Smith 1Stephanie SmithMrs. CorbettAP Literature17 November 2011 An Issue in Education: No Child Left Behind Education, if simply defined, is“a discipline that is concerned with methods of teachingand learning in schools or school-like environments” (“Education”). Education is the diffusion ofsocietal values and the knowledge that each society has accumulated thus far. Education is saidto be responsible for the cultivation of a civilized society; it enables the development of aresponsible society through the teaching of values. Ideally,the purpose of education is tocultivate the innocent minds of children by instilling those values and principles into their minds.By introducing these values, children are able to develop physical, mental and social skills.Children are guided by education in learning about their culture until their behavior has becomeadult-like and they are able to pursue a role in society. Nevertheless, education is not foolproof inits aimsandsuffers from one central problem. That is, what exactly should education be focusedon in order to help children attain their full potential? In response, several aims have been proposed by philosophers and other figures in anattempt to make learning more efficient. Many have considered balancing student needs andinterests or replacing close-mindedness with an augmented imagination (“Education, philosophyof”).No matter the approach, all of these propositions have been defended and criticized by otherthinkers.No Child Left Behind, a prime example of a proposal, was both ridiculed and praised forits attempt to pinpoint the focuses of education. The reform, signed off on January 8th, 2002 byPresident George W. Bush, was based on four principles- “stronger statewide accountability for
Smith 2students proficiency, increased flexibility for state and local control in the use of governmenteducationfunds, expanded school options for parents, and an emphasis on proven teachingmethods” (“Education”).No Child Left Behind was a major alteration of the Elementary andSecondary Education Act of 1965, a federal law that suffered from its own faults. The revisedNCLB debuted at a time of public concern over the state of education. The legislation set inrequirements that reached into every American public school imaginable. Chiefly, it took aim atimproving the academic skills of disadvantaged students by using a number of measuresdesigned to enhance their academic performances. Positioned at the core of the No Child Left Behind Act, these measures forced states andschools to become more involved in their student progress as well. They represented significantchanges to the education landscape and lit the path to a more promising future for education. Thefirst of these measures was annual testing. “The testing portion of the plan required states to setstandards for what every child should learn in reading, mathematics, and science in elementaryand secondary schools” (“Education”). Commencing in 2002, all schools were to administerreading and math tests to grades 3-5, 6-9, and 10-12. By the time 2007 rolled around, annualtests were required in grades 3-8 and science tests were added. The tests were based on stateacademic standards, determined whether or not a school continued to receive federal funding,and took its participant’s results to be compared in the National Assessment of EducationalProgress. Secondly, the No Child Left Behind Act measured academic progress in a moderatedfashion. States were required to bring all students up to the proficient level on state tests by theend of the 2014 school year. Individual schools had to meet state “adequate yearly progress”,objectives that “focused on the collection of data and the analysis of that data in relation to
Smith 3student learning” (Woestman). Adequate yearly progress is measured not only for their studentpopulations as a whole but for students of certain demographics and capabilities as well. NoChild Left Behind clearly mentions that the target goals must be raised over time and that morestudents should be meeting them. States are required by the act to evaluate every student andmake sure that their adequate yearly progress is met. Any school that does not adhere by theserequirements will suffer from failure in its entirety and may have to reorganize or surrender tofederal control. However, private schools and home-schooled students are exempt from therequirements. Moreover, states had to equip yearly report cards showing a range of information such asstudent achievement data and information on the performance of school districts. Through theuse of report cards, the federal government displayed school performance and statewide progressto parents. Concerned parents were also able to evaluate the quality of their child’s school,teachers, and progress in major subjects. These reports showed progress for all student groups indiminishing achievement gaps between disadvantaged students and ones of separate ethnicities.In addition to these reports,the No Child Left Behind act “[suggested] that state governments andschool districts use alternative means of licensing and endorsing teachers” (Waid andMcNergney). Contrary to the past, teachers now had to be “highly qualified”, or certified andproficient in the subject that he or she taught. They should have also completed at least two yearsof college, obtained at least a bachelor’s degree, or passed an assessment to depict their teachingaptitude. Only under these circumstances would teachers be qualified and trusted to guidechildren into reaching their full potential. Lastly, No Child Left Behind ensured student safety and created a new program calledReading First.Funded at $1.02 billion in 2004, the program“was designed to help students in
