No Child Left behind and the Reduction of the Achievement Gap: Sociological Perspectives on Federal Educational Policy

By Alan R. Sadovnik; Jennifer A. O’Day et al. | Go to book overview

16
Can NCLB Close Achievement Gaps?1

David J. Armor


INTRODUCTION

The boldness of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act is epic, and its goals and scope are unprecedented in American education. States must design assessment and accountability systems and set academic standards so that, by 2014, all schools within a state attain 100 percent proficiency for all major racial, income, language, and disability subgroups. Schools must demonstrate annual gains in achievement toward the full proficiency goal, and there must be sanctions for schools that fail to meet annual yearly progress (AYP) requirements. States must develop programs and policies to help students in failing schools, including options to choose nonfailing schools. Needless to say, NCLB has been controversial, and criticism has come from many quarters.

The basic ideas behind NCLB are noble and worthy of support from everyone who cares about racial equity and the quality of American education. Unfortunately, there is a good chance that the act will fail in its current form, although not for the reasons offered by its many critics. The most widespread criticism is lack of funds to accomplish these goals. This paper argues that the problem is not due to a lack of money, but rather to a lack of technical knowledge about how to attain equal proficiency for all groups.

Existing achievement gaps are not caused by schools; they are caused by powerful family risk factors that impact children well before they enter school, and they continue to operate throughout the school years. This does not mean that school programs cannot overcome the disadvantages from family background, but it is fair to say that, at the present time, there is no consensus on

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