools realize the significance and importance of the educational system and how it affects the nation. Opponents of this law say that the punishments hurt the schools and do not contribute to the improvement of student education.

Additionally, the Act provides information for parents by requiring states and school districts to give parents detailed report cards on schools and districts explaining the school’s AYP performance. Schools must also inform parents when their child is being taught by a teacher or para-professional who does not meet “highly qualified” requirements.

Criticisms of standardized testing under NCLB

Critics have argued that the focus on standardized testing as the means of assessment encourages teachers to teach a narrow subset of skills that the teacher believes will increase test performance, rather than focus on acquiring deep understanding of the full, broad curriculum. This is colloquially referred to as “teaching to the test. ”

Under No Child Left Behind, schools were held almost exclusively accountable for absolute levels of student performance. This means even schools that were making great strides with students were still labeled as “failing” just because the students had not yet made it to a “proficient” level of achievement.

The incentives for improvement also may cause states to lower their official standards. A 2007 study by the U.S. Dept. of Education indicates that the observed differences in states’ reported scores is largely due to differences in the stringency of their standards.

“Gaming” the system

The system of incentives and penalties sets up a strong motivation for schools, districts and states to manipulate test results. For example, schools have been shown to employ “creative reclassification” of drop-outs to reduce unfavorable statistics. Critics argue that these and other strategies create an inflated perception of NCLB’s successes, particularly in states with high minority populations.