On January 8, 2002, President George W. Bush signed the No Child Left Behind Act into law after being passed by both the United States House of Representatives and the Senate. The requirements of this law were that “all government-run schools receiving federal funding would administer a state-wide standardized test (all students take the same test under the same conditions) annually to all students. The students' scores would be used to determine whether the school had taught the students well. Schools which received Title I funding through the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 would have to make Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) in test scores (e.g. each year, its fifth graders must do better on standardized tests than the previous year's fifth graders).” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/No_Child_Left_Behind_Act)
Teachers and administrators became concerned that it would be impossible to guarantee that “all students” would reach proficiency by the year 2014, as NCLB had stipulated. In other words, the question became how could every student, including those who had special needs, reach a standard labeled “proficiency”?
The other purpose linked with NCLB was to increase the accountability of teachers and schools. The standardized tests were to be used as the research data that would determine whether teachers and schools had lived up to the requirements and standards as set by the law. Of course…the criticism posed by the teachers and administrators became “how could one assessment tool decide the fate of the school districts”.
Presently…as 2014 quickly approaches…President Obama and others are considering how to change NCLB. In fact, the Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, has stated that “he’d like to give states the ability to focus on student gains rather than absolute test scores, as current growth models do. And he’d like to grant more flexibility in how Title I money for disadvantaged students is spent.” (http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2011/06/12/35esea.h30.html?cmp=ENL-EU-SUBCNT)
Those preparing to be teachers need to have a clear understanding of No Child Left Behind and what changes may occur in the near future. The idea of actually allowing schools to focus on “student gains” does motivate dialogue regarding fairness whenever it comes to evaluating whether a school and its teachers have promoted learning among the students.
The idea that teachers do not support having an evaluative tool in place to check accountability is untrue. Many teachers, who are dedicated and exert endless efforts to help their students learn, would agree that those teachers who are not living up to expectations and are not “good teachers” should be evaluated and held accountable. The problem is that the media continues to compare all teachers to those teachers who are not fulfilling their responsibilities and this frustrates educators who meet the challenges and work to help students each day.
Would there be more support for No Child Left Behind if the law was revised to state that teacher and school accountability would be based on individual student gains rather than test scores? This will depend on how “student gains” is defined in a law. The positive news is that the President, the Secretary of Education, and some members of Congress are recognizing that the original law needs to be revised.
Other interesting viewpoints can be found at these links:
(interesting study completed by Harvard known as “The Civil Rights Project”)