Research Position Paper- Brianne Waters

No Child Left Behind: Causing More Harm Than Good

The 2001 No Child Left Behind Act was created to improve reading and math skills of all American students, and also to “close the academic achievement gap that exists by race and class.” Despite the improved scores on standardized tests over the past 12 years, No Child Left Behind has accomplished neither goal. Overall, American students don’t read better or calculate better than they did in 2001; they’re just better at taking tests. Educators know well that they can easily achieve test score improvements if that’s their only goal. Most take their jobs more seriously than that, and devote themselves to actually educating their students by helping them develop flexible learning and problem-solving techniques. Rote learning of a few basic concepts—”the ones that will be on the test”—is no substitute for a well-rounded exposure to academic subject matter, reasoning, and learning skills.

The No Child Left Behind Act was created in order to standardize the education system as a whole and provide equal opportunity education to children who are economically or mentally disadvantaged. Creators of this legislation hoped to improve education nationwide and also close the gap between poverty stricken school districts and those more fortunate. The topic of education concerns students, their parents, teachers, and administrators which has caused an outpouring of both positive and negative opinions on its policies. While some praise No Child Left Behind’s achievements of higher test scores and higher scoring schools in poverty areas, most are able to look past these “accomplishments” and see that the act is preventing students from receiving a quality broad-scoped education and hurting the poor students it attempted to help.

The creators of No Child Left Behind created tests that they perceived as good indicators of education and its improvement. They believed that as scores on these tests improved, that meant that students were learning more and therefore education was improving. Just because children score better from one year to the next does not necessarily mean the children are getting smarter or the quality of education has increased. This improvement could be due to the students getting more familiar with or better at taking tests.

In order to avoid strict punishments, schools need to pass certain benchmarks. These benchmarks are not only based of the school’s scores overall, but also the scores of the subgroups within each school. These subgroups are divided by gender, race, ethnicities, education classification, and income level. If a certain percentage of even just one of the subgroups fails, then the entire school is deemed as a failing school. This is very unfair to schools with large amounts of students who fall into the many subgroups.

Advocates for immigrant children express their worries that immigrant children and children of immigrants could slip through the cracks of their schools because of this stress on success of subgroups. An article on this issue by Capps, Fix, Murray, Ost, Passel, and Herwantoro, states that “53 percent of Limited English Proficient students attend elementary and secondary schools where over 30 percent of their classmates are Limited English Proficient.” With that being said, there is such a high number of immigrant students, so their subgroup is very large. This means that these schools need to focus heavily on insuring that the individuals in this subgroup passes the tests in order to avoid being labeled as a failing school. The article also states that this focus on testing by the schools may cause schools to narrow the amount of school subjects immigrant children learn about. The authors worry that the school will not help develop both the children’s English language education as well as their native language skills as long with other skills.

Principals try their best to ensure that their school stays afloat through the regulations and sanctions of the No Child Left Behind Act. They know that in order to continue to receive funding, keep their schools open, and keep their jobs, their students need to meet the appropriate standards. To do this, they may take drastic measures such as cheating. Cayuga Elementary, part of the Philadelphia School District, is the latest school to become under speculation of cheating principals. The article states that teachers were informed in their classrooms and through meetings days before the state tests to “do what they had to do in their rooms to get good scores.” The principal, Evelyn Cortez, was even quoted as saying over the loudspeaker, “Students, do not bubble anything in on your books. When your teacher gives you approval, then you may put it in your book.” The whole school is now under fire; teachers’ jobs are at stake, and parents are learning that their children may not be at the right education level. When cheating occurs, students who may need the extra help and attention are be falsely deemed as sufficient in certain areas.  All of this could be avoided without the stress and pressure on principals and administrators by No Child Left Behind.

Billions of dollars of the national budget is set aside each year for education. However, in order to meet the goals of No Child Left Behind, this money is not enough. The Phi Delta Kappan states that “One theory behind No Child Left Behind was that the law would push states to provide adequate resources to all schools. Yet most states are cutting their education budgets in the face of lingering budget shortfalls. States are also having to spend more than ESEA provides to meet the new federal requirements.” Lawmakers argue that states do not have to spend any money on No Child Left Behind that is not already provided to them but this is simply wrong. Author of the article Evaluating ‘No Child Left Behind’, Linda Darling Hammond, even states that the funds received under No Child Left Behind is less than ten percent of most school’s budgets. Schools everywhere face cuts due to state education budgets being cut down. Schools cannot keep up with No Child Left Behind without the necessary funding, which they just are not receiving.

No Child Left Behind has caused schools to become more like “test prep centers”, said Monty Neill of the Phi Delta Kappan. This means that schools are focusing solely on what is being tested on standardized exams. Since the state tests really only focus on reading and math, schools are cutting programs and putting less importance on subjects like science, art, gym, history, and languages. Schools want their students to meet the proper benchmarks so they do away with all the things that help round out a student’s education.

