No Child Left Behind (2001) (Major Acts of Congress)
Kelly A. Woestman
No Child Left Behind (NCLB) (P.L. 107-110, 115 Stat. 1425) is a major revision of the 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). The key components of the new version of this legislation, passed with significant bipartisan support, are two goals associated with accountability and the closing of the achievement gap between students of different socioeconomic backgrounds. Critics of the original 1965 legislation argued that the law provided federal funding to schools but did not mandate accountability for academic results; NCLB does both. In contrast, critics of the current legislation, including the National Educational Association, have claimed that adequate funding is not provided to satisfy the more stringent accountability requirements included in NCLB.
To satisfy NCLB requirements, schools must prove that each one of its students is proficient, or on grade level, in key educational areas, such as reading and math, by 2014 in order to continue to receive federal funding. Beginning in 2002003, NCLB requires school districts to prepare annual reports for families and the public at large describing academic achievement in the aggregate (for the entire district), by individual schools, and by grade level. Since the federal government provides only about seven percent of the total funding for public elementary and secondary schools, however, it may have trouble demanding the level of accountability that NCLB seeks.
SCHOOL ACCOUNTABILITY AND NCLB
The federal government plans to make the results from the accountability tests available in annual report cards so parents can measure school performance and statewide progress, and evaluate the quality of their child's school, the qualifications of teachers, and their child's progress in key subjects. In addition, statewide reports will show progress for all student groups in closing achievement gaps between disadvantaged students and other groups of students.
Under NCLB, each state sets its own benchmark for purposes of demonstrating that it has achieved "adequate yearly progress." This is part of a larger trend in education that focuses on the collection of data and the analysis of that data in relation to student learning. Adequate yearly progress is measured over-all for each school as well as disaggregated, or reported separately, for students from major ethnic and racial groups, economically disadvantaged students, students with disabilities, and students with limited English proficiency. No Child Left Behind clearly provides that states must raise their target goals over time and that the federal government expects increasing numbers of students to meet them. More important, states are to evaluate all students, and each subgroup is to make adequate yearly progress or the school fails in its entirety. Schools that do not consistently meet these requirements may eventually have to reorganize and/or surrender to state control. The requirements of NCLB, however, do not apply to private schools or to students who are home-schooled.
"Scientifically based research" is a key element to the accountability standard established by NCLB. Scientifically based research means research that involves the application of rigorous, systematic, and objective procedures to obtain reliable and valid knowledge about education activities and programs and involves rigorous data analyses that are adequate to test the stated hypotheses and justify the general conclusions drawn. Mentioned 111 times in the pages of the legislation, "scientifically based research" nevertheless is not defined within the act in such a way that schools and school districts clearly understand how to apply it to their various educational settings. Teachers are most concerned that the actual implementation of the proposed research methodology would mean that they would have trouble actually using these methods in a classroom, and these NCLB provisions might also severely limit classroom teaching methods and materials. Critics also assert that increased standardized testing is too expensive, too restrictive, and impossible to administer effectively.
TEACHER ACCOUNTABILITY AND NCLB
In addition to measuring student achievement, the law requires that an increased accountability standard be applied to the nation's teachers. It mandates that all teachers who teach core academic subjects must be highly qualified by 2005006. In the past, teachers were able to obtain teaching certificates labeled as temporary, provisional, or emergency; now NCLB prohibits this practice. Existing teachers at all levels must demonstrate sufficient content knowledge in the subjects that they teach. Elementary teachers entering the profession must possess full state certification, have earned at least a bachelor's degree, and have passed a rigorous state test demonstrating subject knowledge and teaching skills in curriculum areas such as reading, writing, and math. New teachers in the middle and secondary schools must also have full state certification, at least a bachelor's degree, and have passed a rigorous state test in the subjects he or she teaches or have successfully completed an academic major (or equivalent course work), graduate degree, or advanced certification in each subject taught.
SOCIAL ISSUES AND THE FUTURE OF NCLB
Other NCLB provisions simplify federal support for bilingual education and allow students to change schools if their school is deemed persistently dangerous. In the area of sex education, schools may not use federal funds to operate a program that distributes condoms or other contraceptives in the schoolshe school must emphasize abstinence. Furthermore, public school districts must certify each year that none of their policies prevent or deny participation in constitutionally protected prayer in elementary and secondary schools.
Proponents of NCLB believe that this new legislation will allow individual schools more choices regarding the students they teach. As an ideal, states are to set their own standards, or benchmarks, of performance to fulfill the needs of their students. In certain critical curriculum areaseading, math, and sciencehe law will measure students and schools in comparison to the performance of students throughout the country in annual testing by 2013014.
Numerous factors, however, determine a student's academic success, and no amount of legislation can effectively control the student's home life, his or her socioeconomic background, whether or not he or she lives in a bad neighborhood, or whether he or she is personally motivated to succeed. Students without essential support systems outside of school may have trouble meeting the ambitious goals of NCLB despite a massive increase in efforts made by his or her teachers. Finally, critics assert that many schools that are thought to be failing are nothey are simply serving poor neighborhoods and are underfunded and that the proposed "adequate yearly progress" system cannot tell the difference between a learning gain and random noise created by a large number of statistics.
See also: ELEMENTARY AND SECONDARY EDUCATION ACT OF 1965.
U.S. Department of Education Official Web Site. No Child Left Behind. .