Academic journal article Professional School Counseling

"No Child Left Behind": Implications for School Counselors

Academic journal article Professional School Counseling

"No Child Left Behind": Implications for School Counselors

Article excerpt

In this qualitative study, 210 school counselors responded to a Web-based national survey exploring the effects of the No Child Left Behind legislation. They described how much they knew about the legislation, outlined the positive and negative effects of the legislation on their school counseling programs, and detailed their role in the testing process. Implications for school counselors in light of these findings are discussed.

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The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (U.S. Department of Education, 2002a), the most recent reauthorization of elementary and secondary education, was designed to have a profound effect on American education: to make schools accountable for student learning, and to ensure that at-risk youth were not "left behind" academically (U.S. Department of Education, 2002b). While many states had already developed strong accountability standards (e.g., North Carolina; Brown, Galassi, & Akos, 2004), the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) legislation made federal funding for education contingent on students' school-wide performance on academic tests and outlined corrective measures for schools that failed to maintain adequate yearly progress toward statewide proficiency goals. Adequate yearly progress is assessed through a rigorous testing schedule, and it measures each subgroup within the school (defined by race, ethnicity, gender, English language proficiency, migrant status, disability status, and low-income status) (U.S. Department of Education, 2004).

The results of these assessments, the professional qualifications of teachers, and school safety statistics must be reported to parents and the public yearly, so that parents can move children from "failing" schools to academically viable schools (U.S. Department of Education, 2002b). Sanctions imposed on failing schools include cuts in funding; mandates for increased academic support services; replacing staff deemed responsible for the failures; and, eventually, restructuring, privatizing, or state takeover (National Education Association, 2004a).

In response to these mandates, schools have changed--and as schools change, so do school counseling programs. As reflected in the ASCA National Model[R] (American School Counselor Association, 2005), the national emphasis on accountability has resulted in a renewed emphasis on accountability for school counselors (Dahir, 2004). But not only are the professional duties of the school counselor changing as school counselors are more accountable, the professional duties of the school counselor also are changing as schools are more accountable. To fully understand the effects of this legislation on school counselors, we must first understand the systemic effects of this legislation on schools.

Extensive controversy exists in the general educational literature surrounding NCLB. In general, authors express commitment to the concepts of equal access, safe schools, and student proficiency (Newbold, 2004); however, there are numerous concerns about this legislation's effects on the most at-risk students. Examples of the types of at-risk students cited to be most endangered by NCLB are those students from culturally diverse backgrounds, those who come with English as a second language, those who live in poverty, or those who live with emotional and behavioral disabilities (Allbritten, Mainzer, & Ziegler, 2004; Leone & Cutting, 2004; Mathis, 2004; Newbold; Sitlington & Neubert, 2004). In fact, Rose (2004) has calculated that NCLB, over time, will result in the failure of all schools, based on mathematical flaws in the formulas for calculating adequate yearly progress (AYP).

According to some authors, NCLB makes schools responsible--even penalizes schools--for students' poor home lives, learning disabilities, lack of student motivation, and varying academic abilities (Mathis, 2004). There are serious questions about the assessment process in terms of intent and impact, as gaps in performance may be linked to socioeconomic status, not academic ability (Sadker & Zittleman, 2004). …

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