Academic journal article The Journal of Negro Education

The No Child Left Behind Act: Are States on Target to Make Their Goals?

Academic journal article The Journal of Negro Education

The No Child Left Behind Act: Are States on Target to Make Their Goals?

Article excerpt

The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 is one of the most important legislative acts signed into law. The goals of this Act are clear; each state, school, and local education agency must make specific progress towards student achievement results each year until every child is 100 percent proficient by the year 2014. The goal of this article is to examine whether or not, thus far, states are on target to meet the goals of the No Child Left Behind Act. State student achievement results were analyzed and the study found that only two states out of 35 included in the final analysis are making adequate yearly progress in both subjects (reading and mathematics) in elementary, middle, and high school grades. Therefore, thirty-three states are not making adequate yearly progress, and, consequently, are not on target to make the 2014 goal. However, most states have seen improved student achievement results.

The No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB, 2002) became law in 2001 and received unanimous bipartisan support in the U. S. Congress (Hoxby, 2005). Congress and the President were sold on the idea that every child can learn and that schools should be held accountable for student learning. Since its inception, this Act has been called the most important education legislation of this generation (Hunter, 2005). But, it has also caused uproar because it gives broad powers to the federal government to determine the status and viability of public schools and systems. Literally, this Act shifted control from local education agencies to states and the federal government (Hursh, 2005), which has led thousands of schools to be labeled failing and may ultimately cause the closing of hundreds of public schools across the country (Darling-Hammond, 2004).

Because of these enormous implications, researchers have examined this legislation (Haas, Wilson, Cobb & Rallis, 2005; Hess 2005; Hursh, 2005; Porter, Linn, & Trimble, 2005; Superfine, 2005). The aim of researchers has been to clarify the consequences of this Act (Hess, 2005) with some examining the effect that state accountability designs have on the percent of schools making progress (Porter, Linn, & Trimble, 2005), while other researchers have gone so far as to question the Act's long-term cost (Haas, Wilson, Cobb, & Rallis, 2005); goals (Hursh, 2005); and politics (Superfine, 2005). Some have suggested that the goal of the No Child Left Behind Act is to showcase the failure of public education so that school privatization through vouchers can be instituted (Cohn, 2005; Kohn 2004), while others believe that the Act can fix the system because similar accountability measures that were instituted in the 1990s had an impact on student achievement (Hanushek & Raymond, 2005).

When one studies this vast literature, it becomes clear that few, if any, discuss the status states have made toward achieving the goal as well as the Act's direct effect on state test scores. Therefore, the aim of this study is to examine whether or not states are on target to meet the Act's goal. However, before state achievement results are examined, this article will describe the No Child Left Behind Act, states' accountability plans, and student achievement.


The No Child Left Behind Act includes more than 1,100 pages that describe accountability, funding, instruction, and teacher quality. The Act stipulates that each child in the state must score at or above the proficient level in both mathematics and reading tests in grades 3 through 5, 6 through 9, and 10 through 12 by 2014. The U.S. Department of Education, with minimum guidance, allows each state to set proficiency standards-meaning each state has to submit an accountability plan that describes proficiency levels and details a plan for failing schools to the U.S. Department of Education. Once the Department receives the plans, they are then responsible for approving, rejecting, or recommending accountability changes. …

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