Academic journal article Rural Educator

Impact of No Child Left Behind on Curriculum and Instruction in Rural Schools

Academic journal article Rural Educator

Impact of No Child Left Behind on Curriculum and Instruction in Rural Schools

Article excerpt

This article examines the influence of the No Child Left Behind Act on the decision making of rural principals and teachers about curriculum and instruction as well as the possible long-term effects on rural education. Data were gathered from 101 rural elementary school principals in Missouri and 76 rural elementary school teachers in Maine. Missouri principals were concerned about losing their autonomy and abilities to be instructional leaders. Maine teachers reported that NCLB benefited some groups of students more than others and that it has a negative effect on student motivation. There were significant changes in instructional time for some subjects and non-instructional time for recess and kindergarten nap time. The most important influence on principals' educational vision for the future and the need for professional development was meeting AYP and raising test scores.

"The idea of teaching looks less attractive with NCLB, " reported a rural teacher in Maine. When asked how much pressure they felt to raise children 's test scores, 42% of Missouri rural elementary principals respondents either reported, "I worry about keeping my job " or "I worry a lot; it seems impossible. "

Introduction

According to the United States Government Accountability Office (2004), one quarter of the nation's school districts are rural, many in isolated locations with large populations of economically disadvantaged students. Nearly half of these districts have an average of two schools (U.S. GAO, 2004). In these districts, the standardized test scores of a single student could have a greater impact on the academic performance of the entire school than larger urban and suburban school districts. Rural students have the same mobility rate as the national average (U.S. GAO, 1994), but rural children's mobility is almost always related to poverty, and causes a heightened risk for academic failure (Paik & Phillips, 2002; U.S. GAO, 1994; Fitchen, 1994). Many U.S. rural schools are plagued with declining enrollment and experience difficulty hiring and retaining highly qualified teachers (U.S. GAO, 2004). As a result, many rural schools face more challenges in meeting the provisions of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act of 2001 than non-rural schools.

The purpose of this study was to investigate how the No Child Left Behind (NCLB, 2002) has impacted rural principals' and teachers' decisions about curriculum and instruction and the possible long-term effects on rural education. Numerous reports and studies (United States Government Accountability Office, 2004; National Conference of State Legislatures, 2005; Farmer, Leung, Banks, Schafer, Andrews and Murray, 2006; Zhang, 2008) suggests that NCLB impacts schools in rural communities in ways that are far different from large urban or suburban districts.

The nation's economic future and the success of American democracy are dependent on every student in the nation achieving high levels of success in school. It is critical to understand how instructional decisions made today as a result of NCLB will have far-reaching effects on students as they enter the every-changing workplace of the 21st Century. Rural students make up 22% of all U.S. public school students (Johnson, 2007); many are already faced with isolation that often limits their exposure to newer technologies and a host of experiences available to urban and suburban students.

The authors undertook two studies to better understand the effects of NCLB on rural education, especially concerning educators' instructional and curricular decisions. In Missouri, Powell, Aram and Higgins (2007) surveyed all Missouri elementary public school principals with a written survey. For purposes of this article, we report the data only from rural school principals. In Maine, Freed, with colleagues Julianna Acheson and Rebecca Berger, conducted a study with rural teachers, asking man)' of the same questions in an open-ended interview created by them in 2007. …

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