Education free essay : Child Left Behind Reform
Child Left Behind Reform
No Child Left Behind (NCLB) is an Act that was established by the US Congress and enacted on July 8, 2002. NCLB resulted from the reform of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) that was established in 1965 (Dee & Jacob, 2011). ESEA described the role of the federal government in enhancing access to education by all children in the US. However, ESEA focused on the funding role of the federal government. The NCLB reform increased the involvement of the federal government in facilitating improvement in the K-12 education outcomes. In 2001, the members of the Congress noted that the gap in the performance of students from different schools in the US was increasing significantly (Dee & Jacob, 2011). For instance, the Congress realized that most students from minority ethnic groups were performing poorly. The Congress argued that all children had potential to learn and perform well. As such, the Congress suggested that it was vital to hold schools accountable for the performances of their students (Dee & Jacob, 2011). Thus, the NCLB included a provision that required public schools to administer standardized math and reading tests at least once in a year to all students. Also, the law required schools to adequately record the performances of all students every year and make the results available to the parents.
Despite the fact that states were not compelled to comply, those that did not adhere with the requirements of the NCLB reform risked losing financial support from the federal government. Although the federal government had good intentions in establishing the NCLB Act, standardized tests have been found to have numerous adverse impacts on teachers, schools and students. For instance, recent studies have shown that the standardized tests cause stress on students. Parents have established the opt-out movement to protest against the standardized tests (Pizmony-Levy & Saraisky, 2016). In response to the negative effects of the law, the federal government replaced the NCLB Act with the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) in the late 2015 (Davis, 2015). The new law reduces the involvement of the federal government in K-12 education and gives a leeway to state governments to determine the kinds of tests to be administered to students in public schools within their jurisdictions. Although the NCLB Act was established with good intentions, practical application of the law had negative impacts that still need to be addressed.
The provisions of the NCLB reform
The NCLB reform had several key provisions. The Act required all schools that were receiving funding from the federal government to administer standardized tests to all students at least once every year. Also, the Act stipulated that each school must develop Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) for all students every year. The Act emphasized on positive progress and required schools to set specific performance targets. The act required that in each year, for instance, the third graders must perform better than the third graders of the previous year (Duckworth, Quinn & Tsukayama, 2012). NCLB reform stipulated several steps that were to be taken in cases where schools produced poor results repeatedly. The Act required schools that missed their performance targets for two consecutive years to be regarded as “in need of improvement.” Such schools were required to create a two-year improvement plan meant to enhance the performance of specific subjects. In such situations, students were allowed to transfer to other schools with better performances within the same district. If a school missed the AYP target for three consecutive years, the NCLB Act compelled the school to provide free tutoring services to the students that were struggling. Schools that missed the performance targets for four consecutive years were regarded as “requiring corrective action” in the Act (Duckworth et. al., 2012). The Act required corrective actions to be taken to such schools, such as developing a new curriculum and replacing teachers. The law required restructuring of schools that missed the performance targets for at least five consecutive years. The Act suggested application of restriction actions such as closing the school and hiring a private firm to run the school.
The NCLB Act required public schools to develop measurable objectives for the improvement of the performance of all students, including students that have low ability to communicate in English, students with disabilities and economically disadvantaged students. The Act required schools to set the goals at proficient level for all students after 12 years of learning (U.S Department of Education, 2003). The Act stipulated that the AYP be based mainly on the state assessment and one more academic indicator. The Act required AYP objectives to be assessed at school level and the performance results for each group of students to be analyzed separately. The Act also required at least 95 percent of the members of each group of students to participate in the standardized tests. When making AYP determinations, states were required to use aggregates the results of not more than 3 years. The Act also required teachers to create one highly challenging standards for students (U.S Department of Education, 2003).
The Positive Effects of the NCLB Reform
The NCLB reform had numerous positive impacts on K-12 education. First, the reform supported learning in the early years of children, hence reducing learning difficulties that children may encounter afterwards. For instance, students that gain reading skills in the early grades are likely to face fewer reading challenges during the succeeding years (Robertson, 2009). Second, the AYP scores provide parents with information about the academic progress of their children. The parents can use the data to determine whether or not their children require support in order to improve their academic performances. The AYP scores also help the parents to determine whether or not to transfer their children to other schools (Robertson, 2009). Further, the AYP provide information to the teachers about the academic progress of the students. The information helps teachers to identify the students that require additional support in order to improve performance. As such, the AYP scores facilitate the improvement of overall academic performance. The NCLB reform ensured that teachers gave priority to the quality of their teaching services. The NCLB reform encouraged the adoption of teaching practices and programs that have been proved to be effective (Robertson, 2009). The emphasis on accountability and achievement by the reform led to a rapid increase in the level of achievement of the students (Robertson, 2009). For instance, more progress was recorded in the performance of 9-year old students within five years after the implementation of the Act than the progress that had been achieved for 28 years prior to the implementation of the Act (Dee & Jacob, 2011). The Math and English scores of 9-year old Hispanics and blacks students rose to an all-time record. Achievement gaps between students from different ethnic groups reduced significantly. Most states showed significant improvement in the overall performances (Dee & Jacob, 2011).
