Navigating the Difficult Waters of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001: What It Means for Education of the Deaf

By Steffan, Richard C., Jr. | American Annals of the Deaf, Spring 2004 | Go to article overview

Navigating the Difficult Waters of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001: What It Means for Education of the Deaf


Steffan, Richard C., Jr., American Annals of the Deaf


THE AUTHOR OUTLINES the major elements of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 and describes the law's impact on deaf education. The law's stated purpose is to close the achievement gap with accountability, flexibility, and choice, so that no child is left behind. The specific goal of the law is to ensure that all students are 100% proficient in reading, mathematics, and science by 2014. No Child Left Behind has effected sweeping reforms in general education. But with 814 requirements, it has also created great stress in educators throughout the United States. No Child Left Behind poses particular challenges to education of the deaf since policymakers gave no consideration to the needs of deaf children in formulating this law. Clearly, deaf students must be included in school and state accountability systems, but the law leaves many questions unanswered.

A law of historic magnitude, even more far reaching than the Education for all Handicapped Children Act of 1975 (now known as IDEA, or the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act), has changed the face of deaf education forever. The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (PL 107-110), signed into law on January 8, 2002, has already made sweeping reforms in general education. Unfortunately, it has left special education, and especially deaf education, BEHIND!

With 814 requirements, the new law has created great stress on educators throughout the United States. Millions of dollars and exorbitant amounts of time are being devoted to implementation of the law. Considering the short amount of time allotted to implementation, most states were forced to devote their full attention to the development of assessment tests that all students began taking in 2003. While the new law is basically a revision of the Elementary and secondary Education Act, which supports Title I schools, it docs apply to all schools in the United States.

Like the Education for all Handicapped Children Act, No Child Left Behind took many educators by surprise, especially educators of the deaf. Some educators may remember the impact that the Education for All Handicapped Children Act had on schools and programs for the deaf back in the 1970s and 1980s. The field of deaf education was unaware and unprepared for the changes forced upon it. Lamentations that "deaf schools are different, deaf schools already do that, deaf schools are where deaf children belong!" fell on "deaf" ears at the federal level. Thus began a long battle to have the federal government recognize that deaf children should have been and still should be considered separately from other children with disabilities. Even 29 years later, that fight has not been won (see, e.g., the concept of least restrictive environment). Today, far greater challenges exist with No Child Left Behind since no consideration was given to the needs of deaf children.

The law's purpose is to close the achievement gap with accountability, flexibility, and choice, so that no child is left behind. It has six priorities: higher accountability for results; more choices for parents; teachers who are highly qualified; the encouragement of proven educational methods; greater freedom for states and communities; and flexibility of funds (U.S. Department of Education, 2002). The law has several goals:

* all students in the United States will attain proficiency or better in reading and mathematics by the 2013-2014 school year

* all students with limited English proficiency (not deaf, though) will become proficient in English

* all students will be taught by highly qualified teachers by 2005-2006

* all students will learn in safe, drugfree schools conducive to learning

* all students will graduate from high school

Adequate Yearly Progress

Adequate yearly process (AYP) is a key component of the law. Every school in the United States must show its AYP for all children and for specific groups with designations such as disadvantaged, racial/ethnic, disabled, and limited English-proficient. …

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