No Child Left Behind Overview Noah Burton, UWCO Public Policy Intern August 4, 2005
The Goal of NCLB On January 8, 2001, President George W. Bush signed the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). This historical piece of education policy dramatically changed the role of the federal government which had traditionally provided minimal resources to states and district localities. When it was first implemented, NCLB received high praise and bipartisan support from Congress. However, recently, elected officials such as Edward Kennedy (DMassachusetts) and Christopher Dodd (D- Connecticut) have criticized the legislation due to the lack of funding that is has received. According to a study by the National Educational Association, “since the law’s enactment in 2002, there has been a $27 billion funding shortfall in what Congress was supposed to provide to schools in order to meet the NCLB regulations.” NCLB was put in place to amend the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) of 1965 created by President Lyndon Johnson to address the needs of poor schools and communities who faced extreme poverty. In today’s society, an excellent education, and a high school diploma, are considered by many to be a requirement if one hopes to lead a healthy life. According to the 1999 Population Survey of the U.S. Census Bureau, the median income for an individual without a high school diploma was $15,334 compared to a $29,294 income earned by an individual receiving a complete high school education. A few decades ago a high school diploma wasn’t necessary in order to support a family. Nowadays, an individual who lacks a high school education will struggle to meet the increasing demands of today’s highly-skilled work force. No Child Left Behind was designed to prepare each student for their lives beyond the classroom, so that they can have a positive affect on America’s future economy.
Objectives of NCLB During the 1980’s many questioned the direction that the United States educational system was taking its students. In 1983, U.S. Secretary of Education T.H. Bell convened “A Nation at Risk” which addressed the growing concerns about the nation’s educational system. Educators say that President Bush framed NCLB in part in part to Bell’s inquiries. In order to close the gap of disparities between students of different financial and social backgrounds, NCLB lays out four distinct objectives to eliminate these inequalities. • Increased accountability by requiring states to administer tests for all students’ grades 3-8 ensuring levels of proficiency are met by 2014. Schools that fail to make adequate yearly progress (AYP) toward statewide goals will be subject to corrective actions. These may include providing students with tutorial services provided by Local Educational Agencies (LEA). • More choices for parents with students who attend failing schools. LEA’s must give students attending schools in need of improvement the option to transfer to a better No Child Left Behind Overview – Page 1 Noah Burton, UWCO Public Policy Intern
school. If a school has failed to meet statewide standards for at least three to four years, LEA’s must allow students to access Title I funds for supplemental services of their choice. Greater flexibility for states, districts and schools. All states and LEA’s may opt to transfer up to 50% of their funding under any of the four major statewide grant programs which include: Teacher Quality State Grants, Educational Technology, Innovative Programs, and Safe and Drug-Free Schools to any of the following areas in which they consider to need additional support. Stronger emphasis on reading. This will be accomplished under the new “Reading First” initiative, which will increase funding for early instructional based reading programs for students in lower grades.
NCLB and Accountability Accountability is one of NCLB’s main objectives that focuses on holding state and local school districts responsible for the success of their students. In order to assure the academic progress of all students, states must focus on closing the gap, between high performing students and their underperforming counterparts. To keep track of school progress, each district throughout the nation must produce a report card that they will be evaluated by state and local officials. These report cards evaluate districts based upon their ability to meet state-set achievement goals (“adequate yearly progress” or “AYP”) which include the measurement of graduation rates for high schools and attendance rates for elementary and middle schools. States also have the option to set additional indicators which indicate whether a school did not make AYP. These additional indicators help states identify schools in need of improvement. Schools measure AYP by the performance and participation of various groups of students based upon their race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, disability and language background. In order to make AYP, 95% of all students in each of these subgroups must participate in annual statewide assessments. Each year the state sets annual objectives for all schools and districts that identify the percent of students who must be proficient. Along with AYP, report cards also track the number of indicators that schools meet on a yearly basis. Sixteen of the indicators are based on proficiency test scores that districts submit to the state while the remaining two measure attendance and graduation rates.
NCLB Within Franklin County Schools Franklin County is made up of 16 school districts which serve students from a wide array of financial and social backgrounds. The diversity of students who live in Franklin County helps explain the vast differences in report card results among the 16 separate districts. According to the Ohio 2003/04 state report cards, eight out of 16 school districts in Franklin County met AYP, while the other eight failed to meet state standards. Each of the three of Franklin County’s most high performing school districts (Upper Arlington, New Albany and Bexley) met all of the required 18 indicators in Ohio while reporting attendance rates at 96%, and graduation rates at 97% or above. This is compared to the average state attendance rate which is at 94%, and average graduation rate reaching 84%.
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Each of the three underperforming school districts have attendance and graduation rates lower than the state averages where the attendance rate was 93%, while graduation rates ranged from 60% to 77%. Furthermore, South Western City School’s met only seven statewide indicators, while Groveport Madison had six, and Columbus five.
Consequences for Failing Schools For those schools and districts that fail to meet state AYP requirements, there are consequences. Depending on the number of consecutive years a district has failed to meet state standards, consequences range from a one year improvement program to a reconstitution of an entire school. In the upcoming 2005/06 school year, five Columbus Public City Schools will face the penalty of reconstitution due to several years of failing test scores and slow improvement. These five schools, Brentnell Alternative, East Linden and Livingston Avenue elementaries, Linmoor and Mifflin middle schools will begin next school year with predominantly new administration and staff members. Overhaul is one of the requirements for No Child Left Behind, which demands low-performing schools to make drastic changes if they fail to improve over several years. For example, Brentnell Alternative which previously teaching its students through the Montessori method will now switch to more traditional educational style in order to raise test scores. Linmoor will change its classroom setting to a singlegender atmosphere, while Livingston Avenue and East Linden will try a different learning approach through multisubject projects and Mifflin will focus its school around a growing international environment.
States Rise to Challenge NCLB Due to the tight restrictive measures that No Child Left Behind places on school districts, many states including: Colorado, Connecticut, Idaho, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota, Vermont and Virginia have considered opting out of the federal program. Utah became the first state in the nation to withdraw from No Child Left Behind because it felt that its students (especially those of low income and minority status) could succeed without the demanding standards that apply to this piece of legislation. No Child Left Behind aims to close the large achievement gap between white and minority students. According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress, “Utah has a 20 point achievement gap between white and Hispanic students in both reading and math.” Since leaving No Child Left Behind, Utah will lose about $116 million which would’ve gone towards supporting students in low-income districts. Even though Utah is losing federal education dollars, the state claims that it will gain increased flexibility in student testing which will benefit children with disabilities, and those who speak English as a second language. Other complaints have been issued about schools being labeled as “in need of improvement,” if one subgroup of students such as those with disabilities fails to meet AYP for two consecutive years.
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Recently, Utah, along with eight other states and the National Education Association, have filed a lawsuit against the Bush Administration forcing them to pay the costs of their own rules and regulations that they established upon the enactment of NCLB. In FY 2005, Utah received $27.4 million less than it would have if the law was fully funded at the level in which it was authorized. Under the President’s proposed 2006 budget the state would receive $68.4 million less than the authorized funding level. When looking at the impact that NCLB has on the Jordan school district in Salt Lake City, Utah, one will clearly see the consequences that this law has on district localities all across the nation. For example, it is estimated to cost Jordan $182 million over the next ten years in order to comply with NCLB’S AYP requirements. Jordan school district will have to pay $59 million out of the district’s own money in order to fund proper instruction and remediation for students to meet AYP standards. Districts advocate that these additional costs could be spent more wisely towards other educational measures that do not align with NCLB.
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