Rethinking the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001

By Aldridge, Jerry | Childhood Education, Fall 2003 | Go to article overview

Rethinking the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001


Aldridge, Jerry, Childhood Education


Legislators hoped that passage of No Child Left Behind would lead to: 1) greater accountability for results; 2) more flexibility for schools, school districts, and states in how they use federal funds; 3) a wider range of education choices for families from disadvantaged backgrounds; and 4) an emphasis on research-based teaching methods. The act strongly emphasizes literacy for young children, improving teacher qualifications, and ensuring that every child who attends school in the United States will learn English. While the act was passed with overwhelming bipartisan support, many administrators, teachers, and even politicians now see a need to rethink it.

The following articles related to No Child Left Behind were chosen and reviewed by Kathy Chandler, who teaches K-2 in a multiage setting at Trace Crossings Elementary School in Hoover, Alabama.--J.A.

BLOWING IN THE WIND: The Crisis in State Budgets Means Education Funds Could Be Going, Going, Gone ... Smith, S., Myers, J., & Underwood, I. American School Board Journal, 2003, 190(5), 18-21. This article focuses on how states' funding shortfalls, the largest since World War II, have adversely affected education. In a time when revenues are shrinking, hard decisions must be made in order to balance the budgets. Unfortunately, cash reserves and rainy day funds have been reduced dramatically.

The No Child Left Behind requirements have placed further pressure on states during this crisis. Although NCLB funding increased, the total allocated still falls more than $5 billion short of what was originally authorized. Testing, hiring of new teachers and paraprofessionals, increasing the qualifications of current personnel, and creating data collection and warehousing systems are examples of requirements that federal spending will not fully cover.

The costs of not meeting requirements are equally high, however. Sanctions will be placed on schools that fail to meet the adequate yearly progress (AYP) standards. If a school fails to meet AYP for two consecutive years, the school is identified as "needing improvement" and school choice (e.g., vouchers) must be offered to students, at the cost of the "failing" school. If the school does not meet AYP for three consecutive years, supplemental services must be provided through Title I funds. If the school fails to meet AYP for four consecutive years, corrective actions will take place. These sanctions could include replacing school staff, changing the curriculum, decreasing administrative authority, increasing the length of the school day, and changing the organizational structure of the school. If the school fails to meet the AYP for five years, all staff could be fired and the school could be reopened as a charter school or taken over by the state.

The authors remind state and local officials that education is a good investment. Positive returns come in the forms of increased productivity and tax revenues, and politically active citizens.

THE 500-POUND GORILLA. Kohn, A. Phi Delta Kappan, 2002, 84(2), 112-119. Alfie Kohn keenly examines the role that corporations, the "500-pound gorilla," play in educational curriculum and testing. Accountability measures based on standardized test results are, he says, a product of corporate greed. Profits are raised when public schools are deemed inadequate or failing.

As one telling example, Standards & Poor (the financial rating service) offered to evaluate school districts within a state, for approximately $10 million. Their rating, based primarily on standardized achievement scores, gave validity to test scores as measures of success. It is important to note, however, that Standards & Poor is owned by McGraw-Hill, a large manufacturer of standardized tests and owner of scripted programs, such as Open Court and Reading Mastery, that promise to raise test scores.

Corporations also sponsor educational programs and materials containing propaganda related to their products. …

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