No Child Left Behind President Bush Term Paper

Pages: 10 (2969 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: ≈ 26  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Teaching

No Child Left Behind President Bush's so-called education plan, No Child Left Behind (NCLB), has turned out to be a rip-off, something perhaps educators -- and particularly African-American educators -- should have seen coming. The title of the program itself was 'borrowed' and adapted slightly from the longtime rallying cry of equality activist Marian Wright Edelman's "Leave No Child Behind" for the Children's Defense Fund.

Passed three years ago, after the first two years of the program, formally an extension of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, "has left a lot behind, including no end of confusion, uncertainty and resentment" (Schrag 2004, 38+), and recently has sparked lawsuits as well.

By 2004, NCLB had spawned an increase in "the wave of adequacy lawsuits filed by students, community activists and local districts, demanding that states provide resources adequate to the standards and high-stakes tests they've imposed" (Schrag 2004, 38+). Earlier lawsuits were in response to the standard tests, such as various state graduation requirements and SATs and so on. However, "A recent adequacy decision in Kansas, which ordered that state to restructure its funding, explicitly cited NCLB; So have new suits filed by school districts and others in Nebraska, Missouri and North Dakota" (Schrag 2004, 38+) and in Ohio.

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Ohio was one of the states with some of its National Education Association chapters joining the first national lawsuit over NCLB. The National Education Association (NEA) is the nation's largest teachers union, representing 2.7 million members, and is financing the lawsuit. The plaintiffs involved, besides Ohio's chapters, are ten NEA chapters in Michigan, Texas, Vermont, Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and Utah. In addition, nine school districts in Michigan, Texas and Vermont have joined the suit (CNN.com 2005).

Term Paper on No Child Left Behind President Bush's So-Called Assignment

The parties to the suit are providing the diversity NCLB claims to intend to foster, although in a slightly different way than NCLB intended. The school districts involved in the lawsuit represent a range of students from rural Vermont students to limited-English learners in Laredo to poor students in Pontiac (CNN.com 2005). Although the CNN report doesn't spell it out, conceivably NCLB as put into practice -- particularly lacking the funding shortfalls that were the impetus to this suit -- could run afoul of equal opportunity legislation as well.

The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for eastern Michigan, is the most sweeping challenge to President Bush's signature education policy. The outcome would apply only to the districts involved but could have implications for all schools nationwide" (CNN.com 2005).

The suit is against only Education Secretary Margaret Spellings, and centers not on an educational question per se, such as the adequacy of the tests or the fairness of the tests, but rather on whether the president and Congress have provided enough funding for the school districts to comply with the law. "The challenge is built upon one paragraph in the law that says no state or school district can be forced to spend its money on expenses the federal government has not covered" (CNN.com 2005).

If it turns out that, in fact, schools do not have to do anything the law requires unless they receive federal funds to do it -- that is, if a court agrees with the plaintiffs that the law means precisely what it says, then that will be great news for a number of educators and concerned others who believe the law has done more harm to education than good. In fact, some believe NCLB has left more children behind than would have been left behind without it.

It is worth noting, too, that although the law clearly promises the federal money or the escape clause, the Education Department has tried to withhold federal monies from a state or school district that refused to comply with NCLB because NCLB has not complied with its own promise.

In April, 2005, after the suit was filed, there were the usual rounds of disclaimers by government representatives, with White House spokeswoman Dana Perino claiming "Bush has overseen 'historic levels of funding' and (has) a commitment to holding schools to high standards" (CNN.com 2005).

In addition to claiming the federal government has shortchanged the schools by at last $27 billion, representing the difference between the amount Congress authorized and what it has spent, the suit also cites 'hidden costs,' using "a series of cost studies, outlines billions of dollars in expenses to meet the law's mandates. They include the costs of adding yearly testing, getting all children up to grade level in reading and math, and ensuring teachers are highly qualified" (CNN.com 2005). The schools say that to meet those costs -- especially without the promised federal funding, they have shifted money away from foreign languages, arts instruction and smaller classes. In turn, this has hurt the schools' ability to meet their own goals and has damaged school reputations.

It has damaged a lot more than reputations, however, for the students supposedly served by the law, and more than a dozen additional states are also contemplating lawsuits. One has taken unique unilateral action. Utah's legislature passed a measure "giving state education standards priority over federal ones imposed by No Child Left Behind" (CNN.com 2005).

In the early days of rancor between the NEA and then-Education Secretary Ron Paige, Paige called the NEA a "terrorist organization" (CNN.com 2005). He apologized, but it appears that the NEA is, in fact, intending to wreak at least a little vengeance for the many educators claim has not only left lots of children behind, but has turned teaching into a virtual factory job and has taken the life out of school districts as they scramble to shift emphasis, money, staff and interest from well-rounded programs to NCLB test-centered ones.

Objectives of NCLB

The objectives of NCLB were to:

Create an accountability system of tests, graduation rates, and other indicators that would force individual schools and districts to make adequate yearly progress by raising not only school-wide test scores but the achievement levels of every major subgroup of students -- African-Americans, Latinos, English language learners, low-income students, special-education students -- to a state-defined level of proficiency."

Require schools and districts to issue annual 'report cards,' which would provide data on the performance and quality of each school. Children in low-performing schools would be allowed to transfer to better schools (for which the district must provide transportation), and extra help would be provided for those who needed it.

Provide the necessary resources, including "highly qualified teachers," in every classroom by 2005-06.

Assign) "Schools that don't make such progress two years running for each group in each subject and grade (to) 'Program Improvement,' which triggers an escalating set of sanctions and 'interventions,' ultimately including a state takeover until the school again makes its adequate yearly progress targets" (Schrag 2004, 38+).

Simply, the most attractive part of this was the possibility that students would not remain trapped in substandard schools, as they usually are by districting procedures. But it didn't work that way. For the first thing, parents receive an "alphabet soup" of goals and criteria and reports, many of them apparently contradictory. So even making sense of them and deciding to seek another school for the children is problematical. "As Michael Cohen, who heads Achieve Inc., a business-backed group promoting higher school standards, told Education Week, there's 'massive confusion, owing to the stapling together of state and federal accountability systems, and pretending we have one system'" (Schrag 2004, 38+).

One major failing of NCLB was that schools would fail to 'pass' if every minority, non-English-speaking student and every mentally challenged student, and every student who had a life-threatening illness causing him or her to miss school didn't meet minimum standards on the testing. The system, then, is almost bound to fail unless a school district with abundant students in any non-mainstream, English-speaking category shifts its entire attention -- not to mention funding -- to get those students to the levels set by the Education Department under NCLB. It removes discretion from the process, and ultimately, will co-opt education -- traditionally a local issue -- for federal control. The law states that if any subgroup identified by NCLB fails "to make progress in both reading and math in any two succeeding years, the school and its staff get a black mark and go through a federally mandated shape up program. The principal and teachers are then subject to reassignment after four years" (Schrag 2004, 38+).

Pointing out how completely ill-conceived the NCLB plan was, aside from the lack of funding, "Until the federal government granted districts more flexibility in December 2003, the situation was even more surreal for special-ed students, who were being given the same tests as regular students even though they are so designated precisely because many can't manage the pace of the normal program" (Schrag 2004, 38+).

There is another provision in the law, however, that makes it almost certain that education, nationwide, will be compromised: states who can't make the NCLB grade via their standards… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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