Good Research Paper About No Child Left Behind Act: The Failed Efforts To Aid Low-Income Students
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The United States Education Department caters for the assurance of quality learning for its citizens and is responsible for the proper access of all students to the same. Consequently, in 1983, the department published a report dubbed “A Nation at Risk” where a series of standardized tests showed American education levels were inadequate. In other words, the country’s education system was in peril after a gradual decline over the previous twenty years. Since then, multiple researchers revealed that Americans do not have the capacity or ability to answer the most basic information about the country and the world. According to the New York State Education Department, most people do not know the location of prominent countries like Iraq and their mathematics is sub-standard (49). By extension, details about the American Revolution also eluded most people. The immediate outcome of studies like “A Nation at Risk” is Americans emerging as a dumb lot while their competition comes out as smarter. Nonetheless, in a bid to address the identified problems, President George Bush’s administration enacted the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) in 2002. As per the U.S. Department of Education, the legislation seeks to guarantee, “all children have a fair, equal, and significant opportunity to obtain a high-quality education” (1439). In turn, the target populace for the law encompasses the “low-income and other disadvantaged students” who face multiple hindrances to their education achievements (No Child Left Behind 1606). Hence, despite the belief that No Child Left Behind improves the status of low-income children, it fails to take care of its target population by overlooking the main source of their problems.
True to its title, the goals of No Child Left Behind have a basis in the need to close the gap between the achievements of the minority and disadvantaged pupils and their counterparts who face fewer challenges. By extension, American schools’ culture evolved from the government's determination to improve the level of support and quality of instructions for students that will help them meet their educational goals. Thus, there are four pillars encompassed in the legislation: accountability for all involved persons, flexibility in the use of federal funds, scientifically proven education and more options for parents. Hence, education improves through “stronger accountability for results, more freedom for states and communities, proven education methods, and more choices for parents” (Four Pillars of NCLB). About the education of low-income students, the effectiveness of each of the pillars remains under considerable debate.
Simultaneously, each of the American States has to come up with academic standards and testing systems endorsed by the Federal government. The States “conduct annual student assessments” based on the set standards that show how schools are performing and provide data for the “adequate yearly progress” (Jacob and Dee 149). Apparently, the only means through which the government can determine the effects of the No Child Left Behind Act is through testing. The testing happens through standardized tests that gauge the students’ abilities to read and calculate mathematic questions (Jenuwine 2). From the scores, it is not only the government that gets to determine whether the students are improving but also the community. After all, the requirements set by the No Child Left Behind Act entail comparing the results of one school to those of other education facilities at the local, regional, and national levels. Afterward, the State can disseminate the results to the teachers and other stakeholders, which include the students and parents. As David Hursh explains, the National Assessment of Educational Progress administers “tests to a sample of students in tested grades so that students can be compared across states” (296). At this point, the law introduces the “sanctions and rewards, such as bonuses and recognition” for each school that manages to meet the set goals (No Child Left Behind 1446). However, in the event that the students from a given school are not proficient enough, the government expects the school to implement new measures stipulated by the legislation. Apparently, to name but a few, the school has to provide “supplemental services in the community such as tutoring, afterschool programs, remedial classes or summer school” (Hursh 297). In addition, when a school fails for five consecutive years, they must “either reopen as a charter school” or turn over the operations to “a demonstrated record of effectiveness” (Hursh 297). Hence, in accordance with the first pillar, “Stronger Accountability for Results”, schools have to make sure all their students perform well unless they want to fail (Four Pillars of NCLB).
Expectedly, schools now look towards meeting their set goals instead of ensuring the quality of education with which they provide the students. In concurrence, Holmes mentions a high school in Texas where the rate of graduating students is slowly declining without any signs of the school intervening (2). Apparently, after the government endorsed the legislation, the school opted to increase its dropout rate in a bid to control the education at the local level. Part of the utilized methods entailed forcing weak students to leave school before they take the tests. After they had failed to achieve positive results, the remaining option was to alter school records. Some of the alterations, as Holmes points out, were to state that the students who dropped out had in fact transferred to other schools or districts (2). Expectedly, the government awarded the school for having reduced the dropout rates successfully. That is one high school, but more learning institutes submit fraudulent results without the knowledge of the government that will support and even reward them. The need for a perfect score in the tests that portray the schools in a positive light is obviously more important for teachers and other school officials that the real problems remain unsolved. In concurrence, David Hursh identifies two problems that face the students and teaching faculty. First, the author states that the schools choose to “devote most of their curriculum budget to test-prep materials rather than the enriched resources students need” (Hursh 301). That means the cafeterias will have inedible foods, buildings will not have proper maintenance, and needy students can miss scholarships because of the lack of funds. On that note, the element manages to “divert attention away from the social issues” that need solving (Hursh 306). After all, if the government wants to “improve education outcomes and close the achievement gap” (Hursh 306). If the attention remains on improving the test scores, then the students from low-income families will still return to the same conditions after school. By extension, it only makes sense to uproot a tree in order to kill it, merely dealing with the trunk or stems will allow it to grow again. Only portraying impoverished students as smart does not mean they are out of trouble.
