No Child Left Behind Act Review Impact Research Paper

Pages: 6 (1560 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 7  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: Master's  ·  Topic: Teaching

No Child Left Behind

It has often been noted by many astute observers that every solution to a problem creates another problem. The No Child Left Behind Act o 2001, or NCLB, a monumental piece of federal government legislation, is a strong example of an attempt to solve a complex problem that is creating a complex web of problems in its wake. In this paper, I will examine literature on NCLB to explore the intent and the impact of the legislation on states, school districts, schools, teachers, and schoolchildren, and I will reflect upon what I have learned in the process and how it may shape the kind of educator I will become.

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The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 is the latest in a long line of United States federal government intervention in elementary and secondary public school education. NCLB was designed to help ensure that disadvantaged children receive the same educational opportunities as children living in more advantageous socio-economic situations. In this way, NCLB is similar to and a continuation of the intent of other key federal education policies that were created in twentieth century. The Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 enforced desegregation of public schools (McDermott & Jensen, 2005). The Bilingual and Education Act of 1968 provided for bilingual instruction for students whose learning was inhibited under English-only instruction (Mayers, 2006). The 1994 Improving America's Schools Act encouraged states to create education standards, testing based on those standards, the results of which were to be used as measures of schools' accountability vis-a-vis those state standards (McDermott & Jensen, 2005). Each act extended the reach of the federal government's influence into the ways the individual state governments administered their public education programs.

Research Paper on No Child Left Behind Act Review Impact and Reflection Assignment

No Child Left Behind is considered by many observers to be the most intrusive legislation yet of its kind. Aimed at eliminating the gap in academic achievement between advantaged and disadvantaged America schoolchildren, NCLB sets up a rigid and rigorous system of standardized testing, ever-rising school and student achievement benchmarks, and mechanisms to address failure to attain those performance goals. The performance progress of schools and school districts are dependent on the performance gains of students as they take the standardized tests created by their state's education officials over several grades of their public school career. The performance goals increase every year, with 2014 as the finish line for all schools to close the achievement gap. Failure to mean annual goals enacts a multi-level process of redress. The first year a school fails to reach its annual performance goal, the community it service must be notified and parents can opt to transfer their children to higher performing schools. A second year of failure compels the state to act to reform the school, with the options of replacing administrators and teachers and bringing in consultants. Also, supplemental instruction must be provided for the low-performing students from private providers outside of the school system. Failing to make the grade for a third year can result in the state taking over the school and perhaps turning into a charter school or a private school. Failures like this jeopardize federal funding for the stigmatized schools, creating a two-fold cost: the loss of monies from Washington and the cost of the corrective measures (Mayers, 2006).

In his article "Doing the Right Thing, Knowing the Right Thing to Do: The Problem of Failing Schools and Performance-Based Accountability," Richard F. Elmore examines how two schools with different internal and external environments are both making improvements yet still being categorized as failures according to the standards enforced due to the No Child Left Behind Act. Through his years of observation and consulting work in schools of all kinds and in all types of socio-economic environments, he has detailed the cycle of improve that schools go through. The cycle includes gains in achievement and performance that soon level out as the problems first encountered and addressed create new problems that the school's teachers and administrators haven't yet recognized. The faculty and staff have to acknowledge the new set of challenges, figure out how to address them, and create and implement a strategy for doing so. This part of the cycle may very well require outside advice and assistance from those who can analyze the situation from a distance and with a fresh perspective. With successful implementation of a new strategy for tackling the new problems, the school will see performance gains, which will eventually level off. And the cycle begins anew. While it sounds Sisyphean, Elmore points out that the effort required to recognize and adapt to the new problems, combined the fresh input and insight from outside help, actually helps the school become better as the teachers, administrators, students, and the community build the human and resource capacity to overcome the new challenges. Their success shows that they are coming more aligned in their thinking and are sharing the same values more thoroughly. In his article, Elmore discusses a school categorized as a success even though it is encountering the same problems as the two "failing" schools. His observations demonstrate some real truth behind the saying, "no pain, no gain," because there will be frustration when schools reach those plateaus at the end of their gain spurts (Elmore, 2000).

Elmore feels that while standards-based accountability and performance goal-setting is not inherently negative, the way those features of No Child Left Behind have been enacted are having negative effects on all kinds of schools because they are unrealistic. The policy demands every increasing performance gains every year and does not make room for those flat periods that the author has observed schools go through time and time again. Moreover, he points out that NCLB tries to apply a one-solution-for-all-schools approach that does not take into consideration the starting points of individual schools nor the social, political, economic, and labor dynamics of individual schools. The legislation compels states and school districts to view things in the same distorted way and ties the hands of local officials and teachers as they seek to find ways to meet the ever higher goals and the ever greater stakes. In addition, the author explains how the federal government, by not offering direct aid in providing the corrective actions, ignore their role in helping challenged schools build needed capacity to reach NCLB goals. Thus the federal government loses the legitimacy of its authority by being unsupportive of the advancements it demands of schools and states (Elmore, 2000).

In "Dubious Sovereignty: Federal Conditions of Aid and the No Child Left Behind Act," McDermott and Jensen examine peculiar contradictions in the legislation. The designers and proponents of NCLB assert that the policy empowers states and localities, giving them tools to improve education for all of their students. They claim that NCLB gives states more freedom to create standards and testing that will raise school accountability, teacher effectiveness, and student performance. But opponents point out that the legislation forces states to follow the letter of the law or lose precious federal aid. States have to fulfill certain rigid conditions in order to continue receiving funding. The federal government believes that it is not compelling the states to enact these stringent policies because the states are free not to enact them if they can afford to forego the federal funds that come along with compliance. The authors view that claim as disingenuous given how important every dollar is to economically strapped states with their ever-present need to have balanced budget (McDermott & Jensen, 2005).

McDermott and Jensen point out another contradiction in NCLB. The law requires that states and localities enact policies and build curricula based on the evidence of scientific research. While it is a good idea to do so, the legislation itself is not based on any science, nor does… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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How to Cite "No Child Left Behind Act Review Impact" Research Paper in a Bibliography:

APA Style

No Child Left Behind Act Review Impact.  (2011, February 8).  Retrieved October 25, 2020, from

MLA Format

"No Child Left Behind Act Review Impact."  8 February 2011.  Web.  25 October 2020. <>.

Chicago Style

"No Child Left Behind Act Review Impact."  February 8, 2011.  Accessed October 25, 2020.