No Child Left Behind

October 17, 2007
“These reforms express my deep belief in our public schools and their mission to build the mind and character of every child, from every background, in every part of America.”

President George W. Bush
In January of 2001, three days after taking office, President George W. Bush announced the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). This act incorporates a reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA) as well as its own additions to education reform. However, NCLB has since sparked controversy in the academic community due to its proposed changes in policy. After nearly seven years, it now becomes necessary to examine whether NCLB is really worth the trouble.

No Child Left Behind espouses excellent goals, including increased accountability, more options for parents and students, greater flexibility for the schools, and an emphasis on literacy. In order to increase accountability, the act requires that states set standards in reading and math to which schools must strive. Students in grades three through eight must undergo annual standardized testing to be certain that the state’s standards are achieved. The results of the testing are divided into categories according to students’ backgrounds. This enables the school to specify in which areas it needs to improve. For example, if a significant amount of immigrant students are struggling, the school knows it has to develop its English language program. Schools must also aim toward realizing adequate yearly progress in improving the results of the testing. If the school manages this last goal, it qualifies for a State Annual Achievement Award. If the school is found unable to improve, it is required to provide bussing to another school in order to give parents and students the option of a quality education. In addition, if the school continues to lack improvement, it must then provide vouchers for lower income students to attend other schools. The NCLB Act also allows schools flexibility in determining their own weaker points. Schools are given funding for four major programs: Teacher Quality, Educational Technology, Innovative Programs, and Safe and Drug Free Schools. The school can transfer up to half of the funds from any of these programs to any other according to the school’s needs. In order to emphasize literacy, the act advocates an increase in federal funding of scientifically-based reading instruction programs, especially for students who speak English as a second language, and it also stresses focusing on reading during early stages of education. NCLB also introduces an increase in federal funding for education as well as cutting down on the bureaucracy involved by reducing the number of ESEA programs from fifty-five to only forty-five. Due to the testing and subsequent appraisal of the schools, parents are able to keep tabs on their children’s education, which can be extremely valuable to both the parent and the student.

Despite all of the above, there are many concerns that No Child Left Behind is not really beneficial for society. In order to achieve the required test results, schools have to spend an increased amount of time preparing students, which detracts from actual learning. This has resulted in the “dumbing down” of the school system in general. In an effort to appear a better educational institution, the school spends so much time focusing on its problems that it can no longer push students to excellence. Also, classroom time dedicated to the tests themselves replaces classroom time dedicated to learning. Additionally, NCLB involves the federal government very heavily in the local schools. Some would argue that they might be better left in the control of the state and town. Finally, many of the programs and improvements, not to mention the busses and vouchers allowing students to attend other schools, are extremely expensive. Although the government increased funding, the expense remains a legitimate concern and a burden to the local taxpayers.

Bearing all of the above in mind, it becomes the task of the individual to decide if indeed the admirable goals of No Child Left Behind outweigh the detrimental inconveniences or visa versa. Can NCLB be completely successful? Is the rise in the quality of education fact or fantasy? As the 2008 presidential election approaches, this issue will become much more prominent as potential new administrations draw their conclusions and decide whether to let it stand or reform educational policy yet again. Speak up. Voice your opinion. You decide.

Works Consulted

U.S. Department of Education. (2004, February). Executive Summary of the No

Child Left Behind Act. Retrieved September 30, 2007 from

U.S. Department of Education. (2004, July). Four Pillars of NCLB. Retrieved
September 30, 2007 from

U.S. Department of Education. (2003, August). Fact Sheet on the Major Provisions of
the Conference Report to H.R. 1, the No Child Left Behind Act. Retrieved
September 30, 2007 from

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