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No Child Left Behind (NCLB) was instated in 2001, by then President George W. Bush. It was a reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) of 1965. President Obama has the authority to reauthorize the NCLB this year, to improve its shortcomings, and to continue the successful components of the act. In what ways has the No Child Left Behind act, been a help or hindrance to our school system and its students?
History of ESEA
ESEA was established in 1965, by then President Lyndon B. Johnson (Hanna, 2006). At this time in history our country was suffering from poverty, which it still is today (Hanna, 2006). President Johnson wanted all students no matter their economical status to receive appropriate education. ESEA was the first comprehensive federal education law providing substantial monetary funds for grades K-12 education to schools serving children from low-income families (Center of Public Education, 2006).
The act has granted federal funding for many programs that are viewed as important to students from low-income families (Center of Public Education, 2006). A few of the areas that ESEA has granted money towards are teacher development, parent involvement, instructional and developmental resources (Center of Public Education, 2006). Since ESEA has been put into effect it has had several name changes, been amended every five years, and continued to exist through eight presidencies (Center of Public Education, 2006). Even through all of its history the main principle of ESEA is still intact today. That is, it "provides targeted resources to help ensure that disadvantaged students have access to a quality public education"(Section 201, Elementary and Secondary School Act, 1965).
ESEA did and still does continues to affect our education system. This act was the entry for the federal government to get involved in education (NEA, 2002). In the first two years the federal budget for education tripled (Hanna, 2005). Title I, which was created through ESEA, was placed into effect to provide extra help for students in need (Hayes, 2006). According to Hayes (2006), Title I was the most significant part of ESEA. Its main focus was to provide help in math and reading for poor students (Hayes, 2006). Over all ESEA was a major role player in our educational system, and has helped lead to further advancement in the education of the nations disadvantaged.
No Child Left Behind and Its' Requirements
The latest reauthorization of ESEA is titled the No Child Left Behind act (NCLB). This act was signed into effect in 2002, by then president George W. Bush. President Bush stated the purpose of the law was to ensure that, "every child in every school must be performing at grade level, in the basic subjects that are the key to all learning reading, and math" (Hayes, 2008 pg. 15). It is currently the main federal law governing our educational system, and has allowed for more government involvement in our public school system (Center for Public Education, 2006). The main focuses of NCLB is to govern what students are taught, give standardize test, and ensure qualified teachers. According to the Center for Public Education (2006), NCLB is mainly concerned with only language arts, math, and science as its main subject matters to test proficiency levels.
Each state is required to set standards for each grade level and to ensure that schools and districts are implementing them (Center for Public Education 2006). Students will be tested on the material, via a standardized test, to track the achievement level of each student. States are also required to recognize schools in need, and design an accountability plan that must be reviewed by the United States Department of Education. Lastly states are required to meet their adequate yearly progress (AYP) (Center for Public Education 2006).
NCLB has many provisions that are required by law. The main provision that states are working towards is, by 2014 states must bring all students up to the 100% proficient level on their state exams ("No Child Left Behind", 2004). Another important condition to NCLB is, establishing your AYP. States need to develop a starting point for their adequate yearly progress (NCPIE, n.d). To do so they identify the lowest achieving subgroup or school, which ever is the highest (NCPIE, n.d). A subgroup can consist of poverty levels, race, ethnicity, special needs students and limited English proficiency students ("No Child Left Behind", 2005). According to Leopold (2010), schools are determined to have made AYP if the percentage of students deemed proficient in basic subjects meets the annual percentages set by the state. According to the National Coalition for Parent Involvement in Education (NCPIE, n.d), states expected progress could look like this:
The graph is an example of how a school could display their expected progress. This graph represents equal steps of improvement. The graph is showing that each year the progress is growing equal to the amount of progress from the year before. The graph goes up to the year 2014 to show how the AYP will advance to 100% proficient level, to meet the provision of NCLB.
There are several other provisions that have already been placed into effect. According to the National Education Association (2002), all schools must test grades 3-8 in reading and math, and students in grades 10-12 must be tested in reading and math at least once. Students in grades 3-12 must be tested at least once a year in science ("No Child Left Behind" 2004, 2005). All schools have to test 95% of students in each grade and subgroup and the students must meet the AYP in order for the school and district to meet their AYP requirement. Also, school districts and states must provide reports to the parents and taxpayers, broken down by subgroups, tracking student achievements ("No Child Left Behind" 2004, 2005).
NCLB requires all teachers in core academic subjects to demonstrate proficiency in the subject(s) they teach and hold a bachelors degree in their field of teaching ("No Child Left Behind" 2005). Teachers must pass a subject test or meet a State High Objective Uniform State Standard of Evaluation. Parents are allowed to request information concerning their child's teacher's qualifications and must be informed if the child's teacher is not qualified. NCLB offers alternative methods of teacher certification such as Troops to Teachers Transition to Teaching programs and Teachers for America. Rewards of higher salaries and bonuses are offered to teachers in fields of high-need such as math and science ("No Child Left Behind" 2005). The teacher requirements and programs allow for our educators to be better-rounded, and assure parents that their student is being taught by a well educated professional.
