No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB)

On January 8, 2002, U.S. President George W. Bush signed the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act of 2001, which applies to the education in public schools. The act reauthorizes the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965. It also modifies the reauthorization the Improving America's Schools Act from 1994, a key part of the Clinton administration's plan to reform education. NCLB's four basic principles, as listed on the website of the U.S. Department of Education, are stronger accountability for results, increased flexibility and local control, expanded options for parents, and an emphasis on methods that have been proven to work. Under the terms of the act all public schools in one state have to follow the same standards for their students. As part of the requirements 95 percent of all students in a school have to take statewide standardized tests. These tests are taken by all students in the state under the very same conditions. Of all students, 1 percent are not required to take the test. That percentage usually includes the children with most severe cognitive limitations. Students that are not native speakers with a limited proficiency in English have to pass statewide tests in English after their third year of studying the language.

According to some, standardized tests do not favor students. These tests are often said to be provoking teachers to pay more attention to subjects and topics that are most probably going to be included in tests and neglect others that may not. This process is called "teaching to the test." In addition, making all students take the same test under the same conditions has been is said to imply an inherent cultural bias as different cultures may value different skills.

The standards for the tests include grades at four levels - below basic, basic, proficient and advanced. All these requirements aim to achieve equality in the educational aims, content, teaching methods and measures of achievement. The grading standards described above should be the same in every public school within the state but not in every state within the country. Each state is allowed to have its own definition of "basic" or "proficiency". This point from the NCLB Act has also attracted a lot of criticism as it allows certain states to lower their criteria and more easily demonstrate improved results at the end of the year.

The progress that all schools and school districts are making, known as adequate yearly progress (AYP), is measured once a year. AYP checks target the performance and participation of various subgroups based on socioeconomic status, disability, race or ethnicity and English proficiency. NCLB aims to have 100 percent of students proficient by 2013 - 2014.If a school repeatedly fails to record consistent progress it is subject to a series of sanctions and may even be closed. There are two classifications for schools that do not make AYP: schools in need of improvement and schools in need of corrective action. Schools in need of improvement are those facilities that have failed to make AYP for two years in a row. In the third year they have to develop a two-year plan for improvement. Schools in need of corrective action are schools that have not recorded AYP after they have been following an improvement plan for a year.

President Barack Obama in 2007 proposed two major changes to the Act - one concerning the way assessments are made and the other focused on an enhanced accountability scheme. According to Obama's administration, there should be additional funding for states so that they can implement a broader range of assessments to evaluate skills like a student's ability to use technology, conduct research or scientific investigation, solve problems and defend his or her ideas. Schools also need an accountability system that helps them improve instead of focusing on punishments. In Obama's view, schools should make assessments corresponding to a child's needs and take into account if a student is now learning English or has special needs. The improved system should evaluate continuous progress throughout the learning process. It should also provide some support so that students remain in school through their graduation and not get thrown out so the school can reach a higher score.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

The Impact of No Child Left Behind on Students, Teachers, and Schools
Dee, Thomas S.; Jacob, Brian A.
Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Fall 2010
Working Smarter to Leave No Child Behind: Practical Insights for School Leaders
Brian Stecher; Laura Hamilton; Gabriella Gonzalez.
Rand, 2003
Left Behind: Low-Income Students under the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB)
Sanders, Adam.
Journal of Law and Education, Vol. 37, No. 4, October 2008
Tough Call: Is No Child Left Behind Constitutional?
McColl, Ann.
Phi Delta Kappan, Vol. 86, No. 8, April 2005
Held Back: No Child Left Behind Needs Some Work
Hess, Frederick M.; Finn, Chester E., Jr.
Policy Review, No. 144, August-September 2007
No Child Left Behind: Who Wins? Who Loses?
Arce, Josephine; Luna, Debra; Borjian, Ali; Conrad, Marguerite.
Social Justice, Vol. 32, No. 3, Fall 2005
Critical Social Issues in American Education: Democracy and Meaning in a Globalizing World
H. Svi Shapiro; David E. Purpel.
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2005 (3rd edition)
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 18 "From Local Control to Government and Corporate Takeover of School Curriculum: The No Child Left Behind Act and the Reading First Program"
The No Child Left Behind Act: Is It an Unfunded Mandate or a Promotion of Federal Educational Ideals?
Umpstead, Regina R.
Journal of Law and Education, Vol. 37, No. 2, April 2008
Research in the Wake of the No Child Left Behind Act: Why the Controversies Will Continue and Some Suggestions for Controversial Research
Brigham, Frederick J.; Gustashaw, William E., III; Wiley, Andrew L.; Brigham, Michele St Peter.
Behavioral Disorders, Vol. 29, No. 3, May 2004
The Literacy Legacy of Books That Were Left Behind: The Role of Children's Literature and Concepts of Free Reading in NCLB
Roberts, Sherron Killingsworth; Killingsworth, Elizabeth K.
Childhood Education, Vol. 87, No. 1, Fall 2010
Robbing Elementary Students of Their Childhood: The Perils of No Child Left Behind
Henley, Joan; McBride, Jackie; Milligan, Julie; Nichols, Joe.
Education, Vol. 128, No. 1, Fall 2007
Poverty and Schooling in the U.S.: Contexts and Consequences
Sue Books.
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2004
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 9 "Educational Reform"
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