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No Child Left Behind Act of 2002: An Overview

  • By:sierraedlaw

Signed into law by President George W. Bush in 2002, the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) represents one of the landmark education laws passed in United States history. Education advocates on both sides of the political spectrum created the legislation to address the rapidly growing education gap between students of varied economic classes. Among its many legal mandates, the NCLB requires states to establish assessment standards for basic education skills, such as reading and writing. For states to received federally disbursed education funds, assessment tests must be administered regularly in accordance to individual state education standards.

NCLB has received both enthusiastic praise and harsh criticism for its primary intent of holding teachers and administrators accountable for student academic performance. Many critics believe the law places too much emphasis on rote memorization of academic curriculum.

Teachers Held Accountable

The primary goal of the NCLB was to make sure students received an education that properly prepared them for professional careers after graduating from high school. With numerous studies linking education quality to teacher quality, the NCLB implemented measures that hold teachers directly accountable for student performance. Teacher performance standards include standardized test results that exceed the minimum requirements mandated by the NCLB.

The monumental education law also created professional development programs for teachers funded by federal funds. However, the money used for developing teachers must go to programs that have scientific evidence the programs improve student academic performance. Teachers are accountable for students making adequate annual academic progress as measured by state implemented standards.

Education Progress Defined

Each state establishes minimum levels of progress under the NCLB. However, private schools and public school districts must meet the minimum improvement standards by adhering to federally mandated time frames. States determine the base performance level of the lowest achieving demographic group attending public and private schools. NCLB requires each state to raise the minimum academic achievement threshold each year and demonstrate students have made the progress required under NCLB. After 12 years of schooling, students must attain the state set proficiency level on math and reading assessments.

The Importance of Reading Proficiency

Title 1 of the No Child Left Behind Act establishes a reading requirement “to ensure that all children have a fair, equal, and significant opportunity to obtain a high-quality education and reach, at a minimum, proficiency on challenging State academic achievement standards and state academic assessments.”

NCLB created the following reading methods for reaching the reading proficiency goals:

  • Careful distribution of resources
  • Close the achievement gap between low and high performing children
  • Hold states, schools, and local educational agencies accountable for improving the academic achievement of all students
  • Use high-quality academic assessments and to measure progress against common expectations for student academic achievement
  • Meet the needs of children in need of reading assistance, including minority students, English-language learner students, students with disabilities, and poor students

The NCLB clause that discusses closing the achievement gap refers to the academic gap between minority and nonminority students, as well as the academic gap between disadvantaged and advantaged students. Federal guidelines establish the legal definitions for advantaged and disadvantaged students. The federal government also continually updates the definitions of minority and nonminority students.

NCLB is a complex law that many parents do not understand. If you need clarification or guidance concerning NCLB, contact one of our California attorneys who specialize in education law. We offer a free initial consultation to determine if a school or school system has violated one or more legal provisions established by the No Child Left Behind Act.

Posted in: IEP's, Special Education, Student Advocacy, Student Disabilities