Cutting programs such as science and languages prevents students from being successful in this day and age. Science plays a huge part in every aspect of our world, as stated in Elizabeth Marincla’s article on the importance of science education in our public schools. Scientists take on many roles and specialties that help our nation daily. They develop the newest technologies that help us compete with nations around the world, they research energy efficient alternatives to save our environment, and they practice medicine in order to keep us healthy. In order to do any of these things, students need a strong basis of science education in their early years. It is also shown that teaching science also teaches a student to logically think rather than memorizing facts.

Our world today is globalizing. This means that people, languages, products, jobs, cultures, and so much more are moving around the world. With this being said, there is a strong emphasis on learning new languages. Most Americans strictly speak English, while people around the world know two and three languages. In a statement by St. John’s University, learning a foreign language can help increase your chances of getting hired in many fields including government positions, business, education, health care, social services, and public relations. Success in the future will depend on the ability to communicate with and adapt to other countries around the world. Without the strong building blocks of early foreign language education, our students will be at a disadvantage in the future when they go out in the job market.

A Gallup Poll from August 2009, stated that 21 percent of adults who were familiar with it believed that the education received by public school students has “been made better” by the No Child Left Behind Act. These adults must have seen the early results of No Child Left Behind. When first enacted, reading scores from Latinos and African Americans raised by about 15 percent. This is great and speaks to the true essence behind what No Child Left Behind wanted to achieve. However, these increases have slowed or halted in many cases. More and more schools are “failing” as deemed by the rules set by No Child Left Behind.

When first created, the No Child Left Behind Act had a goal to get all states at target proficiency levels by 2014. As that year quickly approaches, policymakers need to figure out the “next-step” when it comes to education. While bigger issues such as the state of our economy and the War in Iraq are the main concerns of our government, discussion needs to begin on how we can improve our educational system and get rid of No Child Left Behind. According to the Washington Post, recently President Obama has been issuing pardons to certain states in order for them to improve before the No Child Left Behind Act can be changed by the government. This is exactly what we need to get a jumpstart on revamping our educational system for when No Child Left Behind is finally gone.

One of the goals set by No Child Left Behind was to standardize education throughout the country. This meant that everyone around the nation would be on the same playing ground and could easily be compared by scores. The problem with this is that each state has different standards. States can create their tests as seen fit. They can make their tests less difficult in order to achieve the correct percentage of proficiency. An article by Linn, Baker, and Betebenner says, “The combination of differences among states regarding  their content standards, the rigor of their tests, and the levels of  performance required for a student to be considered proficient means that states are not starting on a level playing field.” This fact causes most to question  how “proficient” each state really is.

The No Child Left Behind Act has caused more harm than good. It has made schools take budget cuts, let students to fall through the cracks of the system, turned honest administrators into become cheaters, and caused a child’s education to become strictly about test scores and benchmarks. It needs to be repealed in order for our education system to become the best that it can be. Our nation needs to give our students the best opportunity in a global job marketplace and that all begins with a solid education. The No Child Left Behind Act started as a great idea but ultimately caused much damage to the very core of our education system.

Works Cited

“Leaving Children behind: How No Child Left behind Will Fail Our Children.” Monty Neill The Phi Delta Kappan , Vol. 85, No. 3 (Nov., 2003), pp. 225-228. 2 April 2013.

“Measuring Academic Proficiency Under the No Child Left Behind Act: Implications for Educational Equity.” James S. Kim and Gail L. Sunderman. Educational Researcher.November 2005. Web. 3 April 2013.

“Evaluating ‘No Child Left Behind’.” Linda Darling-Hammond. The Nation. May 2007. 2 April 2013.

“Perceptions of Students and Educators on the Impact of No Child Left Behind: Some Will and Some Won’t”. Nancy E. Harriman, Ph.D. 14 April 2013. Web.

“No Child Left Behind Rated More Negatively Than Positively” Lydia Saad. 15 April 2013. Web.

“Americans Lean Toward Revising No Child Left Behind.” Jeffery M. Jones. 15 April 2013. Web.

“The quiet overturn of No Child Left Behind.” The Washington Post. 19 July 2012.  Michael Gerson. 16 April 2013. Web.

“Principal Encouraged Cheating, Staffers Say.” Kristen A. Graham and Dylan Purcell. 12 February 2012. Web. 10 April 2013.

“The New Demography of America’s Schools: Immigration and the No Child Left Behind Act.” Randy Capps, Michael Fix, Julie Murray, Jason Ost, Jeffrey S. Passel, and Shinta Herwantoro. Web. 8 April 2013.

“Why is Public Science Education Important?” Elizabeth Marincola. 24 January 2006. Web. 22 April 2013.

“Why Learn a Foreign Language?” St. John’s University. Web. 22 April 2013.

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