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No Child Left Behind: Good In Theory, Bad In Practice

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Education has always been an important trademark of the United States of America. Throughout the years, the significance of a well-developed education has been increasing. Recently, the government has increased its role in the education system by passing the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. By doing this, the government can ensure that each and every student is receiving the best education possible so that no student falls behind. With the importance of education constantly increasing in this country, it is absolutely necessary that all students receive a quality education. The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 is a well-intentioned law passed by President Bush to ensure that all students are finding success in school. While the law has many good points, it is better in theory than in practice. In all actuality, the No Child Left Behind Act may be causing America's students more harm than good.

No Child Left Behind (NCLB) was put into affect to make sure that all students are proficient by 2014. Because of this lofty goal, the government's role in education has been redefined and higher standards have been made for students to meet. NCLB was designed to help close the achievement gap between disadvantaged/minority students and their peers by investing in the needs of every child. Too many children were being left behind in school and possibly even graduating without ever really knowing or understanding anything they were taught, so President Bush stepped in. To stand as a basis for the government's reforms, four pillars were created. These pillars include stronger accountability for results, more freedom for states and communities, proven education methods, and more choices for parents.

The government wants to hold each and every state and school district accountable for the proficiency of their students. According to the accountability provisions of the law, each state and school district is responsible for providing a plan to close the achievement gap between students. They are required to present an annual report card to inform parents and communities about the progress each state and school district is making. Schools that are struggling to make progress must provide additional services to help the students succeed, such as free tutoring or after-school assistance. If they are still not making Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP), the school district must make remarkable changes or the school will be considered failing (US Dept. of Education).

The No Child Left Behind Act grants more freedom to states and communities. This means that school districts can use up to 50 percent of their government allocated funds to improve the areas in which they struggle. School districts have the choice of using the funds given to them for the purpose they were received, such as Educational Technology grant, or transferring the funds to areas in which they see fit. This allows each school to utilize all of their funds to best suit their personal needs rather than having an overabundance of money allocated to an area that is already well-developed. Because of this freedom, schools may choose to hire new teachers, raise teacher salaries, or improve teacher training and professional development. Schools can now do as they see fit to make their school the best it can be (US Dept. of Education).

Since NCLB is based on improving student success in all areas, an emphasis has been placed on researching which programs and practices have been proven effective. Government funds are then granted to the programs that work so that they may continue to improve student learning and achievement. The new law gives parents a number of options if schools do not gain new programs to help their students achieve. If a child is attending a school that is considered in need of improvement, parents are allowed to have their student see a free tutor at the school or even transfer their child to another school that is performing at higher standards. School reports must be provided to the parents so they are well informed about the condition of the school and their options as a parent (US Dept. of Education).

In order to measure student progress, the government has required that each state tests their students on the information they are required to know. States are obligated by the law to create their own standards for what a child should know or learn in each grade (Hyun 119). The state then has to administer a standardized test to the all children in the state at certain checkpoints to make sure the there is Adequate Yearly Progress being made (Learning First Alliance). Each state is able to make the standards as high or low as they please, but the results must show an increase each year so that by 2014, all students are proficient learners.

While all of this sounds good in theory, the law actually has many flaws that the government refuses to see. First, let us address the issue of funding. The government wants each and every state to prove that all children are becoming proficient learners by meeting content standards and taking tests. This means that schools need to buy supplemental materials in order to help the students meet the standards and pass the tests. However, not every school district can afford this. Unlike other countries, the wealthiest public school in the US provides about $30,000 per pupil, while the poorest about only $3,000 (Meier and Wood 6). As we learned in class, in the state of Ohio, each district is in charge of its own funding, so communities that have a bustling economy have adequate tax money coming in for the schools, while small town communities with fewer people and smaller businesses don't. This creates an uneven level of learning for students who are supposed to be required to meet the same standards. It only seems fair that the government provide funds to support their new educational practices.

However, they believe they do, in a sense. The government provides schools with money to be used for new materials, increased teacher pay, etc., but it is only 3% of their total operating revenue, leaving the state and local communities to make up the difference. NCLB's unfunded mandate to eliminate the achievement gap assumes that schools by themselves can overcome the educational consequences of poverty and racism. Not only has the federal government failed to meet the needs of many children, but NCLB itself does not allow nearly enough funding for schools to meet its requirements (Meier and Wood 102). Some schools cannot afford this, causing their students to be put in danger. If the school cannot afford required materials, students cannot effectively become proficient, in turn causing schools to begin to fail. When a school is labeled "failing," the government decreases their funding and allows students to transfer to better schools. Instead,

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