Typically in the news or in politics when American schools and education are discussed, the No Child Left Behind Act signed into action by President George W. Bush is a big part of the issue. The Act itself is a divisive one, and though not many people outside of politics understand what it is or the type of impact it has on education, it is a very important issue. The Act, for better or for worse, impacts American education and the educators that are teaching the students, and there are very different opinions on it.
Though most states had set standards for education, it was very different from state to state and there was no concrete way of measuring the education levels of students from state to state. Even within a state itself there was some variation, and even though some states did have statewide tests, it was not comparable to other states. Some states didn’t have statewide tests, creating even more difficulty. The biggest problem that George Bush and Congress saw was that the goals of equality in the classroom were not being met. The four main groups that were suffering under education in America were ESL students (English as a second language), minorities, students with disabilities, and students from a low socioeconomic background.
To try and reach a goal of equity among all students in America, the No Child Left Behind Act, often shortened to NCLB, was passed. The Act intended to hold all schools in the country to a measureable standard, but those individual standards were still set by the individual state. What NCLB attempted to do was set up standards for the states to base off of, instead of having all of the schools in the country form drastically different standards. Metaphorically, the No Child Left Behind Act was trying to move all of the different state standards from using difference currency all to a comparable, similar monetary system so they could interact with one another and be fair across the board.
Though there has been some advancement, particularly with students who have previously suffered (the four groups), there has been stiff criticism against the No Child Left Behind Act both politically and in the education system itself. Though national standards were set, there was still a lot of leeway for individual states, and the idea of “proficiency” for their students were still varied. The No Child Left Behind Act was not trying to set the absolute national standards, but instead hold the states more accountable for the progress and proficiency of its schools, requiring tests in reading, math, and science. Schools were held accountable, facing serious punishments, such as the replacement of staff, for failure.
One of the problems was the difficulty in collecting data and interpreting it for an individual school. If a given school had a small amount of ESL students who were doing poorly, it would reflect on all of the school who were doing poorly only if it was a small number. Another criticism was that students with disabilities were being treated unfairly, and it is believed that the tests that are given to the students with disabilities are not accommodating and are too tough of a test. This results in data being skewed for the rest of the school, who may or may not be doing poorly.
In 2005, a survey showed that a majority of the American public supported the No Child Left Behind Act, but the public also supported more than one test annually. The problem with only having one test, they believed, was that it was either “pass or fail,” and students had to rely only on one test. If the tests were spread out more over a few tests, they may not be so demanding on students and students would have more opportunities to succeed. For all of its criticisms, the No Child Left Behind Act does have redeeming, albeit hidden, qualities.
There are a lot of people who see the No Child Left Behind Act as unhelpful, and that it is not doing enough for students. The problem with this argument is that the majority of students are already doing adequately, and it is a certain group of students who are lacking that the No Child Left Behind Act is trying to help. NCLB is intended to help all students but also to provide an environment in which students who may not have succeeded can succeed. There has been backlash against it by schools because of testing requirements and the cost, but President Bush and Congress believed that it was necessary to hold schools accountable to help students succeed.