Thesis: No Child Left Behind Act

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Education - NCLB Problems

RECONSIDERING the NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND CONCEPT Background and History of the No Child Left Behind Act: Education reform in the United States is not a new idea. In 1965, President Lyndon Johnson enacted the Elementary and Secondary Education Act and during the administration of George H. Bush, the first President Bush promised, among other things, that by the turn of the century, all American school-aged children would have the benefit of comprehensive quality educational programming and improved nutritional and healthcare access to facilitate their learning in school. President G.H. Bush went so far as to promise that improved focus on American education would go so far by then as to also provide the training necessary for the parents of preschoolers to fulfill their role at home as their children's "first teacher."

In January of 2002, President George W. Bush signed into law a reauthorization and revision of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 in the form of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) of 2002. Much like his father before him, George W. Bush made very specific promises in outlining his expectations for the success of the NCLB legislation, guaranteeing that under the NCLB programs, all American schoolchildren would achieve acceptable levels of proficiency in reading and mathematics, the two most important academic subjects, by the year 2014 (USDOE 2001). Needless to say, the ambitions of the first President Bush were, in retrospect, not very realistic, as evidenced by the justification for enacting the NCLB Act presented by the second President Bush throughout 2001. The president detailed the degree to which deficiencies in American public education were undermining the country's competitive edge in business, medical science, and especially the technology sector in comparison to poorer nations with significantly better educational success rates. At that time, the president suggested that implementation of the NCLB was also, very specifically, intended as a means of addressing the disparity in academic performance and high school graduation rates of black American schoolchildren in relation to their white counterparts, in addition to making similar comparisons with respect to other demographic descriptors such as family income level (USDOE 2001).

The NCLB Act pertains to all school-age children, but my particular interest is its effectiveness in improving academic performance and relevant skills among high school students, primarily because that represents my area of vocational interest. As an educator, I remain open-minded to any plausible and practical suggestions for improving learning, but I must admit to tremendous skepticism on the prospect of achieving that goal through the NCLB concept for numerous reasons that came to light in my research of the topic in connection with this project.

Beyond the criticism levied against the issues of NCLB-programmatic implementation, it may very well be that the entire philosophy underlying the NCLB approach is seriously flawed in design and educational philosophy. In that regard, very little research seems to support the idea once one discounts partisan reviews and subjective characterizations presented by the Bush administration and G.O.P. spokespeople.

Conversely, after six years, a multitude of educational research projects have been devoted to evaluating the merits demonstrated by the first half decade of American public education shaped by the NCLB doctrine. The result of those inquiries are virtually unanimous in their characterization of the NCLB concept as a failure and as a tremendous waste of valuable resources (Murray 2006). Likewise, the anecdotal information in the form of first-hand experience of career educators suggests that the damage goes even deeper than failed promises and financial waste. According to many experienced teachers and school administrators, the NCLB approach to public education reduces education to drilling students for the exclusive purpose of performing on the standardized test used to gauge statewide compliance with federal standards.

Rather than increasing learning, the NCLB programs have narrowed the focus of academic learning even more than was the case previously to the detriment of the students (Sonnenblick 2008). In fact, many modern experts in the field of academic learning and human cognitive development believe that what is required to motivate increased academic interest and success is precisely the opposite of such intensive unbalanced focus on reading and mathematics. A tremendous volume of research has demonstrated the value of expanding rather than narrowing the scope of academic learning, in particular, the research and successful implementation of pilot programs in both hands-on active-participation academic programs (Huber & Moore 2001) and the multiple intelligences approach pioneered by Harvard School of Education Professor Howard Gardner (Gardner 1999).

Unfortunately, the implications of contemporary research into the factors that contribute to the success of education programs seem diametrically opposite the design of the NCLB approach to education. Instead of training students to perform "adequately" on standardized measures of competence in two areas exclusively, modern educational theorists have proposed that what is needed is actually a reduced focus on rote memorization, lecture-based passive learning modules, and the overemphasis of linguistic and mathematics abilities.

Instead, improving American education may require recognition of the degree to which academic potential and cognitive abilities lie wholly outside the traditional scope of academic curricula altogether (Schroeder & Spannagel 2006). On the basis of my research and personal experience, I am inclined to believe that cognitive development and academic learning are inseparable from social learning, emotional, sensory, and physical experiences. The requirements of the NCLB Act fail to recognize that aspect of education and the methods of implementation of NCLB programming actually ignore those elements of human learning even more than the traditional educational programs and approaches upon which it was intended to improve.

As a career educator, my only concern is to stimulate the academic interests of my students in a manner that increases their enthusiasm for learning. In that regard, I hope to incorporate the latest available information and research that identifies educational approaches conducive to that goal. Therefore, the apparent failure of the NCLB Act concerns me, as does the discrepancy between its conceptual design and the elements of educational programs that appear to offer the greatest potential for achieving the objectives that seem to have all but eluded the NCLB approach, regardless of its laudable purpose and expectations.

Educational Reform Under the No Child Left Behind Act: The fundamental design of the NCLB Act incorporates four essential elements, consisting of: (1) standards and testing, (2) testing result reporting, (3) Title I institutional accountability, and (4) nationwide testing through a sampling methodological approach.

Since the constitutional separation of powers doctrine and individual state's rights likely prohibits setting minimum federal standards and testing of achievement or academic performance, the NCLB Act sets out more general standards and testing objectives such as the requirement that all states establish "challenging" academic standards (USDOE 2001).

Testing and result reporting under the NCLB Act require each school to report the results of testing to the state and for the states to monitor their schools for compliance with federal objectives. Under NCLB, states must also conduct periodic statistical analyses of performance that takes into account race, income, ethnicity, disability, and English language fluency (USDOE 2001). The Title I institutional accountability component of NCLB imposed the obligation on states to design and implement testing standards sufficient to achieve federal objectives by the academic year 2005-2006, as well as to document progressive improvement on an annual basis with respect to those standards. Finally, nationwide testing through sampling requirements under the NCLB Act is conducted through nationwide diagnostic testing via a National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). The NAEP is intended to provide a uniform standard for all state education programs as measured through biannual testing (through sampling) of each state's fourth and eighth-grade students (USDOE 2001).

Conceptual Problems with the No Child Left Behind Approach to Education: In principle, the NCLB concept appears fundamentally flawed on several different levels. First, it was proposed virtually without any empirical studies correlating its mechanisms with academic achievement; it appears that, more than anything else, it was the subjective belief of the president about the educational programs in his home state of Texas that shaped the NCLB ideals. Critics have suggested that even his conclusions about what contributed to academic issues in Texas were flawed, let alone that no objective studies supported the NCLB concept (Sonnenblick 2008).

Second, notwithstanding the prohibition of specific federally-imposed measures of program success, the NCLB Act conflicts with the spirit (if not the letter) of state sovereignty under the U.S. Constitution. Third, by focusing exclusively on standardized test scores as measures of program effectiveness in conjunction with mandatory reporting and publication of institutional success, the NCLB actually promotes an emphasis on test scores irrespective of genuine learning or subject matter retention.

Fourth, the evolution of this emphasis on testing and reporting has already opened up a wider market for private businesses to exploit the need of educational institutions to maintain compliance with federal test-score standards (Murray 2006). Instead of providing students with a wider range of educational materials designed to stimulate their intellectual curiosity and motivate their interest in… [END OF PREVIEW]

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No Child Left Behind Act.  (2008, June 29).  Retrieved May 25, 2019, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/child-left-behind-act/52264

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https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/child-left-behind-act/52264.