Foundations and Assessment of Education/Edition 1/Foundations Table of Contents/Chapter 6/Experts Take Sides

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Experts take sides on "No Child Left Behind"

by Michael Browder

Learning Target: definition of NCLB, criticisms of NCLB


Introduction “No Child Left Behind” (abbreviated NCLB) is the name of a set of laws concerning education reform that George Bush helped to pass early in his Presidential administration. According to the United States department of education website, there are four main pillars of NCLB: 1) Accountability for student performance, 2) control on the local level, 3) Effective Teaching Methods, and 4) Alternatives for families. The first pillar means that states are responsible for reporting each year to the federal government student test scores and measures of student improvement or decline. States are also responsible for monitoring the relative progress of students according to ethnicity, including the monitoring of the progress of African Americans, Hispanics, and Indians. The second pillar of NCLB is that there is flexibility at the local level. This flexibility starts on the state level. Each state has flexibility at least with respect to how to shape and define the following issues: standards of assessment, elements of AYP definition, students with special needs, highly qualified teachers, accountability systems, and AYP for unique schools. The third pillar of NCLB is placing an emphasis on effective teaching methods. Through this initiative, the federal government encourages states to use scientific research and statistical analysics to locate and reinforce teaching methods that are effective. Also through this initiative, the government provides federal funding to support teaching programs that have shown to be effective. The fourth pillar is providing a greater range of options for parents. One of the most important of these options is allowing parents to transfer their child to another school if the school where their child attends has not met state standards for two straight years. Also parents have the freedom to transfer their child if the school is deemed to be recognized as dangerous or if their child is a victim of violence.

Article 1

“Considering alternatives for federal education and policy in the United States, A Critical Perspective on No Child Left Behind,” by Jacqueline Edmendson and Alexandrio D’Urso offers a critical reaction to the NCLB legislation. In this article Edmendson and D’Urso are calling for a drastic formation or even a complete discarding of the No Child Left Behind Act. Edmendson and D’Urso argue that one of the primary goals of education reform should be to improve access of information for schools and to widen the availability for a diversity of learning methods and behaviors (Edmendson et al., 2009, p. 86). Edmendson and D’Urso are critiquing the NCLB program for promoting just the opposite of these goals. Rather than expanding opportunities for learning, NCLB narrows and limits what can be done in educational contexts (Edmendson et al., 2009, 86). This restriction is performed through an increased emphasis on standardized testing and the quantitative results of this testing. Edmendson and D’Urso criticize NCLB for making consequences that causes teachers and students to have fear (Edmendson et al., 2009, 86). Citing some of the views of Al Gore in his book _Assault on Reason_, they believe that creating fear in teachers and students is not the best remedy for improving education in the United States (Edmendson et al., 2009, 87). Part of the alternative to NCLB would be a program that focuses centrally on the goal of situating students in communities and democratic life (Edmendson et al., 2009, 89).

Article 2

       Another article responding to the NCLB legislation is “No Child Left Behind, A Legislative Catalyst for Superintendant Action to Eliminate Test-Score gaps?” by Whitney Sherman.  One of the central purposes of this article is to argue that NCLB has not solved many important needs, but that one approach to this problem is looking to modify some aspects of NCLB rather than completely discarding the NCLB program.

According to this article one aspect of education that has not been addressed well yet by NCLB is the problem of institutionalized racism and a failure to properly celebrate cultural diversity (Sherman, 697). By requiring schools to compare student performance according to race, NCLB may unintentionally reinforce a mindset of racism. Such an effect is more prone to occur if any existing achievement gap according to race is not being successfully narrowed or eliminated. As it stands, there is a widespread condition of school districts that have not improved nearly according to the terms of NCLB (Sherman, 699). Many of these school districts have essentially remained the same as when they started. The only difference for some of these districts is that the gap of student performance according to race is now made obvious through the focus on data results. Yet, while Sherman sees problems with NCLB and thinks that it is likely to fail in the long-run, she is not explicitly advocating that the United States terminate this policy (Sherman, 698). There are several measures that can be taken to improve the chances of NCLB to be successful. First, there is the need for legislation that will motivate superintendents to adopt new ways to identify how culture affects school practice, so that new measures can be taken to strengthen the connection between cultural appreciation and student success (Sherman, 698). Second, superintendents need to help schools to identify outcomes that feed inequality (Sherman, 697). Third, the nature of professional development for teachers needs to be improved. Professional development programs need to be remodeled so that they can better train teachers to educate students in a way that is effective and in a way that lessens the aforementioned problems (Sherman, 698). Sherman acknowledges that NCLB has increased awareness of where there is need (Sherman, 699), and though such results can reinforce stereotypes about student learning and indirectly support the continued existence of institutionalized racism, such an awareness, if responded to correctly, can help our society more quickly and efficiently diagnose and repair gaps in student achievement

