The No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), that was signed into effect in 2002 by President Bush, has changed the way that education is approached forever. This Act aimed to make sweeping changes in the educational system by trying to “legalize the federal takeover of public education and achieve the goals to institute national standards” (Poyner 45). NCLB increased the standards of accountability from the state level all the way down to individual schools, gave parents a larger role in deciding their child’s school, and most importantly focused on narrowing the achievement gap that is present in classrooms and schools nationwide (Allen). This specifically focuses on mathematics and reading; however, progress is important across the board. NCLB is set up on a few basic principles to envision change. Although there are many visions of NCLB, three of the most important factors that make this possible are accountability, transparency, and choice(Chubb).
NCLB has laid a foundation of certain standards that every state must meet. These standards focus on accountability for all the students of the schools in the state and require that schools show what is known as Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP). This requires a system, unique to each state, which measures the assessments, graduation rates, and test scores of statewide tests to determine if each school is making progress in narrowing the achievement gap of its students once broken down in subgroups. These subgroups can be divided many ways, some of which include race, income, English language learners, and special education students (Allen). Once separated into subgroups, schools can take the scores of tests and compare them to how each subgroup performed and determine if a particular group seems to be having more difficulty than another. NCLB aims to have all students proficient by the 2013-2014 school year (Wiki).
This is where the accountability comes into play. If these schools aren’t able to show that as a whole they are making adequate yearly progress two years in a row, then there are penalties. After this two year period, schools will be labeled as “in need of improvement.” This label limits the amount of federal money a school can receive because they have not met the minimum requirements. The schools are, however, required to develop a school improvement plan in which they develop ways to bring the school up to standard and are required to spend ten percent of their Title One funding to assist teachers in getting all students on the same page. The schools must use this money with the understanding that states must then provide evidence that AYP is being made (Allen).
On the other side of all the testing and accountability that the schools now face, the teachers are also being held more accountable. Teachers must now have the status of being a “highly qualified teacher.” This has several stipulations for new teachers which include possessing a bachelor’s degree and, at the elementary level, passing a state test demonstrating subject knowledge and teaching skills in reading/ language arts, writing, math, and other basic curriculum. At the middle/high school level, teachers must pass a state test in the area that is being taught, plus an undergraduate major, or graduate degree coursework that is equivalent to that. Current teachers must have passed the state licensure requirement and be certified by the state (Allen).
These highly qualified teachers have been dealt the daunting task of getting all students they teach, regardless of their level, to achieve proficiency on a state administered test. These teachers are being held accountable for getting results that will not only affect the report of the scores on the school, but also the possibility that federal money will not be provided or the school could possibly lose accreditation. To help combat this potentially stressful task, it is necessary that these teachers be equipped with the knowledge necessary to prepare them to handle high-stakes testing. This requires a deeper understanding of “how to use assessment-driven instruction and responsive adaptive teaching” (Wepner) to reach the kids on a level where they are not only learning the material, but comprehending it in a way that will easily translate in the test. A few ways that this is possible is by creating more interaction between the students and the teacher and having them actively participate and use review techniques that prepare them for the test format. Teachers also need to be exposed to working in all types of environments with students of all types of ability, including high and low income, different social classes, and even those who may speak more than one language (Wepner). This will allow the teachers to be more prepared for any group of students that may be put together in a classroom. If they have experience to deal with each group separately, then once they are all together, the teachers are more aware of what each student may need, therefore adapting the lessons to reach a bigger portion of the class. So, although these guidelines for teacher accountability require more preparation, it puts teachers in a better position to succeed in their job, regardless of the situation in which they may find themselves teaching.
The next vision for change deals with transparency. This calls for report cards to be distributed to each parent that details the school’s accreditation status, the progress of their own child, and the qualifications of the student’s teacher (Chubb). This would also let parents know if their child is being taught by a teacher who may not be highly qualified or if the school failed to get the required scores on the test (Allen). This knowledge that is being provided to the parents allows them to play a bigger role in their child's education. Not only is the information outlined, but according to NCLB, parents are being given more flexibility in choosing the school that their child will attend. For instance, if a child is attending a school that is not fully accredited, then the parents have the option to move them to a school within the same school district that may be accredited. This is a freedom that has never been enjoyed prior to the signing of NCLB.
The final key to NCLB deals with the choice that is being offered to students and schools. According to the testing policies, students are tested annually in grades 3-8 and once during high school. By the 2007-2008 school year, they will also be tested in science once in grades 3-5, 6-9, and 10-12 (Wiki). These results are then taken and broken down to see where and if AYP was met. If a school fails two consecutive years, the choice provisions will take effect allowing students to transfer (Chubb). However, because of the high number of schools that are struggling with this requirement, now upon receipt of the scores, students are given the choice to seek immediate help if deemed necessary by the school. The same goes for the school as a whole. Once the scores are received and they are not acceptable, the parents have the choice to take immediate action and transfer schools or in less severe cases, the schools can seek help to bring in programs to help them meet the required goals.
These visions that have been outlined to change the process of education have already proven to snap some schools into shape. Many implemented policies of NCLB before it was even approved completely. However, for the educational process to continue to move in the desired direction, it requires the continued support and backing of all parties, the students, parents, schools, school districts, and the states. If everyone works together, then NCLB can continue to make strides to equalize the playing field for all students regardless of how they may be divided. However, if cooperation is not continued, then NCLB is doomed to failure based on the fact that positive change can not take place without cooperation. Cooperation is a necessity when the nation’s future is at stake.
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- Chubb, John. Within Our Reach: How America Can Educate Every Child. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc. Lanham, Maryland. 2005. p. ix-32
- Dr. Allen’s Website. “No Child Left Behind.” Retrieved September 5, 2006, from http://www.odu.edu/educ/dwallen/eci301new/lecture%2015.htm
- Poynor, Leslie. Marketing Fear in America’s Public Schools. Mahwah, New Jersey. 2005. p. 45.
- Wepner, Shelly. Testing Gone Amok: Leave No Teacher Candidate Behind. Teacher Education Quarterly 33 no 1 135-49 Wint 2006. InfoTrac OneFile. Thomson Gale. Old Dominion University Library. Retrieved September 7, 2006, from find.galegroup.com
- Wikipedia. “No Child Left Behind.” Retrieved September 5, 2006, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/No_child_left_behind