The No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) was passed in 2001, and it was designed to address increasing concerns about the quality of American education. Since its passage, the law has spurred a great deal of debate, with supporters arguing that it has improved American education and detractors pointing out failings with the act. It was one of the first major pieces of legislation pushed through by the 43rd President of the United States, George W. Bush.
According to the White House and Department of Education, the law has four pillars. The first is the idea of accountability: a standard must be established for schools to be measured against, and there will be rewards and consequences for improvement and failures, respectively. The second is greater flexibility with funds, by allowing schools to allocate money as needed rather than as dictated by others. The third is “scientifically based research,” a term that shows up a great deal in the text of the NCLB Act, meaning that teachers should use established rather than experimental teaching methods. Fourth, the law is supposed to give parents more choices by allowing them to transfer out of schools that are not performing to standard.
No Child Left Behind focuses on the declining state of American education, and puts a heavy emphasis on creating positive results, especially in the areas of math and reading. The people who created the act felt that the existing education system was failing many American students, especially those of low income, and felt that the law would address the gaps of American education by bringing all students up to a basic standard. It is based on a simple reward and punishment system; schools that do well will be given incentives, additional funding, and more support. Schools that are failing are expected to improve their standards quickly so that students have the best chance at a good education possible, or an opportunity to switch to a better school.
Under the act, schools are assessed annually with the assistance of standardized tests, which are supposed to be administered to all students. The school's performance is compared with a state standard, as well as other state schools, and an Adequate Yearly Progress report is issued to the public, which can inspect it to see how well the school is performing. Troubled schools are expected to make visible improvements, and they are offered funding to assist with teacher education, tutoring, and other programs. Schools that demonstrate remarkable progress or are already performing above standards are rewarded for their work.
Nearly all Americans want to see an improvement in education and would like to see all students getting an equal chance at success. Supporters of No Child Left Behind argue that the act is improving American education in a positive and measurable way. Detractors of the act, especially classroom teachers, have pointed out many flaws in the law that have yet to be addressed by the Department of Education. Whether it is effective or not, the act has certainly stimulated discussion about education reform in the US.