Education has become one of the most important and at the same time one of the most controversial aspects of the American society today. This is given the fact that the leaders and the public at large have realized that the American citizen is today competing in a global arena.
And in order for Americans to compete favorably with other citizens of both developed and developing nations, they need to be equipped with the right and necessary skills. These skills can only be instilled effectively through an effective education system. As such, many policies have been formulated, all aimed at improving the quality of American education.
These policies include increased funding by the federal and central governments to education, improvement of the training that is given to teachers among others. The No Child Left Behind Act remains one of the most notable and significance legislations affecting the American education in the twenty first century.
It remains one of George W. Bush’s significance legacies in the American society. Senator Ted Kennedy is one of the politicians credited with the crafting of this bill, and his lobbying ensured that it received overwhelming support in congress when it came up for discussion.
The act came into effect in 2001, and since then, it has seen increased federal funding of public education over the years. For example, in 2001, the federal government pumped $42.2 billion into the education sector, and this increased to $54.4 billion in 2007 as a result of the act (Lips 4). The amount of funds that was directly linked to the No Child Left Behind policy was increased by more than 40 percent between 2001 and 2007, translating into an increase from 17.4 billion dollars to 24.4 billion dollars (Lips 4).
However, despite this and other advantages of the policy, analysts are of the view that the No Child Left Behind has done more harm to American education than good. If no modifications of the act are forthcoming, the quality of education in this quality will be jeopardized. In fact, instead of modifying the act, the American education sector will benefit if the policy was overhauled and replaced with other beneficial policies.
The NCLB Act: Some of the Benefits
Before embarking on some of the weaknesses and shortcomings of this policy which has become the face of American education today, it is important to acknowledge that it has some benefits, albeit few, that it has brought into the education sector.
One of such benefits is the improvement recorded in test scores administered to learners in the country’s public schools. According to Tehrani (9), the country’s Department of Education makes reference to the National Assessment of Educational Progress (herein referred to as NAEP) results made public in July of 2005 to point out the successes of the policy.
According to these results, nine year old learners showed marked improvement in reading between 2001 and 2005 than in the last 28 years preceding the enactment of the policy. The same group of learners improved in math within the same period.
Studies have also shown that teachers and schools have become more accountable to their students and to the whole learning process. This is given the fact that, according to the provisions of the act, the funding that is made to the schools is tied to their performance in the standardized tests administered on their learners (Crawford 21). The performance of the schools in the districts is monitored by the use of the Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP), which determines whether the schools qualify for increased funding or not.
The NCLB Act: More Harm than Good to American Education
The few benefits of this act to the American education sector are outweighed by the many disadvantages and costs that it has on the same sector. This is the reason why the policy should be scrapped and replaced with better alternatives.
Increased racial segregation is one of the policy’s unintended but negative consequences. According to Lips (9) and Crawford (22), studies conducted in this field have indicated that African American students are affected negatively by this policy than their white counterparts. They attend schools that are some of the poorest performers in the country as far as AYP is concerned.
They also perform poorly in these schools than their Caucasian counterparts. Tehrani (5) is of the view that high minority and high poverty public schools in the country post some of the lowest scores on the standardized tests that are administered on the students. This is as opposed to those schools that are catering for low minority and low poverty learners.
However, 71 percent of African American children are found to be attending these minority schools, while 72 percent attend high poverty public schools, indicating the discrepancy between the white and black learners of America. This disparity is accentuated by the standardized tests that are the preferred mode of assessment used by this policy. The policy and the standardized test fail to recognize the cultural differences, preferences and capabilities of students from different ethnic backgrounds.
A recent study conducted in California and Illinois states and cited in Crawford (28) indicates that those schools that failed to meet the AYP have about 80 percent of their students drawn from minority ethnic groups. This is as opposed to those schools that attained the AYP, which were found to be composed of 60 percent Caucasian students. This is simply unacceptable in a country that claims to be as civilized as the United States of America, and this is why NCLB should be abolished.
Instead of improving the standards of American education, the No Child Left Behind has had the opposite effect of lowering the standards. The school administration and the teachers have realized that, for their school to be funded and to continue operating, they have to meet the AYP. As such, they have to pass the standardized tests administered on their students.
This has increased cases of teachers cheating instead of teaching, as they try to coach their learners to achieve the highest scores possible (Lips 8). The teachers also instruct the learners for the test, as opposed to instructing them for the ideal goal of instilling life skills in them. This is especially so considering the fact that proposals have been made to link the salary of the teachers to their performance in the standardized tests.
It is noted that each state is mandated to come up with its own standardized tests, and to define what is good performance and bad performance amongst the learners (Tehrani 5). Given that each of the state is funded by the federal government depending on the performance in the tests, the freedom to set their own standardized tests tempts them to lower the standards of the tests by making them easier in order to increase their performance (Lips 9).
A case in point is the state of Missouri, which recorded an improved performance in the standardized tests. However, officials publicly admitted the fact that they lowered the standards of the test to help the students pass (Crawford 29). The improved performance of states is not reflected on the learners, as they remain the same as far as their competency is concerned, or in some instances, they even deteriorate in competency.
This fact is documented by the Department of Education, which, in a 2007 report, asserted that the differences between the performance of the various states does not reflect the different capabilities of the students; rather, it reflects the varying stringency of the standards set (Crawford 26). Surely, if America is serious about her education, it should get rid of such a policy.
The No Child Left Behind was a genuine gesture by the Bush administration to improve the quality of education in the United States of America. Since its inception, it has brought some order into the American education system. However, the American education today needs to be saved from the negative impacts of this policy. It has lowered the standards of education, increased segregation in public schools among others. The policy should be abolished to safeguard the future of the country’s education system.
Crawford, Johnson. No Child Left Behind: Misguided Approach to School Accountability for English Language Learners. National Association for Bilingual Education, June 7, 2007.
Lips, Dan. Grading ‘No Child Left Behind’. Fox News. December 30, 2005. Web.
Tehrani, Alex. How to Fix No Child Left Behind. Time Magazine. May 24, 2007. August 2, 2011 <http://content.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1625192,00.html>