The No Child Left Behind Act, signed in 2002 by President George W. Bush, was created to address the widening achievement gap among students from different socioeconomic backgrounds as well as provide accountability for academic results. The Act requires states to develop assessments in basic skills. To receive federal school funding, states must give these assessments to all students at select grade levels. The Act does not assert a national achievement standard, and individual states develop their own standards. Critics have argued that the Act has done little to increase student performance and address the issues it sought to fix. This section provides information on the No Child Left Behind Act, including the Act's provisions, criticisms, and consequences for failing to make adequate yearly progress goals, and more.
No Child Left Behind Act and Teacher Accountability
The No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) was intended to ensure that children across the U.S. receive an education that adequately prepares them for life after high school. Studies found that teacher quality is one of the biggest indicators of students' future success. NCLB therefore sought to ensure and improve teacher quality and to ensure that teachers are held accountable for their students' progress.
The NCLB provides standards for the certification of teachers intended to ensure highly qualified teachers and streamlined processes for teacher certification to allow those with valuable practical experience to share. It also allows school districts to use federal money for the creation and execution of professional development programs for teachers, though these investments are limited to programs that are scientifically proven to improve student performance.
Finally, NCLB requires that students make adequate progress from year to year in their understanding of core subjects. Test results are submitted by the state and sometimes federal departments of education. The results are then distributed to parents. Some school districts also tie teachers' salaries and job security on their students' standardized test results. Failure to meet standards can result in the implementation of an improvement plan or requirements relating to the spending of NCLB funds.
Criticism of No Child Left Behind
No Child Left Behind has resulted in a storm of criticism from various groups and individuals. There are three basic kinds of criticism relating to NCLB. Critics complain that the NCLB causes the federal government to intrude into areas traditionally under the control of states. They also contend that the NCLB has resulted in unfunded federal mandates, passing financial problems from the federal to state and local governments. Finally, detractors allege that the law places too much emphasis on standardized testing and teacher qualifications.
These complaints, rather than coming from a small group of malcontents, are the talking points of prominent educational institutions such as the National Education Association. Educators often feel that NCLB restricts the ability of teachers to deal with their student using creativity, innovation, and an understanding of local culture. The concerns about federal control and local expense are commonly at the forefront of individuals who oppose NCLB. Critics feel that communities have the traditional right to direct the education of their children and argue that they are best equipped to determine the tools their children need to succeed.
Critics also argue that the requirements stifle students' learning and teachers' ability to find creative ways to help their kids learn. It is also felt that the law creates expectations that are unreasonable for some students, such as the learning disabled and non-English speakers.