Article 3

The third article is entitled “No Child Left Behind and the Quest for Educational Equity: The Role of Teachers’ collective Sense of Efficacy" by Andrea Evans. This article conducted some research to measure the sense of teachers with respect to their sense of efficacy or effectiveness of the NCLB legislation. Andrea Evans, the author of this essay, argues that there is a significant amount at stake concerning teacher’s sense of efficacy since research shows there is a direct link between teachers’ sense of efficacy and student performance (Evans, 86). Teacher’s sense of efficacy and student performance are linked because research shows that teachers’ sense of efficacy governs the actions and decisions teachers’ make (Evans, 85). One of the results that has recently emerged during the era of NCLB is that teachers now have a somewhat different standard for how to judge their sense of efficacy. Before NCLB, there was less of an importance placed on success for students with a certain ethnicity or a certain socio-economic status. With the NCLB legislation, these kinds of categories are being more closely monitored, teachers are being evaluated based on goals set in terms of these categories. Research shows that teachers feel less competent and less responsible for students who are coming from poor backgrounds, and the research also shows that teachers have a lower sense of efficacy for students in this category (Evans, 85). There could in fact be a link between this low sense of efficacy for these students and the fact that such teachers do not feel competent or responsible for them. Although this article shows that there is a significant percentage of teachers who have a negatives sense of the efficacy of NCLB, Evans is not arguing that NCLB necessarily should be given up as America’s model for education reform. NCLB has resulted in teachers having a low sense of efficacy, but this problem is what Evans calls an “alterable organizational condition (Evans, 87).” If educational leaders can work to help show teachers what’s at stake in their attitude and help teachers to have an improved sense of efficacy, this will improve students’ scores and performance and increase the chance of NCLB being successful.


After viewing each of these articles and others, it is clear that very few if any articles argue that we should fully embrace NCLB exactly as it was first articulated and received. The first article presented above leaned more on the side that NCLB should be completely rejected and that our country should adopt a completely alternative plan for action that is perceived as more conducive to certain goals such as access to a greater range of information and more freedom for diverse methods of teaching and learning. The second and third articles above did not explicitly reject NCLB in its entirety but argued that there have been some problems that have resulted from NCLB that need to be addressed and corrected as well as possible. One fact that does remain is that the United States keeps a close eye on certain kinds of student achievement than it ever has before. This kind of awareness is something that is either directly or indirectly acknowledged in each article. The majority of articles set out to show problems that exist with NCLB and how to possibly respond to these problems, without necessarily discarding NCLB in its entirety. NCLB has not been in place for more than 10 years. As NCLB is given a longer time to work, such problems can be discussed more and proposed solutions for dealing with these problems can be given time to work. Adjustments can be made. With time, then, it seems that NCLB can bring nothing but improvement for student education. If we do not meet NCLB’S lofty goal of a 100% passing rate in 2014, it is not unreasonable to aim for an improvement in overall student performance and a smaller gap for achievement according to the preset categories.

Multiple Choice Questions:


              A.  a philosophy of education first enacted by the Virginia legislature
              B.  a law that says foster homes must provide tutoring to all of their residents
              C.  a law requiring all children to attend school until their 18
              D.  federal legislature focusing on accountability, control for local districts, teaching  
                   methods, and alternatives for parents

2. Which of the following options do you think would be most appealing for Whitney Sherman:

            A.  Obama decides to lobby to discontinue NCLB
            B.  Keep NCLB but eliminate the “AYP” feature
            C.  Improve professional development for teachers
            D.  Campaign for George Bush’s brother Jeb to become the next president

3. The third article proposes which of the following:

           	A.  Teachers tend to have bad sex lives and this interferes with their ability to focus on 
                    the job setting
           	B.  Teachers can improve their attitudes towards student performance,  particularly with 
                   respect to poor students and minorities
            	C.  Teachers’ collective sense of efficacy was never a problem before NCLB was enacted
               D.  Teachers’ sense of inefficacy and student performance do NOT mutually reinforce each 

4. We can conclude from these articles that:

       A.  Probably few people now accept that NCLB was perfect from its beginning
	B.  Most people think NCLB should remain as it is
       C.  Most people think the government should set NCLB aside

D. ODU should start a fraternity abbreviated “NCLB”

Center on Education Policy. “Compendium of Key Studies of the No Child Left Behind Act.” Center on

    Education Policy.  Washington, D.C.  Center on Education Policy, p. 151.

Edmondson, Jacqueline, D’Urson, Alexandria. “Considering Alternatives for federal education policy in

    the United States:  a critical perspective on No Child Left Behind.”   Critical Studies in   
    Education   Pennsylvania State University, USA.  1 February 2009, vol 50, no. 1, p. 79.

Evans, Andrea. “No Child Left Behind and the Quest for Educational Equity: The Role of

    Teachers' Collective Sense of Efficacy.”  Leadership and Policy in Schools.  Dekalb, Illinois, 
    USA. Vol 8, p. 64

Granger, David A. No Child Left Behind and the Spectacle of Failing Schools: The Mythology of

    Contemporary School Reform.  Educational Studies.  V43, n3, p. 206.

Sherman, Whitney. “No Child Left Behind, A Legislative Catalyst for Superintendent Action to Eliminate

    Test-Score Gaps?”   Educational Policy.  Corwin Press, Vol 22, Num 5, 676.

Mbrowder (talk) 23:42, 22 June 2009 (UTC)

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