The next pillar is the insistence on schools using “Proven Education Methods” in teaching and disseminating information to the students (Four Pillars of NCLB). That particular element of the No Child Left Behind Act emphasizes the exploitation of scientific researchers in predicting the efficiency of an educational program and the accompanying practices. In turn, the government only funds the Reading First program in the early grades and before which there is the Early Reading First program (Four Pillars of NCLB). Nonetheless, the pillar focuses on teaching methods used across the United States of America. In harmony with the component of accountability, that gives the indicators of closing the achievement gap, the instructions on teaching methods provide the ways of accomplishing the same. There were government-approved programs in place to instigate the growth of and maintain the momentum of successfully passed tests. As mentioned before, there is the Reading First program for pupils in the early grades, which aims to ensure that children can read before proceeding to the fourth grade (Fact Sheet). Simultaneously, under “Focusing Resources on Proven Educational Methods” section of the 2002 Fact Sheet, the government reportedly used “$900 million” on the program in 2002. As evidenced by the teachers' need to have all children able to read at such a young age, test scores revolve around the children’s ability to read the questions and answer them appropriately. Thus, the design of the teaching methods insists on teachers focusing on their students’ reading skills because every other test depends on the same.
The immediate effects of the third pillar are the pressure schools, and parents put on third-grade students and even those of the lower classes so that they meet the set criteria. In fact, In “Third Grade Reading and Retention Policies to Improve Education Outcomes”, Hannah Jenuwine provides an analysis to prove the detrimental effects of the second component. Apparently, since third grade reading proficiency is so significant, multiple States have enacted retention policies that prevent students from proceeding to the fourth grade because they cannot read. One such State is Florida, which has since shown optimistic results as the students perform better for fear of retention and in some cases, after repeating a grade. Beek’s work quotes research findings that found “statistically significant gains in math and reading” among Florida’s third-graders who were held back (26). With that, more States were likely to follow suit, and Michigan was to be one of them as Michael Beek’s report advised the region’s policymakers to follow the Florida model (IV). At this point, the social issues that hinder the education of low-income students come into play once again. Naturally, an average eight or nine-year-old will have problems reading the complex terms set to determine his or her eligibility to join the fourth grade. For a child coming from a low-income home, the reading tests will most likely prove to be harder if not impossible to pass. In “Double Jeopardy Overview”, Hernandez states, “children in poor families tend to develop weaker academic skills and to achieve less academic success” (8). Apparently, their poor educational backgrounds automatically mean that their education from the kindergarten level is at a disadvantage; hence, by third grade, it is absurd to assume that they will pass the test. For that reason, low-income children have a pre-disposition for failing not only the test at third grade but the rest of the classes as well.
Now, supporters of the No Child Left Behind Act often refer to the second and fourth principles that apparently, level the playing field for all students by providing equal alternatives if the school fails. As per the second element, which states, “More Freedom for States and Communities" school districts have a right to use education funds as they see fit (Four Pillars of NCLB). Concurrently, the fourth component dubbed “More Choices for Parents” allows the transfer of children to new schools in case the original institution fails to meet the set standards (Four Pillars of NCLB). Consequently, if low-income students attend a school that has failed to meet the standards for a period of three years, they have a right to “supplemental educational services” (Four Pillars of NCLB). The supplements include tutors and summer school for the children. In Duncan-Andrade’s views, the two pillars allow teachers to have “a distinctive sense of duty to students and the community” because of the responsibility of handling funds (628). Consequently, school districts practice autonomy by managing their funds as they see fit, and the parents have the support of the government to transfer their children if dissatisfied with their schools.
