No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) Term Paper

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No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) of 2002 changed the requirements of the Elementary and Secondary Act of 1965. The NCLB Act focuses on policy and distribution of funds to public schools, with federal funds mostly distributed to school districts whose populations come from lower economic levels and represent culturally diverse populations, such as African-Americans, Native Americans, Asians, and Latinos (Conrad 2005). Proponents of this new Act claim that its mission is to close the achievement gap by holding school districts and states accountable, encouraging the use of flexible educational approaches, and supporting parents' rights to school choice (Conrad 2005).

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Although on the surface, it appears no one would argue with these goals, yet critics question the means by which the federal government's public school agenda attempts to deliver this "high quality education" (Conrad 2005). According to education scholars, a critical analysis of the law confirms that the No Child Left Behind Act is specifically harmful for the children described as "disadvantaged students," the same socioeconomic groups that have historically received inferior education (Conrad 2005). In fact, according to Marguerite Conrad in the September 2005 issue of Social Justice, the Act's goals are highly restrictive for lower-income families whose children attend low-income schools (Conrad 2005). The No Child Left Behind Act has come under scrutiny by a wide range of citizens, including state legislators who are concerned with the direction of public education (Conrad 2005).

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Today, funding for education rests mainly on the backs of state and local governments, with the federal government sharing very little of the responsibility for education (Conrad 2005). Conrad notes that of an estimated $852 billion spent nationwide on education at all levels for the 2003-2004 school year, roughly 90% came from state, local, and private sources. In 2004, approximately 10% of the total education expenditure came from the federal level. The $63.3 billion appropriation of the United States Department of Education represents about 2.7% of the federal government's nearly $2.3 trillion budget (Conrad 2005).

According to the U.S. Government Accounting Office, states will probably spend $1.9 billion to $5.3 billion from 2002 to 2008 to implement the No Child Left Behind mandated tests (Conrad 2005). This money will cover costs for developing, scoring, and reporting the tests, which are all under contracts with private corporations (Conrad 2005). Conrad notes that the opportunities to gain from the NCLB go well beyond simply designing and selling tests to public schools. The Act requires that all school districts receiving funds from the NCLB submit a district and school report card called the "Adequate Yearly Progress," and the scoring of the AYP requires that a private company analyze the school progress report, determine the district ranking, and report documents to the federal government (Conrad 2005). Conrad explains that the federal government has essentially set up a system that makes it virtually impossible for school districts to analyze their own data or to develop partnerships with local universities to fulfill this task, yet states are required to pay the costs for analyzing and storing the data, and are forced to hire private consulting firms such as Edusoft to manage the data and reports (Conrad 2005).

In 2005, Connecticut filed a lawsuit against the federal government claiming that the overall differences in levels of funding and costs to the state were preventing the state from more effectively using its resources (Conrad 2005). The Connecticut Department of Education wrote a thorough report titled Cost of Implementing the Federal No Child Left Behind Act in Connecticut, which noted that given under-funding, to meet NCLB requirements the state must either seek additional funds, particularly for the areas of Standards and Assessments and Technical Assistance, or reallocate existing resources, especially staff time (Conrad 2005). Connecticut's estimated costs for mandated state-level technical assistance and support systems would exceed the applicable federal funds by more than $18 million, an expense that Connecticut considers to be inordinately large (Conrad 2005). From 2002 to 2008, the federal contribution in this area will be $1,033,000, while the cost to Connecticut will be $19, 250,000 (Conrad 2005). The state recommended that the funds be spent in ways that were more useful, such as prevention and intervention for children, and school reform actions (Conrad 2005).

Many states and school districts have contracts with more than one publishing company. Marketing assessment tools represent one area of these corporations, for example McGraw Hill also has successfully sold social studies textbooks and a prescribed reading and language arts curriculum program, especially in school districts with lower-income, culturally and linguistically diverse student populations (Conrad 2005). However, many of the designated No Child Left Behind recipient school districts are forced to choose a reading and language arts curriculum from only two choices (Conrad 2005).

Classroom teachers spend an enormous amount of time teaching students how to raise their mathematics and language arts scores on state tests (Conrad 2005). However, according to observations by researchers in 2004 and 2005, the subjects of social studies, science, health, and physical education are often not taught until mid-May, when tests are over (Conrad 2005). Critics believe that educators, especially school administrators, must question the wisdom of inordinate spending on software-based test preparations when educational resources indicate that other methods, such as reading and responding to quality literature, are more beneficial (Conrad 2005).

The schools that are pressured to buy into quick-fix solutions are predominately in lower-income neighborhoods with culturally and linguistically diverse populations. According to Conrad, after the No Child Left Behind Act was implemented, "school districts serving the poorest students have been forced to use prescribed curricula and supplemental programs that contribute to the demise of academic creativity and meaningful learning" (Conrad 2005). In other words, "education has become a competitive consumer choice," as politicians work to privatize education at the legislative level, thus opening the door to a myriad of corporate markets (Conrad 2005).

For example, commercialized tutorial programs are making profits at the expense of the "most needy" schools because the No Child Left Behind Act requires that schools that do not meet the Adequate Yearly Progress must use 20% of their federal funds to purchase an after-school tutorial program (Conrad 2005). Based on NCLB regulations, all schools must make adequate yearly progress resulting in 100% of the students scoring proficient or above by the year 2014 (Shibley 2005)

Moreover, school districts must use tutorial programs on the federal government's approved lists. Educators and administrators are apparently not considered to be expert enough to design and implement tutorial programs (Conrad 2005). Rather, software and publishing companies have now become the experts on the needs of school districts, and while these companies most likely have teams that design and develop curricula, the standardized material does not benefit all students, particularly linguistically and economically diverse populations (Conrad 2005).

Many organization and investment firms have profited from current federal educational policy, and critics claim that the federal government is holding school districts hostage, for fearing the loss of federal funds, their collaboration takes the form of convincing administrators, parents, and teachers that rigid curriculums, standards, standardized tests, supplemental materials, and after-school prescribed tutorials are the ways to close the achievement gap (Conrad 2005). Opponents believe that the NCLB Act has simply legitimized the role of private corporations in public education, resulting in corporate CEOs and board members deciding what is worthy of teaching and learning, and determining who should have access to opportunities (Conrad 2005).

Under the term of disadvantaged students, the No Child Left Behind Act lists:

low-achieving children in high-poverty schools, limited English proficient children, migratory children, children with disabilities, Indian children, neglected or delinquent children, and young children in need of reading assistance" (Conrad 2005). Conrad notes that English learners (ELs) are particularly hit hard by this act since their lives tend to encompass several categories covered by the term "disadvantaged students" (Conrad 2005). Although these children enter the classroom without proficiency in the English language, under the NCLB Act, they are evaluated the same way that native English speakers are (Conrad 2005). Thus, in some states, ELs who have been in the U.S. only a short time, perhaps merely one week, could be forced to take the test in a language they do not understand, while other states compel ELs to take tests after completion of their first year of formal schooling (Conrad 2005). Every public elementary and secondary school must meet an Adequate Yearly Progress, and the progress of ELs as a group, like that of other disadvantaged student groups, will be academically assessed in the same ways as all other public school children, despite the fact that many do not speak the language of the test (Conrad 2005). A 2004 study of Michigan educators reported that the primary concern was that "research shows it can take from three to seven years for a child to acquire enough fluency to understand textbooks, interpret writing, and take a test in English" (Conrad 2005).

Conrad notes that immigrant children or children from homes in which English is… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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