Is No Child Left Behind improving U.S. education?
The George W. Bush administration enacted the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) in 2002, establishing national standards-based tests to improve educational outcomes. It was meant to increase teacher accountability while improving teaching quality. But, has it made progress toward improving U.S. education?
Results of No Child Left Behind
NCLB established testing and reporting requirements in reading and math for grades three, eight and high school for groups of students. A key goal was to have all U.S. public school children proficient in those subjects by 2014. Unfortunately, this lofty goal is not being met.
A 2010 report by the Center for Education Policy (CEP) showed that the number of schools that did not meet their NCLB “Adequate Yearly Progress” goals increased. In 2007, 72 percent of schools met their goals, 28 percent did not; in 2010, it was 38 percent that did not meet the goals. In the CEP report, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan projected that failings would skyrocket. “We did an analysis which shows that next year the number of schools not meeting their goal under NCLB could double to over 80 percent — even if we assume that all schools will gain as much as the top quartile of the state,” says Duncan.
Jonathan Lewis, MAEd, University of Phoenix College of Education faculty and staff member, explains why school success rates are dropping. “NCLB did raise the standard for becoming a teacher. That was a good thing, but the negative is that school and teacher success was pegged to student achievement and, with each passing year, the standards were becoming more severe so it was harder to meet increasingly rigorous standards.”
National percentage of schools that have made Adequate Yearly Progress
- 2006: 71%
- 2007: 72%
- 2008: 65%
- 2009: 67%
- 2010: 62%
Top 3 states in which the % of shools did not make AYP based on test results for 2010:
- Washington, D.C.
- New Mexico
Center on Education Policy - Usher Report AYP April 2011
To ease pressure and restrictions on states, the math and reading goals in NCLB have been eliminated for states that meet certain requirements. President Obama announced in September 2011 he would waive the 2014 student proficiency goals for low-performing schools that are adopting more rigorous teacher evaluation systems and can show their high school graduates are “college- and career-ready.”
According to The New York Times article, “Obama to Waive Parts of No Child Left Behind,” in order for states to qualify for the waiver, they must ask for permission to replace the NCLB law’s pass-fail school report with an accountability system that the schools within those states design themselves.
Yet, there’s still the issue of better educational outcomes. How will Duncan and the Obama administration help the nation’s school systems develop graduates who are college- or career-prepared? One possibility is to improve teacher quality.
Duncan has suggested the U.S. focus on developing quality teachers. He acknowledges that to attract top candidates, we must pay teachers more. In July 2010, he stated that teachers’ salaries should be raised to start at $60,000, with a salary cap at $150,000.
“We must think radically different. We must ask and answer hard questions on topics that have been off limits in the past like staffing practices and school organization, benefits packages and job security — because the answer may give us more realistic ways to afford these new professional conditions,” Duncan said.
Lewis agrees teacher quality is important. “Congress should identify what teacher quality is and what type of education program would create a sustainable educational model to develop quality teachers.”
Next, see how the federal government plans to boost teacher quality to develop better learning outcomes.