The No Child Left Behind Act
The No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) is a United States Federal Law that seeks to improve the education standards in the country for elementary, middle and high schools. The law, which focuses on public education reforms mainly, is aimed at making various states compete for federal funding as opposed to entitlement. By observing the law critically, it appears that the true intention of the law is not to exclude any state from federal funding but to increase quality of education in the country by increasing accountability among other issues. This research paper seeks to discuss the provisions of the law, the pros and cons of the law, the effects of the law and possible improvements of the act. The NCLB Act has both advantages and disadvantages; thus, it should be improved in order to achieve a full range of its intended goals and objectives.
Details of the Act
The idea of the NCLB Act was conceived in 2000 when the Congress reauthorized the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, this being the first title. The Act was passed in December 2001 in both houses and adopted early in 2002 by President Bush. The law has deep roots in the President’s personal record as the governor of Texas with regard to education reform. Since the President had brought about an overhaul reform in Texas education system, he, together with other sponsors such as Senator Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts, intensively lobbied for its overwhelming passage.
The act provides for an elaborate system of academic reporting, annual testing, teacher qualifications, and changes in funding as well as initiation of a Report Cards and Reading First early-reading program. The act expressly provides for annual testing of children in grades 3 to 8 on the basis of state standards of education but, at the same time, according to a federal outlook. The Act requires that children in fourth and eighth grades sit for National Assessment of Educational Progress as a way of evaluating a state’s status in the new education requirements program. In other words, the law requires that each state makes Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP). If a certain school misses the AYP for two consecutive years, it is labeled as requiring improvement. If a school fails its AYP six years consecutively, it risks being closed. These ramifications were meant to improve individual as well as overall performance.
With regard to teaching, the Act provides for highly qualified teachers. Actually, by the end of 2006, each teacher had to be highly qualified in the subjects she or he taught. As long as teachers are paid by federal funds, according to Title 1, they have to complete at least two years in college. In terms of funding, the law also introduced radical changes. Although the law recognizes the need to support children from poor families, it also calls for funding students in special grades on the basis of their performance. Moreover, before the funding is released, pupils must first be tested on a federal scale. The law also provides for the implementation of report cards; this makes the monitoring of the progress in academics easy and traceable. Lastly, the law is very strict on the accountability of all the players to educational standards.
Pros and Cons of the Act
Although the Act was passed as a way of improving the education standards in the country, it presents both advantages and disadvantages. As a result, there have been two camps in the debate: those who oppose and those who support the law. In terms of accountability, both teachers and students are accountable to academic standards. Specifically, by focusing on high test results, the law enables or makes students study harder, thus achieve better results. Another advantage is that the law does not necessarily impose conditions on the states. In essence, the annual tests, though initiated from a federal front, are based on national standards for each particular state. In other words, there are no universal standards since there are state-specific circumstances that render states incapable of competing with others on the same scale. Moreover, the Act implicitly provides for competition through achievement of the set standards. Further, the law is advantageous in its provision of funding for students regardless of their religion, ethnicity and social class of their parents.
Other factions are dissatisfied with the law under research; they argue that it has not directly improved the education process in the country. They cite evidence of mixed results from annual tests. In addition, the so-called federal testing does not provide for a standard measure since different states have diverse standards. There have been concerns that the issue of standardized testing is flawed. Other factions actually claim that the system of testing is sometimes biased.Â Furthermore, it is apparent that the high standards set by the Act have led to a nationwide shortage of teachers. As a matter of fact, it appears as if the federal government was indirectly trying to reduce its budget for teachers because not all teachers would meet the new standards. By further looking at the administrative politics of the United States, one can argue that the federal government has interfered with other states, thus compromising their independence in terms of education decisions and policy.
Effects of the Act
Since the inception of the Act, several issues have arisen. As earlier demonstrated, there have been perennial shortages in the teachers available to attend to students on a national scale. These effects can be categorized as those affecting students, teachers, ethnicity, minorities, funding, student assessment, schools and school districts. From the onset, it will be mentioned that the effects are either positive or negative.
The first effect has been an upsurge of increased accountability on the part of teachers as well as schools. With the new standards, all the teachers have deliverables or benchmarks according to which they should perform. The law allows for involvement of parents in the administration of schools. This innovation keeps the management of schools as well as teachers on check and creates the awareness that stakeholders are not accountable to themselves but to parents as well as the national and federal governments. If to take students into consideration, there has been an overall improvement in the test scores attained. Other positive effects are evident in improvement of local curricula and the general education quality. However, the emphasis on mathematics has led to a negative effect on the non-preference of the art-based subjects. On a negative note, the Act does not provide for incentives of above-minimum achievement. In addition, although national standards are documented, overall, local control is compromised. Moreover, in spite of all shortcomings, the Act seeks to produce an overall effect on the American education standards and accountability.
How the Act can be Improved
There are several ramifications that could make the Act under research more effective in achieving its goals. Since it has been established that the Act does not expressly advocate for above-minimum achievement, there should be improvements in the standards. According to Berkhart, exams should be made tougher. In addition, students should be prepared for post-high school academic or work environments. Therefore, there should be an overhaul campaign to change the thoughts of Americans that the minimum standards are not the highest expected performance. In addition, the Act should provide children with disabilities with more comprehensive packages. Although it ensures the provision of incentives to such children, it does not expressly entrench the establishment of special schools and programs for them. In addition, the federal government should leave the states with the responsibility of improving performance of their schools since they are able to understand their contexts better then the federal government.Â Since there could be a notion that all students in failing schools also fail, there should be a sensitization program established at all schools that such students should not be denied admission to other schools. On the contrary, focus should be laid upon their individual performance but not stigmatizing the school without even understanding the dynamics that lead to its poor performance.
There is no doubt that the education system in the USA requires radical ramifications. Moreover, the need to reform the education sector began many years ago, culminating in the passage of the No Child Left Behind Act. The Act, which was adopted by President Bush in 2002, was geared towards improving the education in the country on the basis of accountability, funding, testing, content delivery, teacher qualifications among others. One of the major advantages it introduced was the improvement of the education standards in the country. The major drawback is that the federal government interferes with the local operations. In order to improve the Act, there should be provisions to suggest the importance of above-minimum performance on the part of students.