Consequences for Not Complying with NCLB
Given that, each state is required to make their own standards, tests, and accountability plan, the goals for our students vary among the fifty states ("No Child Left Behind" 2005). No two states have the exact same material, test, or standards. States also differ in recognizing schools that are in need. A school in one state might be considered in need of help, but in another state is considered to be at average or just below. Seeing how each state can differ, there is no national standard, which means each state teaches to their standards, so students in a certain grade in one state, may not be covering the same material as students in the same grade but in another state. Each state is held accountable by the federal government for the plans and goals it puts into place ("No Child Left Behind" 2005).
Though education is suppose to be state governed, if schools want to receive federal funding they must comply with the federal laws (NEA, 2002). This plays a major role with in NCLB. If schools who receive Title I funding do not comply with NCLB, or does not meet their AYP for two consecutive years they will face sanctions. The degree of these sanctions will increase over time, if schools continue to not meet their AYP. This reprimand can come is several forms; from loosing funding, to the school being taken over by federal officials (NEA, 2002).
If the school does not meet their AYP goals for two consecutive years, it is labeled as needing improvement, and the school is required to execute a 2-year improvement plan (Hayes, 2008). The school is also required to inform parents that they did not meet their AYP. Students are also given the option to transfer to schools that are meeting their AYP, in which Title I funds will provide the transportation (Hayes, 2008). The third consecutive year schools will offer federally funded educational services such as tutoring, while still allowing students to transfer to higher performing schools (Hayes, 2008). In the fourth consecutive year of a school not meetings their AYP, the school must take at least one severe action to improve the education, this could be reconstructing curriculum, or hiring new staff. The school is also required to keep providing extra educational services, such as tutoring or allowing the students to transfer. Finally, if a school does not meet their annual yearly plan for five consecutive years, the school is turned over to the state. New staff and management will be hired and the school curriculum will be completely reconstructed (Hayes, 2008).
Impacts and Effects of NCLB
There have been several studies done on the affects of NCLB since it was placed into effect in 2002. Most of the studies have mixed results on whether the policy is working, and is improving test scores. In a study by Northwestern University, the co-author Manyee Wong, states that there are two major research challenges when it comes to evaluating the effects of NCLB (Leopold, 2010).
Although there are no national standards that are incorporated with NCLB, there is the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) (Lee, 2006). This is a national standardize test that shows student progress, and the achievement gaps of the subgroups (Lee, 2006). Lee (2006) states that, NCLB aims at ensuring both academic excellence and equity by providing new opportunities and challenges for states to advance the goal of closing the achievement gap.
The study, Tracking Achievement Gaps and Assessing the Impact of NCLB on the Gaps: An In-depth Look into National and State Reading and Math Outcome Trends by Jaekyung Lee, examines achievement levels of students in the fourth and eighth grade on state-level and NAEP assessments. Lee (2006) made several key findings in the study, showing how NCLB has affected NAEP test scores since it was placed into effect. Lee (2006) compares scores before NCLB and scores during NCLB, also looking at the trends of the scores to see if schools will be able to meet the 2014 deadline for 100% proficient level. The key findings of Lee's (2006) study are as follows:
NCLB did not have a significant impact on improving reading and math achievement across the nation and states. Based on the NAEP results, the national average achievement remains flat in reading and grows at the same pace in math after NCLB than before. In grade 4 math, there was a temporary improvement right after NCLB, but it was followed by a return to the pre-reform growth rate (pg. 10).
NCLB has not helped the nation and states significantly narrow the achievement gap. The racial and socioeconomic achievement gap in the NAEP reading and math achievement persists after NCLB. Despite some improvement in reducing the gap in math right after NCLB, the progress was not sustained. If the current trend continues, the proficiency gap between advantaged White and disadvantaged minority students will hardly close by 2014. The study predicts that by 2014, less than 25 percent of Poor and Black students will achieve NAEP proficiency in reading, and less than 50 percent will achieve proficiency in math (pg. 11).
NCLB's reliance on state assessment as the basis of school accountability is misleading since state-administered tests tend to significantly inflate proficiency levels and proficiency gains as well as deflate racial and social achievement gaps in the states. The higher the stakes of state assessments, the greater the discrepancies between NAEP and state assessment results. These discrepancies were particularly large for Poor, Black and Hispanic students (pg. 11).
According to Lee (2006), if the current trends continue the nation will be far behind on its goal for 100% proficiency by 2014. Also Lee (2006), found that only 24 to 34 percent of students will meet the NAEP proficiency target in reading and 29 to 64 percent meeting that math proficiency target by 2014 (pg. 11). Lee (2006) states, if we continue the current policy course we are currently using now, our academic proficiency is doubtful to improve considerably, but it is likely that the state test will give false impressions of progress. While failure is not an option in education, it is important to acknowledge the limitations of the current policy and find solutions to problems that may have impeded national and state progress towards academic excellence and equity (Lee, 2006 pg. 11).