On the contrary, David Hursh insists that the No Child Left Behind Act “promises more than it delivers” (298). Apparently, the choice of which school to attend should not be subject to the parents who do not have to take the lessons or exams. Particularly for the low-income lot, it was obvious “respect for students’ intelligence, creativity, and human individuality entirely disappears” (Hursh 304). The parents seek to have perfect scores while the teachers aim at securing their jobs through meeting the set standards for the exams. In the end, the people who feel the real effects of the No Child Left Behind Act assume the role of puppets following the whims of others. Thus, it ought to be more choices for the students who probably have a better insight on the learning conditions in their school and the real reasons for their failure if any. In his analysis of the legislation, Duncan-Andrade agrees that most teachers cannot answer the age-old question; “why do I have to learn this?” (627). In turn, students fail to understand the sole purpose of the measure the government painstakingly takes because it appears every form of control is with the adults. On that note, “successful students enter school with a positive self-identity, a clear purpose for attending school, and a justifiable hope in school success” (Duncan-Andrade 635). Nobody can guarantee the same for low-income students who have are subject to constant drawbacks to their education. It is no wonder that studies can concretely prove the connection between high parent income and accomplishments on achievement tests.
Conclusively, while contradicting its name, the No Child Left Behind legislation manages to leave a substantial portion of its target group in the rear. In its bid to ensure the equality of the availability and access its citizens have to education; the government successfully overlooked other crucial factors that affect the students. Among the low-income students, it is not pre-determined that the problem behind probable poor academic performances is with the school or the teachers. Sometimes, the problem stems from a bigger issue that often goes unsolved because it happens behind closed doors. It is illogical to claim that a law is helping the nation when in real sense it only serves to cover up a deeper problem that locks the involved persons in a vicious cycle. A good illustration is evident in a family with parents without college degrees or any other qualifications for decent employment. Because parents are traditionally the caregivers and breadwinners of their families, it is most likely that the limited skills serve to hinder their acquisition of well-paying work. Now, if such a couple has children, there are two possible ways they will react to their education: they will be indifferent towards education or too controlling over the children’s’ education. Either way, the students coming from such an environment will not have the stability that comes from well-paid working parents who have an education. In that illustration, a vicious cycle emerges, and if the children fail at learning it is not because of their teachers or the school but the poor conditions at home. With that in mind, no matter how many components No Child Left Behind possesses, its strategies are wrong. Throughout the presented analysis, the emerging problem was the possibility of low-income students facing other problems outside the learning environment. Hence, a rewrite is in order and maybe No Child Left Behind will serve its purpose for the children of all races, genders, and backgrounds. However, there is the possibility that the law is just a blame game.
Beek, Michael Van. Michigan vs. Florida: Student Achievement, Education Policies and Proposals for Reform. Michigan : The Mackinac Center for Public Policy, 2013. Print.
Duncan-Andrade, Jeff. "Gangstas, Wankstas, and Ridas:defining, developing, and supporting effective teachers in urban schools." International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education (2007): 617–638. Print.
Hernandez, Donald J. Double Jeopardy Overview: How Third-Grade Reading Skills and Poverty Influence High School Graduation. Sociological Research . Maryland: The Annie E. Casey Foundation, 2011. Print.
Holmes, Sarah E. "No Child Left Behind: A Failing Attempt at Reform." Student Pulse 2 .12 (2010): 1-3. Web.
Hursh, David. "Exacerbating inequality: the failed promise of the No Child Left Behind Act." Race Ethnicity and Education 10.3 (2007): 295–308. Print.
Jacob, Brian A. And Dee, Thomas S. "The Impact of No Child Left Behind on Students, Teachers, and Schools." Brookings Papers on Economic Activity (2010): 149-207. Print.
Jenuwine, Hannah R. "Third Grade Reading and Retention Policies to Improve Education Outcomes." Student Pulse 6.10 (2014): 1-3. Web. <http://www.studentpulse.com/articles/928/third-grade-reading-and-retention-policies-to-improve-education-outcomes>.
New York State Education Department. "Federal Education Policy and the States, 1945-2009: A Brief Synopsis." 31 December 2009. States’ Impact on Federal Education Policy Project. Web. 18 April 2015. <http://www.archives.nysed.gov/edpolicy/altformats/ed_background_overview_essay.pdf>.
Office of the Press Secretary: The White House. Fact Sheet: No Child Left Behind Act. 8 January 2002. Web. 19 April 2015. <http://georgewbush-whitehouse.archives.gov/news/releases/2002/01/20020108.html>.
U.S. Department of Education . "Race To The Top Fund." 25 March 2014. Programs. Web. 20 April 2015.
U.S. Department of Education. "No Child Left Behind." 8 January 2002. Public Law . Web. 18 April 2015. <http://www2.ed.gov/policy/elsec/leg/esea02/107-110.pdf>.
—. "U.S. Department of Education." 7 January 2004. Four Pillars of NCLB. Web. 18 April 2015.
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