No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 Term Paper

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No Child Left Behind - Problems Need to be Resolved

Why was No Child Left Behind (NCLB) legislation needed? Was it just to improve education? Was it to hold schools and teachers accountable? Some important background information is very appropriate at this point in the paper. The Public Broadcast Service (PBS) report on August 21, 2005 reviews the legislation that led up to NCLB. During the Lyndon Johnson presidency, there was a big financial push to help schools that were serving low-income students. This was part of Johnson's "War on Poverty" campaign, and due to the president's persistence, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA) was passed, which provided "significant funding to schools," the PBS Background Report explains (www.pbs.org).

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The ESEA legislation resulted in $1 billion a year to start with; ESEA funded Head Start that helped low income children get ready for their school experience in first grade. A bit later, ESEA allocated $11 billion to $13 billion annually to help schools in poor communities - specifically grades kindergarten through 12th grades. These funds were designed for "professional development for teachers" and for programs that brought families and parents more closely into the educational environment. And so for about thirty years, ESEA served as "...the foundation for federal funding of public schools for almost 30 years," PBS reports. The most "far-reaching program" was Title I: Aid to Disadvantaged Children, that provided about $8 billion a year to special education and homeless, poverty-stricken children.

Term Paper on No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 Assignment

All this money was given out in grants but the responsibility of "managing public education" was left to individual states," PBS reports. The ESEA legislation did require that the states establish academic standards and that they carefully assess student progress - but the federal government did not mandate that results match any national standards. "Prior to No Child Left Behind [states] were required to report student performance but they were not being required to hold their schools accountable based on subgroup performance," said Darla Marburger, the deputy assistant secretary for policy at the Department of Education (DOE). And Marburger added that while the states did have accountability plans, those plans "did not necessarily have a focus on having all students proficient."

While President Johnson's intentions were laudable, and the Congress believed this legislation would lead to great improvements in learning for low-income children - and bring their knowledge and abilities up to par (or close to par) with more affluent students - the results were disappointing. Indeed, there were "major disparities between the reading and math scores of students in economically disadvantaged school districts" when compared with scores of students "in more affluent communities," Kristina Nwazota of PBS reports.

The Clinton Administration saw these gaps in learning between the two socioeconomic groups and in 1994 passed the Improving America's Schools Act (IASA). This money increased funding for "disadvantaged students" the PBS report continues, and required greater accountability through the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).

A report written by Gene Bottoms of the Southern Regional Education Board in 1997 about the 260 schools that are part of the "High Schools That Work" (HSTW) program in the Atlanta area indicates that the gap between black and white students was not closing as had been anticipated. "Mathematics achievement of African-American youth at HSTW sites did not improve between 1994 and 1996," Bottoms, editor of the Research Brief explains. Additionally, "more than half of career-bound students at HSTW sites fell short of the HSTW performance goals in reading, math, and science," Bottoms continues. These students will be severely handicapped in terms of securing a good job and advancing in that job, he added.

Meantime, the PBS reports that nationally, by 1998, only "60% of fourth graders performed at or above" the bottom line basic level that NAEP had set as a standard. Just 40% of 12th graders scored at or above the "proficient" standard of NAEP, as well. Moreover, there continued to be "major performance gaps between white students who scored higher on the tests and black, Hispanic and American Indian students," according to Nwazota's report.

Question TWO: What was the goal of NCLB? Was the goal guided by a search for the public good? The goal was in part to take action 19 years after the report called "A Nation at Risk: The Imperative for Educational Reform," authorized by the Ronald Reagan Administration, and not acted on with any degree of intensity. The report concluded, "...Declines in educational performance are in large part the result of disturbing inadequacies in the way the educational process itself is often conducted."

The "Nation at Risk" blue ribbon report stated that "Secondary school curricula have been homogenized, diluted, and diffused to the point that they no longer have a central purpose," and in many schools, "...time spent learning how to cook and drive counts as much toward a high school diploma as the time spent studying mathematics, English, chemistry, U.S. history, or biology..."

And for his part, presidential candidate George W. Bush stated the goal was to make sure "children learn" by demanding that in return for receiving federal money, schools must show the federal government, and "the nation," and "the people in your area whether or not children can read, and add and subtract" (Nwazota 2006). Moreover, Bush said that if testing proves that the federal money is working, "there will be rewards." But if children can't read, write, add and subtract" then "there must be a final moment of consequence in order for the accountability systems to mean anything." Basically, he went on, quoted in the PBS report, that "instead of continuing to subsidize mediocrity after a reasonable amount of time," the money will be cut off.

In a campaign television commercial (Marks, 2000) funded by the Republican National Committee Bush is seen mingling with students in classrooms and in other school functions. Bush says, "If we really want to make sure no child gets left behind in America, we need the courage to raise standards in our schools. We need more accountability and more discipline." Yes, the answer to the second part of the question is, the goal of NCLB was to enhance the public good through better education.

Question THREE: What public input was received and which members of the public were not heard? Congressional hearings were held in Washington and there were town hall meetings held by Senators and Members of the House of Representatives throughout the states prior to the finalizing of the legislation. It is difficult to know six years after the fact if any members of the public were left out of the chance to speak to the legislation. But in 2007, NCLB is up for "reauthorization" (which means the bill runs out unless Congress and the president renew it), and as a result teachers' groups, community groups, elected officials and school organizations are holding public hearings to get input as to how - or if - NCLB should be renewed.

Question FOUR: What tools of policymaking were used in the policy formation process? In Washington D.C. In order to get legislation passed a president has to get enough votes from both parties to achieve majority support. There has to be a lot of wheeling and dealing and trading of votes. Education was high on George W. Bush's political policy agenda as he entered office in January 2001. In his book, John Kingdon emphasizes that when it comes to policymaking, "nobody dominates" (p. 47) but the president and his appointees normally have a tremendous amount of influence over the agenda. In fact, the president has the most influence, and next is Congress (which also is effective in the selection of alternatives from which choices can be made that are compromises) followed by interest groups, academics, researchers and consultants. The NCLB legislation was a result of Bush setting the agenda during his campaign for president, and following up when the Supreme Court handed him a victory over Al Gore, 5-4 and he became president.

In fact, things can get pretty wild in Washington when a president is pushing all the right buttons to try and get his legislation passed, and Congress is pushing and pulling strings here and there to make the right impression on their constituencies. In Chapter 4, Kingdon calls the action in the federal government "organized anarchy" (p. 89) and he breaks down the three major "process streams" that he identifies with federal policymaking. His process streams can be clearly linked to how Bush got his education proposal off the ground. The "problem recognition" for Bush was to note, while a candidate, that educational reforms had pretty much failed, and that also, the Republican Party had not been noted in the past for being involved in education. If he, the GOP candidate, could use a theme and an issue that had always been seen as a Democrat issue, he might be able to get votes from independents and others who care about education. And so, the "problem recognition" phase for… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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