Because of its focus on regular testing, the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) has become a huge subject of controversy. The debates surrounding the act have become heated since it was put under review and in the process of reauthorization. While the NCLB initially received bipartisan support, political parties in the US are now pushing arguments on whether the act is being implemented effectively. Both advocates and critics cited extensive evidentiary support of their own position on this controversial matter. To get a well-informed insight on this topic, let us take a look at the act’s pros and cons.
List of Pros of the No Child Left Behind Act
1. Improvements in Test Scores
Generally, test scores have been observed to have improved since 2002 when the act was implemented. Aside from this, test scores of students belonging to minority groups have also improved since then, which is a good sign for the future.
2. Quality State Academic Content
The NCLB links state academic content to student educational outcomes. It requires the implementation of school improvement using scientific research methods in the classroom, teacher development courses and parent programs.
3. Quality Education for the Underserved
It is good to know that the act requires educational institutions to focus on providing quality education to underserved students, including children from low-income families, those with disabilities, those who are non-English speakers, as well as those belonging to African-American and Latino communities.
4. Higher Teacher Qualifications
One of the primary issues the NCLB was designed to tackle is making sure that teachers are highly qualified for the work jobs that they do. Since it was pushed, more people in the field of teaching have become more qualified and more highly educated than before. This means that schoolchildren are now getting quality education from the best possible instructors.
5. Extra Help
Regular testing has its benefits, and one of them is helping schools with identifying students who need extra help. And due to the fact that schools would lose financial support if students do not do well on their exams, they offer extra incentives to help struggling students. Since the passing of the NCLB, thousands of students have been receiving tutorials and other free supplemental help from their schools.
6. Parental Understanding
Remember that without proper assessments, we cannot know how well students are doing in school. Thanks to the tests the NCLB mandates, parents are having a better idea of how their children are performing. And because the test scores are made public, parents are also getting a better understanding of what available options, such as charter or private schools, can provide a better place for learning.
7. Advantage for Minority Students
The NCLB was designed to measure educational growth and status by ethnicity and to help close the achievement gap between white and minority students.
List of Cons of the No Child Left Behind Act
1. Doubts of the Acts Effectiveness
In the eyes of the opponents of the NCLB, which include major teachers’ unions, the act has not been effective in improving education in the public arena, especially in high schools, as proven by combined results of standardized tests since the act’s inception.
2. Federal Underfunding
During the Bush Administration, the NCLB was significantly underfunded at the state level, but still required the states to comply with all its provisions or risk losing federal funds. As stated by Senator Ted Kennedy, who was the Senate Education Committee Chair and a sponsor of NCLB, “The tragedy is that these long overdue reforms are finally in place, but the funds are not.” This resulted to most states being constrained to make budget cuts in non-tested school subjects, such as foreign languages, science, art and social studies, as well as in school supplies, books and field trips.
3. Bias and Deep Flaws
Opponents claim that standardized tests, which are the center of NCLB accountability, is biased and deeply flawed for many reasons. Also, the stricter qualifications for teachers have exacerbated the teacher shortage across the country and have not provided a stronger pool of teachers.
4. More Focus on Test Scores
Many teachers and parents arrogate that the NCLB encourages children to score well on their tests, instead of teaching them the primary goal of learning. Consequently, teachers are compelled to teach narrow sets of test-taking skills and a test-limited knowledge range.
5. Lack of Constitutional Authority by the Government Over Education
Some critics believe that the federal government lacks the constitutional authority in the field of education and that it erodes local and state control over educating children.
6. Very High Teacher Qualification Standards
The NCLB sets very high qualifications for teachers, like requiring them to possess one or more college degrees in particular subjects and to pass a battery of proficiency tests. These new requirements have caused huge problems with getting qualified teachers in certain subjects, such as math, science and special education, and certain areas, such as rural, inner cities, where school districts are already experiencing teacher shortages. Moreover, teachers strongly object to the Bush Administration’s proposal in 2007 to allow districts to circumvent their contracts to transfer them to poorly performing or failing schools.
7. Failure to Address Reasons for Lack of Achievement
At its core, the NCLB faults curriculum and the schools themselves for student failure. However, critics claim that there are other factors to blame, including old and damaged school buildings, class size, homelessness, hunger and lack of health care.
The No Child Left Behind Act has definitely changed the procedures and standards disadvantaged students in public schools, requiring the states to develop basic assessments of students each year to see their level of development. However, this change in policies did come as quite a shock to teachers, students and parents alike. On your part, do you think it really benefited the children in the US or do you think it has become more of a hindrance?
Natalie Regoli is a child of God, devoted wife, and mother of two boys. She has a Master's Degree in Law from The University of Texas. Natalie has been published in several national journals and has been practicing law for 18 years.