NCLB and ELL Students Term Paper

Pages: 15 (4495 words)  ·  Style: MLA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 10  ·  File: .docx  ·  Topic: Teaching

¶ … No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act passed in 2001 was intended to create better accountability in the schools and produce better outcomes for public education. Although the federal government has vehemently defended the legislation, critics contend that NCLB does very little to improve outcomes for students. Additionally, scholars have maintained that for children with special needs -- i.e. learning disabilities, ELL/ESL learners, etc. -- NCLB has created signification gaps that remain difficult for public schools to close.

With the realization that NCLB has had a number of negative and unintended consequences, there is a direct impetus to consider the problems that have developed as a result of this legislation. Using this as a basis for research, this investigation considers the No Child Left Behind Act in the context of English Language Learners or ELL. Specifically, this research considers NCLB in the context of English Language Learners enrolled in California's elementary schools. Through a careful review of what has been noted about both NCLB and its impact on ELLs, it will be possible to garner a more integral understanding of the particular gaps that have resulted as a consequence of the implementation of NCLB.

Literature Review

NCLB: An Overview

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In order to begin this investigation, it is first helpful to consider a general overview of NCLB and its impact on education. Examining the basic provisions of the Act, the United States Department of Education provides a general overview of the legislation by highlighting the specific areas in which changes have been made to public education. In general terms the Department reports that NCLB was designed to ensure that all children receive a high quality public education ("Facts and..."). In order to ensure that this occurs, the Department notes that the following issues are integral to the Act's implementation:

Funding: Schools are required to meet federal competency levels for reading and writing. If these levels are not met, federal funding for the school is terminated.

Term Paper on NCLB and ELL Students Assignment

Accountability: Schools are held accountable for ensuring that all children are learning.

Measuring Knowledge: All public schools are required to test reading and math proficiency using standardized tests.

School District Report Cards: NCLB requires that schools provide report cards for outcomes. If schools fail to meet federal mandates for reading and math competency, parents can choose another school for their child to attend.

Teacher Quality: NCLB supports the development of teachers to ensure that standards for reading and math are met ("Facts and...").

While the specific provisions of the NCLB provide a general understanding of the legislation serves to improve public education, the U.S. Department of Education provides a general overview of the theoretical basis for educational improvement under NCLB. Figure 1 below was published by the Department in an effort to demonstrate the impact the NCLB should have on the school.

Figure 1: Continuous Educational Improvement Through NCLB

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What this figure clearly suggests is that the process of educational improvement for public schools includes the synthesis of a number of different resources including: improved teacher quality, increased student and parent participation and improvements in the basic foundations of education ("Performance and...").

Additionally, statistics reported by the federal government suggest that NCLB is working to improve outcomes for students. Utilizing data from the National Report Card results, the U.S. Department of Education noted the following progress made under No Child Left Behind.

For America's nine-year-olds in reading, more progress was made in five years than in the previous 28 combined.

America's nine-year-olds posted the best scores in reading (since 1971) and math (since 1973) in the history of the report. America's 13-year-olds earned the highest math scores the test ever recorded.

Reading and math scores for African-American and Hispanic nine-year-olds reached an all-time high.

Math scores for African-American and Hispanic 13-year-olds reached an all-time high.

Achievement gaps in reading and math between white and African-American nine-year-olds and between white and Hispanic nine-year-olds are at an all-time low ("No Child Left...").

Based on this data, the federal government professes that the NCLB legislation is working for improving educational outcomes for all students.

Based on the data provided above, it is evident that NCLB has been developed as a fail safe method to ensure that all public schools are able to provide adequate education for all students. While the data reported by the federal government does indeed suggest that significant progress has been made toward improving educational outcomes for all students, there is ample data which suggests problems have developed as a result of the Act's implementation. Of particular importance in this area is the issue of funding. Researchers examining the impacts of NCLB argue that while schools have been required to ensure that students meet mandatory test scores, the federal government has not provided the extra financial support needed to improve schools that continue to lag (Agazie, 39). As a direct result of this situation, schools that are poor performers face considerable challenges when it comes to meeting even basic guidelines of reading and math competency.

In addition to challenges that remain for poor performing schools, researchers have also argued that the implementation of NCLB has drastically changed the landscape of public schools (Henley, McBride and Milligan, 56). Specifically, scholars report that, "Across the nation, traditional school days, instructional programs, and programs such as recess, music, and art, along with programs for the gifted and educationally disabled, have been eliminated or altered beyond recognition" (65). Because of this change, critics of NCLB argue that elementary school students in particular are being robbed of their childhood. As more time is spent on preparing students for standardized tests, less time and money is being spent on educational programs that will provide the student with a balanced education. In the end, there is considerable concern that this change will have significant ramifications for the development of students (57).

Standardized Tests: A Special Issue of Concern

Arguably, the changes that have resulted as a consequence of the implementation of NCLB are quite extensive. However, one are of interest that is essential to understanding criticism of NCLB is standardized testing. NCLB relies on standardized tests as a central means to evaluate the performance of both the student and the school. Although the federal government clearly supports the use of this type of testing as a salient means to effectively assess student performance, the reality is that the efficacy, reliability and validity of standardized tests has been widely debated by scholars. While some contend that the tests do not provide an adequate measure of performance overall, others argue that standardized tests marginalize diverse populations that are not considered to be part of "mainstream" culture (Phillips, 52). Specifically, researchers have made the following observations with respect to standardized testing:

High stakes tests may give us a slight measure of a child's intellect, but they also measure the child's culture and language. Standardized test are biased. Bias takes place when the test scores are influenced by irrelevant characteristics of the test taker, such as race, sex, family, wealth, religion, and so forth. For the most part, standardized multiple choice tests are culturally biased in favor of the culture toward which the test is directed -- the mainstream White culture (52).

When placed in the context of NCLB, the reality that standardized tests can create notable caveats for minority students is one that is quite significant overall. This is especially true given that the number of minority children in the U.S. continues to increase substantially each year (Phillips, 52). Not surprisingly however, minority students are not the only group that faces challenges when it comes to meeting the mandates set through standardized testing. According to Phillips, English language learners (ESL/ELL) face notable challenges when it comes to meeting standardized test requirements: "As it stands now, many non-English speakers are failing the tests and being held back a grade. This is not due to their intellect or IQ. Many students are doing poorly on our high stakes tests due to a lack of understanding of the complex English language" (52). What this effectively suggests is that despite having the intellectual capacity to perform well in the classroom, ELL face considerable challenges in meeting basic federal requirements under NCLB


With the realization that English language learners face such notable challenges when it comes to standardized testing, it is not surprising to find that this specific population is having considerable difficulty meeting the demands set forth under the NCLB legislation. Using this as a basis for further research, it is now possible to consider what has been noted about the challenges facing ELL students under NCLB. While it is assumed that some of the research undertaken in this area will focus on the impact of standardized tests, a cursory overview of the current literature on this subject demonstrates that ELLs face considerable challenges in meeting federal standards for basic education.

In order to begin this portion of the investigation, it is first helpful to consider the overall scope and context of… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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NCLB and ELL Students.  (2007, November 19).  Retrieved September 20, 2020, from

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"NCLB and ELL Students."  November 19, 2007.  Accessed September 20, 2020.