Who Is Really Being Left Behind – the No Child Left Behind Act
Signed into law by President Bush on January 8, 2002, the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 is a reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, the central federal law in pre-collegiate education. “The ESEA, first enacted in 1965 and last reauthorized in 1994, encompasses Title I, the federal government’s flagship aid program for disadvantaged students” (Aiken). It takes a particular aim at improving the educational career of disadvantaged students. As the most recent embodiment of the ESEA, the No Child Left Behind Act has expanded the federal role in education and plays a vital role in the education policy. Coming at a time of wide public concern about the state of education, the legislation initiates requirements that reach into virtually every public school in America. The core of this curriculum is to hold the states more accountable for student progress and achievements. Creating these high standards, it proposes various difficulties for the schools that do not score as high, more specifically, the inner city state schools (Meier). If the states do not fulfill or meet these requirements, they face a cut in government funding. In short, the No Child Left Behind act poses an inconvenience and hinders the economic flow to many of the inner city state schools.
Various states believe the act of No Child Left Behind measures a reflection on an underlying issue that has kept states furious: it is an unfunded federal mandate: “An unfunded mandate is a statute that requires government or private parties to carry out specific actions, but does not appropriate any funds for that purpose” (Tanner). The government enforces particular requirements that schools need to meet in order to ensure sufficient government funding. Unfortunately, a handful of schools do to meet the requirements and expectations, and do not receive funding, hence this is called an unfunded mandate. Educators and superintendents worry about meeting the law’s high expectations of student achievement, particularly in helping children with English as a second language and those with learning disabilities: “Rather than encouraging holistic, progressive, or other alternative programs (public or private) that are working for all children in their schools, NCLB and any federal legislation that mandates standardization by grade-level testing implicitly” (Martin). What has been found is that because of No Child Left Behind, the continuation of programs that focus on the specific children’s needs has been discouraged.
Last month, Virginia’s House of Delegates asked Congress to exempt their state from the law of No Child Left Behind (Tanner). Other states are also considering measures that call on Congress to improve funding or release the states from certain requirements. Unfortunately, if the states do not comply with the law, either by choice or because they cannot afford to, the goal of helping children to succeed will not be met.
Contrary to this argument, Brian Riedl of the Heritage Foundation claims, “States are under no obligation to accept the billions of dollars a year in federal education aid NCLB offers.” “States that do not wish to be held accountable for improving student achievement, or that prefer to do things their own way, can simply decline the money” (Riedl). Sources claim federal K-12 funding increased by forty three percent, double the amount than Bill Clinton’s presidency of eight years. What I have concluded is that there are some pros and cons to each specific argument
Although sources depict a positive role in the act of No Child Left Behind, numerous children with learning disabilities, along with students of a minority background, are indeed starting to become “left behind.” Schools that are targeted more with a disadvantage are the inner state city schools. Point being, the make up of most of the city schools include minority based students. Coming from a minority background, some of the children speak little or no English at all: “In addition to the lack of speaking English, some of the children come from broken homes where the importance of education lacks” (Tanner). Combinations of these factors play a vital role in the act of No Child Left Behind. As the inner city schools maintain a performance level of not meeting the criteria, other, more advanced schools maintain a high economic flow from the government.
In addition to learning disabilities, standardized testing has no helpful effect on children who acquire a learning disability. If the students do not do well on the testing, the ones who suffer are the children. By not receiving sufficient funding from the government, schools are not able to provide top of the line teachers as well as the necessities to aid the children: “The government is asking the schools to use the same type of standardized testing for all students whether they have a disability or not” (Rogers, C., & Freiberg, H. J.).
In order to advance the educational program, the government wants to close the achievement gap between disadvantaged students and their peers. By doing so, the government plans on raising the bar of achievements (Rogers, C., & Freiberg, H. J.). The government feels they can attain higher standards and it will only widen the gap of disadvantaged students and their peers. Due to the higher standards, the disadvantage students will suffer and initially be left behind: “The government states that if certain schools do not make sufficient progress they are required to receive special assistance.” (Rogers, C., & Freiberg, H. J.) If the government was to allow schools to decide their own standards, the schools as a whole may perform higher and achieve the success they crave.
“If pediatricians were held accountable by standardized tests that compare children, rather than looking at the unique and qualitatively distinct needs of each child, it would undermine patient trust and the directness necessary for the most reliable diagnosis of each child” (Semel). Judging doctors that serve a poor community with the same standards that one judges a community of affluence would completely undermine the system. We would end up shutting down programs that are doing excellent work under extremely challenging conditions of poverty and disease, while giving more funds to programs that were working well because the groups being served were not as challenging. Arguably education and educators need to be given the same amount of support and dignity in their ongoing work to improve the quality of life and learning for all students as other professionals are given.
The Act of No Child Left Behind is designed to help children. However, like any system, this Act is composed of several holes and obvious flaws. Although the government wants to achieve well educational programs in order for every American to receive an education, the system they have created has made much unnecessary controversy. On the account of state control, they are able to maintain appropriate standards for their own schools. No Child Left Behind is brilliant notion, but we need to look for models that really work with teachers, students, and families at a local level, as rather than penalizing schools whose resources are already insufficient (Meier).