Controversy Over No Child Left Behind


With the quality of education in the United States declining, George W. Bush passed the No Child Left Behind Act in January of 2002. The act was designed to hold the K-12 public schools accountable for their test scores, allow states flexibility regarding the usage of federal money, use scientifically proven methods to teach in classrooms, hire more qualified teachers, and involve parents by providing various options for their children’s education.

NCLB was initially created to last for five years, but Congress has opted to extend the law on a yearly basis since 2007. Obama has planned to reauthorize NCLB but will modify it in such a way that states will have to compete for educational funding, rather than automatically receive money from a formula.

The goal of NCLB is to have 100 percent proficiency in math and English across the United States by 2014. Because the date appeared remote at the time, few opposed this target, but with the deadline approaching, attempts are being made to alter the flexibility of the act to display proficiency.

The US Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, announced in March that if changes are not made to NCLB, then 82 percent of the nation’s schools will be failing, which could lead to the loss of federal aid.

However, Charles Barone, the director of federal legislation for Democrats for Educational Reform, claims the high percentage is misleading. He says that when one school does not make the adequately yearly process (AYP), the foundation of NCLB, that does not necessarily declare a school as failing; it only applies if schools fail to meet AYP for two consecutive years.

Supporters of NCLB believe that this act will increase the quality of education by emphasizing test results and will eventually lead to a more equal school system across the nation by providing standards and resources to schools, regardless of the demographics. Evidence of NCLB can be seen by the increase of highly qualified teachers and the nearly 450,000 students have received free tutoring or their public school choice.

On the other hand, opponents believe that NCLB is ineffective because standardized testing is flawed and requires an inordinate amount of time coaching students on the test. Because math and English are the only two required tests to gain proficiency, fewer resources are dedicated to other subjects, such as social studies and art.

A clause in the law allows the secretary of education to waive parts of the act, which Duncan prefers not to do, but will if states agree on enacting the reforms.  He says the current way that NCLB works is to simplify the curriculum because the act judges schools based on a pass-fail system. Duncan plans to change NCLB to enable schools to receive credit by measuring their academic improvement.

The administration wants Congress to take action before the start of the 2011-2012 school year so that schools have less of a risk of losing federal funding before the 2014 deadline.