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No Child Left Behind

Issue Background

The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB) was one of President George W. Bush’s earliest proposals after taking office. It was designed to improve education nationally by defining concrete goals and a system with which to measure their achievement. The bill initially received broad bipartisan support, being introduced by current House minority leader Rep. John Boehner [OH-8] and co-sponsored by democrat stalwart Sen. Edward Kennedy [MA].

Key Arguments

» Yes

  • NCLB has developed statewide systematic tests to be reviewed by the government and parents. This new data provides an opportunity to evaluate the quality of schools and teachers against a set of concrete standards.
  • NCLB pays particular attention to the education of minority populations and strives to decrease the achievement gap. By setting statewide standards, schools in low-income and high-income zones within the same state are responsible for attaining the same quality of education.
  • NCLB has improved transparency of the education system. Parents receive annual reports detailing student achievement and are notified if their child’s school has failed to meet its Annual Yearly Progress goals. If a school repeatedly falls below the required standard, parents are given the option to transfer their children to a better school.
  • NCLB has increased accountability for teachers and schools. If schools fail to meet their Annual Yearly Progress goals they risk losing federal funding, and ineffective teachers risk losing their jobs.
  • NCLB places a strong emphasis on improving core skills for all children including reading, writing, mathematics, and eventually science. By creating a standard to be sought after in these subjects, all children will have the necessary tools to succeed whether they plan on attending college or not.

» No

  • Increased accountability creates an incentive to manipulate and mislead the system. States can lower achievement standards in order to maintain apparent improvement. Schools have also been found to distort drop-out rates in order to appear more successful.
  • Teachers and schools are motivated to teach to the test. Teachers devote a significant amount of time to test prep and as a result may ignore teaching the practical applications of such skills. The repetition of dry material may also negatively impact a student’s enthusiasm for learning.
  • Stipulating nationally required skills such as reading, writing, math, and eventually science, has neglected other subjects with little to no funding. Social studies, foreign languages, the arts and physical education are not targeted by NCLB and may begin to disappear from public schools as a result. This is disproportionately found at schools in low-income zones, causing the achievement gap to expand as low-income children are less prepared for college than high-income children.
  • Schools are beginning to use funding for third-party test prep courses and tutoring. This diverts valuable funds away from various problems that could use the support, for instance decreasing the teacher/student ratios.
  • Federal government has no constitutionally provided authority over education, and this act disrupts state and local control.
  • President Bush and Congress have withheld the funding necessary to ensure NCLB’s success. By offering less funding than originally expected yet requiring the same achievement, federal government is stretching our education system to its limits.


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