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No Child Left Behind Act

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Signing ceremony at Hamilton High School in Hamilton, Ohio.
Signing ceremony at Hamilton High School in Hamilton, Ohio.

The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (PL 107-110) attempts to improve the performance of America's primary and secondary schools by increasing the standards of accountability for states, school districts, and schools, as well as providing parents more flexibility in choosing which schools their children will attend. Additionally, it promotes an increased focus on reading and re-authorizes the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA).

The act is the final result of U.S. President George W. Bush's No Child Left Behind program, a slogan used by Bush during his 2000 presidential campaign to describe his education policies.

The act began as House Resolution 1 in March 2001 during the 107th Congress. The 670 page act was eventually passed by the House of Representatives on December 13, 2001 by a vote of 381-41. It passed in the Senate by a vote of 87-10 on December 18, 2001. It was signed into law by President Bush on January 8, 2002 at Hamilton High School in Hamilton, Ohio. On hand for the signing ceremony were Democratic Rep. George Miller of California, Democratic Sen. Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts, Secretary of Education Rod Paige, Republican Rep. John Boehner of Ohio, and Republican Sen. Judd Gregg of New Hampshire.

The effectiveness and desirability of the Act's measures continue to be a matter of vigorous debate; the main positions of both sides of the debate are outlined below.

Arguments for

  • Supports early learning.
  • Increases the quality of education. Schools may seek to improve their performance under NCLB by taking advantage of new research which suggests many learning disabled children have high intelligence and creative ability. Schools that bring in quality educators and implement newer, individualized teaching methods, could tap this potential. Substantial test score improvements among LD children, and an increase in the quality of education for all students might then result.
  • Measures student performance: a student's progress in reading and math must be measured annually in grades 3 through 8 and at least once during high school, via standardized tests.
  • Provides information for parents by requiring states and school districts to give parents detailed report cards on schools and districts, explaining which are succeeding and why.
  • Gives options to students enrolled in underperforming schools. If a struggling school does not show marked improvement, some children will be able to transfer to higher-performing local schools, receive free tutoring, or attend after-school programs.
  • Increases flexibility to state and local agencies in the use of federal education money.
  • Ensures more resources for schools. Today, public schools spend an average $7,000 a year per student. Federal funding for education has increased 59.8% from 2000 to 2003.
  • Awards outstanding programs by giving additional funds to schools that show dramatic improvement.

Arguments against

  • Supports early learning, an approach criticized in "Better Late Than Early", by Raymond Moore, et al.
  • Requires public secondary schools to provide military recruiters not only with access to facilities, but also with contact information for every student; comply or face a cutoff of all federal aid.
  • Organizations such as ACORN have criticized the unwillingness of the federal government to fully fund the act. While promoted by President Bush and applauded by both parties, neither Republican leaders in the Senate nor the White House pushed to allocate the full amount allowed by NCLB — a difference of millions of dollars.
  • The schools that need help the most are punished instead of given more funding as additional funding is often denied or at most minimized.
  • Approaches that only address schoolhouse factors cannot hope to dramatically improve student achievement; for example, health insurance for every child in America would be a basic requirement to make sure no child is "left behind."
  • Indicators of school performance are not accurate or viable.
  • Because schools, districts, and states are punished if they fail to make adequate progress according to the goals they themselves establish, the incentives are to set expectations lower rather than higher [1] , to increase segregation by class and race and push low-performing students out of school altogether [2] , and potentially to game the system by manipulating which students are included or excluded from test-taking (to enhance apparent school performance) and by creative reclassification of drop-outs (to reduce unfavorable statistics) [3] .
  • States and school districts should be granted greater freedom to target assistance to schools with the most extensive academic difficulties.
  • After-school programs are neglected.
  • NCLB is a stealth law designed to set the stage for the eventual privatization of the U.S. public school system: reports about struggling schools sour public opinion and may cause more and more voters to question the viability of public education.
  • NCLB is a stealth law, violating conservative principles by federalizing education and setting a precedent for further erosion of state and local control such as John Kerry's plan to require mandatory service for high school students.
  • Students with learning disabilities do not receive extra help when taking the standardized tests, and can jeopardize the assigned rating the entire school is given.
  • Students with learning disabilities are held to the same standard as students without disabilities.
  • NCLB is perceived as an "increase in militarism at school" [4],2933,137700,00.html .
  • Some of the standardized tests tend to be opinion-based and favor students with conservative ideals.
  • Federal government has no constitutional authority in education.

External links

  • Text of No Child Left Behind Act
  • No Child Left Behind: Testing, Reporting, and Accountability
  • Remarks by President Bush at signing ceremony
  • No Child Left Behind FAQs (PDF)
  • Facts About NCLB Funding
  • Implications of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 for Teacher Education
  • National Institute for Literacy

Last updated: 04-25-2005 03:06:01