Teaching to the test. A lack of adequate funding in statewide school districts. Less than favorable work conditions for teachers—among other things.
The No Child Left Behind Act, passed back in 2001, has been a topic of controversy years off of its implementation into the entire United States school system. The Act represented a full education reform that built upon what the Elementary and Secondary Education Act had already established.
The short version of the story is that it helped schools receive funding based on annual based testing results and other factors related to their student body and the like. But, the bad news related to some of the issues that we used to open this article—issues that still persist to this day, at that.
The Basics of ‘No Child Left Behind
The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 was implemented at a reauthorization of the previously implemented Elementary and Secondary Education Act. The aforementioned act also included Title I, the United States government’s flagship aid program designed for assisting disadvantaged students.
No Child Left Behind mainly supports what’s known as standards based education reform. In other words, the act enables schools to get support they need based on their ability to ‘set high standards and reach measuring goals that help improve the outcome in student education.’
To make such a thing possible, the NCLB Act requires states to build assessments in basic skills. So, in order for them to receive federal funding for their schools, the states are required to give NCLB-sanctioned assessments to students at different grade levels.
NCLB requires public schools to administer state standardized tests to students each year. Students all take the test under the same conditions.
Schools that receive Title I funding have to meet Adequate Yearly Progress thresholds, meaning that students have to essentially perform better than those in the previous year.
Schools that don’t meet the AYP threshold will need ‘corrective action’ in various degrees, mainly to help improve test scores each year.
Despite those requirements, the Act doesn’t actually require all states to reach some sort of national standard in achievements. But, they do require schools to meet the AYP threshold each year; those that don’t, as mentioned, will have to go through corrective processes to get the school back to an acceptable threshold.
It’s no secret that No Child Left Behind is controversial. Some even argue that it’s even widened the gap between good public schools and impoverished public schools. But, in order to understand just what the Act does, it’s best to look at it from both perspectives.
No Child Left Behind has helped improve the condition of many public schools, especially those that do need funding to stay open. Not only that, it also benefits educators in several ways.
1. The improvement of test scores. Test scores have been trending upward since 2002, about a year off of the implementation of the Act. The Act also helped test scores of impoverished and minority students increase over the years.
2. Better teacher qualifications. NCLB helped bolster the quality of teachers in public schools. Many of the best possible teachers for public schools now work there.
3. More help for schools and students. Schools that don’t perform well can have their funding withdrawn. Now many public schools go out of their way to help students who struggle with school work. Since the Act was implemented, hundreds of thousands of students have benefited from extra tutoring or help.
4. NCLB puts more focus on reading, math and writing. Writing, reading and math are some of the core skills needed to learn practically anything—fortunately, NCLB places a large empathizes on all three.
With all the good that No Child Left Behind provides, some of that good isn’t at all beneficial to the United States school system….
1. Underfunding and statewide budget cuts. One of the most controversial aspects of NCLB is that the program itself is ‘critically underfunded,’ especially at a state level. Even though states don’t get as much funding, they’re still required to comply with the Act. This has caused various states to make critical budget cuts to their school districts, notably eradicating art and science programs in public schools.
2. ‘Teaching to take the test.’ Due to the standards of No Child Left Behind, many schools across the country now ‘teach to the test,’ modifying the school curriculum to fit their statewide monthly or annualized tests. Testing requirements are also difficult for some states to meet.
3. Issues with teacher qualification. Although the Act sets ‘very high’ qualifications for teachers, it doesn’t mean that schools have access to qualified teachers. Now, teachers are required to hold certain degrees and pass proficiency tests in order to keep teaching in their school district. That also applied to existing teachers, and is more or less responsible for making unqualified, but otherwise good teachers have to leave their jobs.
It looks like No Child Left Behind will continue to be an issue of contention for the next few years. Since, of course, the Act has been implemented in various facets of public education, including annual based academic progress, annual testing, report cards, qualifications for teachers and changes in school funding.
So, until there’s a solution implemented to help alleviate the Act’s negative effects, it’ll be here to stay.