Issues Surrounding the NCLB reform
Despite having numerous positive impacts, concerns have been raised throughout the US regarding the impacts of the implementation of the NCLB reform. In particular, issues have been raised regarding the impacts of the standardized tests. As Pizmony-Levy and Saraisky (2016) explained, implementation of the NCLB reform leads to a situation where more focus is given to assessments than learning. Students, teachers and school concentrate more on finding answers to the questions that may be included in the standardized tests than on learning. As such, the purpose of learning is undermined. Second, the presence of standardized tests and AYP implies that teachers, schools and students are punished for low performance. Emphasis is given more to punishment for low performance than on recognizing good performance (Pizmony-Levy and Saraisky, 2016). As such, the NCLB reform did not take into consideration the fact that students and teachers have different capabilities. Also, the Act failed to give into consideration that students from minority groups, such as Hispanics, Asians and others, may not have the capacity to achieve the same performance as the students of the whites (Pizmony-Levy and Saraisky, 2016). Another issue is that the presence of the standardized tests encourages teachers and students to give more focus to Math and English than to other subjects that are also important, such as the physical sciences, social studies and arts (Beveridge, 2009). As noted recently in Pennsylvania, Baltimore, New Jersey, Washington DC and Atlanta, standardized assessments encourage corruption, cheating and errors (The National Center for Fair and Open Testing, 2016b). Also, the presence of the standardized tests leads the students to undertake too many tests. Some studies have shown that the standardized tests have been causing stress in students (Parents across America, 2016). Consequently, the students spend less time learning and more time focusing on the tests. In short, numerous concerns have been raised about the one-size-fits assessment approach embedded in the NCLB reform.
The negative aspects of the NCLB reform have prompted the emergence of the Opt-Out Movement that is made up of parents that are against the presence of standardized tests. Parents that join the movement opt out their school-age children from such tests. The movement has been in existence for more than four years. Recent data gathered in the US indicates that most parents are against the standardized tests and have already been taking an active role in preventing their children from undertaking the standardized tests. A survey conducted by Pizmony-Levy and Saraisky (2016) between January and March, 2016 showed that 74.5 percent of the respondents have already prevented their children from taking the standardized tests. Approximately 92 percent of the participants stated that they would prevent their children from taking the tests in the future. Students have also been actively refusing to take the standardized tests. In 2015, for instance, around 670,000 students in public schools in the US refused to take the standardized tests (The National Center for Fair and Open Testing, 2016a).
The government of the US noted the impact of the standardized tests and thus, decided to reduce its influence. The Congress responded to the issues in the NCLB Act through establishing ESSA. The Congress established ESSA simply by eliminating the provision about the involvement of the federal government in performance matters of public schools (Davis, 2015). However, ESSA did not eliminate the presence of standardized tests. Instead, the federal government gave the mandate to determine when and how the standardized tests should be undertaken to the state governments (Davis, 2015). As such, the debate about whether or not the standardized tests should be eliminated is still going on.
Importance of the project and Practical Applications
Through completing this project, I have gained knowledge of the NCLB reform and the positive and negative impacts that it has on the current educational environment. Just as the current situation in the educational environment has been shaped by NCLB reform, which was enacted more than one half and decade ago, the laws made today will affect the future of the education environment. As a researcher, my opinion towards the NCLB reform and the changes made to it recently is very important. I believe that NCLB Act is an effective law in enhancing accountability of teachers and achievement in students. However, the negative impacts of the standardized assessments embedded in the NCLB reform cannot be ignored. Although states are allowed to determine when and how the tests should be taken, the federal government still encourages the state governments to ensure that the standard tests are undertaken in schools. As such, standardized tests are still undertaken in public schools, despite the fact the number of parents and students that are opting out has been increasing.
This project provokes additional research to gather more evidence about whether or not parents comfortable with the recent changes in NCLB reform that led to the establishment of ESSA. I have realized that recent surveys about whether or not the standardized tests should be administered in schools have mainly been focused on parents. In order to get comprehensive information about the impact of the standardized tests, there is a need to conduct empirical studies focusing on gathering the views of all the interested parties, including teachers, students and principles. The results of such studies will be useful to the US government. The US government will consider the views of the teachers, students, principles, parent and others that have interests in standardized tests when making changes to the current laws and when establishing new laws in the future. The content of this project will provide important background information for such studies. The content of this project will also be useful in influencing researchers and teachers in thinking critically before determining whether or not to support the presence of standardized assessments.
Overall, the NCLB reform was meant to enhance achievement of students, teachers and schools and accountability of teachers and schools. Although the Act had positive impacts initially, the positive effects were counteracted by its negative impacts. As explained in the above discussion, the negative effects occurred due to the presence of a provision requiring states to ensure that students in their jurisdictions are given standardized assessments in English and Math. Parents, students and teachers have been against that provision. Despite the fact that some changes were carried out in the NCLB Act, the requirement for schools to administer standardized tests was not eliminated. Students have been actively refusing to take the standardized tests, and in most cases, they are supported by their parents. In this consideration, there is a need for further empirical studies meant to compile comprehensive views of all interested parties on the issue of standardized assessments. The information will be useful in informing the policy makers on how to address the issues related to standardized tests.
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