Academic Progress: Will No Child Be Left Behind?
“These reforms express my deep belief in our public schools and their mission to build the mind and character of every child, from every background, in every part of America.”—President George W. Bush (Executive Summary, 2001).
“We like the bill, but this is a resource issue.”—Peter McWalters, commissioner of education in Rhode Island (Coeyman, 2002).
“No Child Left Behind? Everyone hates it. It’s a joke. Not obtainable.”—teacher.
The No Child Left Behind Act provides incentives for school districts to bring up academic progress, but instead the pressure involved may lead to poor-performing schools falsifying data, teaching to the test, or promoting unprepared students instead of truly improving student performance. Schools which do not achieve their Academic Yearly Progress for two sequential years will suffer loss of funding, corrective action, and may be closed. However, the only way to gauge academic progress on a nation-wide level is through standardized testing, which has serious limitations as a diagnostic tool. The concept of Academic Yearly Progress can lead to bizarre and arbitrary classifications of successful and failing. In additional, some of the corrective measures prescribed by NCLB may be inadequate.
Rather than merely reaffirming the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, President Bush oversaw a complete restructuring. This restructuring, the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, decrees that every student will be at the academic level deemed proficient by the 2013-14 school year. To achieve this goal, it calls for strict academic accountability. States still have the responsibility of determining their own statewide assessment programs, but are required to set a target of Academic Yearly Progress that each child must meet or exceed. This AYP must be either.
“The first option is the percent of students at the proficient level for the lowest-performing subgroup of students. The second option is for states to rank schools by the percent of students proficient on state tests in 2001-02, and then set the bar at the point at which one-fifth of all students are in schools with lower proficiency levels” (Education Week, 2002)
The states will test their students yearly, and these results will be verified by federal testing. The National Assessment of Education Progress will test a random sample of fourth and eighth graders every other year. However, many experts have observed that “that rising test scores don't seem to generalize to any other index of achievement…. in a number of states with high-stakes testing programs, while scores were rising on the high-stakes tests, math scores on the SAT, the ACT, and the NAEP fell.”
(Bracey, 2002). This can be attributed to teachers, under pressure to prove academic progress, “teaching to the test” instead of covering basic skills and core material. In addition, cultural, economic, and social variables will...