Smith 4kindergarten through third grade develop stronger reading skills” (Gordon). Reading Firstfocused primarily on teaching students of impoverished backgrounds to read. Through this aim,the program guaranteed that every child would be able to read by the end of third grade. The actalso provided funds for parents to relocate their child from an unsafe or poorly performingschool to a satisfactory one. This increased choice and flexibility in how states and districts couldconsume federal funding. However, the measures implemented by the No Child Left Behind actwere not beneficial from every angle. Despite its good intentions, several critics questioned the feasibility of the No Child LeftBehind Act, claiming that itsintentions were truly negative and hurt education even further.Forinstance, annual testing yielded anxiety-stricken children. The testswere often flawed in that theyneglected low-income children and those of certain minorities as well. This generated the ideathat the No Child Left Behind act had failed to acknowledge the diversity in schools. Althoughthis idea arose, several states replaced their generic academic standard with a progressionstandard to measure how students had developed over the course of a year. Also,“opponentsclaimed that standardized test results since 2002 were not consistently better and that emphasison test-taking skills led to neglect of other forms of learning” (“The George W. BushAdministrations”).The standardized testing distracted teachers from other areas such as music,art, and foreign languages, and thusencouraging teachers to adjust their teaching style and teachspecifically for the tests. The annual tests sought to evaluate a child’s understanding and tohastily return test results to teachers. But as a result, the tests failed to evaluate student successand put childrenof less intelligence at a disadvantage. According to a study, “the NCLBprogram’s high-stakes testing had done little to improve student’s achievement and had resultedin higher high-school dropout rates” (“Primary and Secondary Education”). Supporters of the act
Smith 5were decreasing as many began to believe that it had no effect on public schools and put anunnecessary focus on standardized testing. Overall, the addition of annual testing only dug adeeper hole and led to an increasingly bleak future for education. To discuss further, the No Child Left Behind Act overlooked a major problem ineducation: the disproportion of funding offered in the United States. Unlike schools in othercountries, “the amount that wealthy schools are permitted to spend is approximately ten timesgreater than the poorest schools in the United States” (“Funding for Education”). Subsequently,American schools suffer from a larger achievement gap than any other country. While someschools may qualify as proficient under the terms of the law others miss the mark. For example,minority schools are more likely to score lower or fail state required tests because they do nothave access to the same resources as high-end schools.Even though the law “orders schools toensure that 100 percent of students test at levels identified as “proficient” by the year 2014…thesmall per pupil dollar allocation it makes to schools serving low-income students is well under10 percent of schools’ total spending” and not nearly enough to aide underprivileged schools(Darling-Hammond 6-9). Under No Child Left Behind,the students of under resourced schoolsend their academic careers with less opportunity to play a meaningful role in society. The act isunable to provide sufficient funding to all schools, ignores resources that enable school quality,and handicaps students. For these reasons,No Child Left Behindmisses the purpose of educationentirely. By and large, the over-all goal of No Child Left Behind was to “ensure that all childrenhave a fair, equal, and significant opportunity to obtain high-quality education” (“EducationDepartment”). Conversely, the act highlights an unworthy focus for education as it concentratedmainly on annual state-wide testing. Many critics felt that the act did not reflect the true potential
Smith 6of students and damaged schools even more. Bush’s No Child Left Behind did not prove to be asa solution to education’s biggest issue; controversy over what education should be focused onstill remains.Hence, some children may never be able to reach their full potential no matter whatthe focuses of education may be.
Smith 7 Works CitedDarling-Hammond, Linda. "Inequality in Education: What NCLB Does Not Change." Manychildren left behind. By Deborah Meier. Boston: Beacon Press, 2004. 6-9. Google Book Search.Web. 17 Nov. 2011."Education." Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online School Edition.Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 2011. Web. 12 Nov. 2011.Education Department." Wests Encyclopedia of American Law. Ed. Shirelle Phelps and JeffreyLehman. 2nd ed. Vol. 4. Detroit: Gale, 2005. 62-66. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 14Nov. 2011."Education, philosophy of."Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online SchoolEdition.Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 2011. Web. 16 Nov. 2011.Funding for Education." American Decades. Ed. Judith S. Baughman, et al. Vol. 3: 1920-1929.Detroit: Gale, 2001. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 16 Nov. 2011."The George W. Bush Administrations." Presidential Administration Profiles for Students.Detroit: Gale, 2009. Discovering Collection. Gale. Creekview High School. 14 Nov. 2011Gordon, Byron. "Reading First: States Report Improvements in Reading Instruction, butAdditional Procedures Would Clarify Educations Role in Ensuring Proper Implementation byStates: GAO-07-161." Student Resource Center - College Edition. EBSCOhost, n.d. Web. 17Nov. 011."Primary and Secondary Education.”Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica OnlineSchool Edition. Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 2011. Web. 12 Nov. 2011.
Smith 8Waid, Kimberly B., and Robert F. McNergney. "Teacher." Encyclopedia of Education. Ed.James W. Guthrie. 2nd ed. Vol. 7. New York: Macmillan Reference USA, 2002. 2435-2437.Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 14 Nov. 2011.Woestman, Kelly A. "No Child Left Behind (2001)." Major Acts of Congress. Ed. Brian K.Landsberg. Vol. 3. New York: Macmillan Reference USA, 2004. 69-72. Gale Virtual ReferenceLibrary. Web. 12 Nov. 2011.
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