No Child Left Behind Act and Its Impact of American Children

Background information

The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 is an Act of Congress of the United States that was drafted and passed by the Bush administration (Maranto and Lansford, 2009, p.166). The law became operational in 2002 and had a great impact on the public school sector across the US. It affects everything the students are taught, beginning from the teacher’s training, the curriculum set, and the exams conducted.

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It also dwells on the amount of money that is spent to educate a child (Groenke, 2009, p.100). There is an ongoing debate to establish how well the Act has helped in gaining academic excellence in the US. There is a desire to review the Act to address current trends in the education sector. This being the case, there is a need however to point out the fact that for the second time, a meeting that the US Congress had arranged to deliberate on the issue of the no child left behind act has all but stalled. As a result, members of the Republican Party and their Democrats counterparts are on a brain game over the stalemate.

To cover and encompass the desires of every citizen in the country, the Obama administration is being relied upon to lead in changing the clauses that bring disunity. Currently, the US department of education has added some regulations to the Act to improve it. These new additions include the requirement by schools to provide a uniform calculation for all those graduating from high school and increased accessibility for parents to various available choices for schools and the tutoring option implemented in the different schools (Meier and Harrison, 2004, p.123).

With the many favorable claims that have been associated with this Act, it is of importance to embrace amendments to improve on the criticisms. This paper critically analyses the No Child Left Behind Act by demonstrating its strong points and weaknesses and finally the various research conducted on the subject.

Achievements of the No Child Left Behind Act

This Act has been shown to contribute to improved test scores in schools all over the US. The National Assessment of Educational Progress, in its 2005 results, depicted high improvement in mathematics and reading. Among the nine-year-olds, progress was recorded in their reading skills while the 13-year-olds were able to record improvement in their maths scores. Among the blacks and Hispanic 9-year-olds, improved reading and maths score was recorded (Abernathy, 2007, p.23).

According to some scholars’ arguments, the local government had failed the students in provision for improved education. This necessitated the federal government to intervene to bring the state to normalcy. NCLB came in handy to improve the results and offer to monitor adequate yearly reports (Meier & Harrison, 2004, p. 64). The NCLB has been shown to enhance accountability in all public schools. It also provides the parents with wide opportunities of selection for their children’s education since it provides various options to them.

As a result of this, it has played a great part in bringing together the achievement gap that exists between the minority and marginalized groups and the white students across the US (Dean, 2003, p.149). It has achieved the above through measurement of the students’ performance by application of standardized tests. In this procedure, a student’s performance in mathematics and reading skills is usually assessed each year from the third grade all through to the eighth grade. It is a requirement in the NCLB system for schools to offer parents report cards on the annual progress of their children (Maranto & Lansford, 2009, p.112).

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The schools are also supposed to keep the parents informed whenever their children are under attendance by a tutor who fails to meet the set standards of professionalism. The law provides for all the teachers teaching in public schools to be highly qualified. One way through which the competency of a teacher may be assessed by the state is by their demonstrating proficiency and competency in teaching. In addition, teachers are also required to have been certified to conduct lessons in their areas of qualification. Through these approaches, the parent plays a major role in their children’s education.

They become active players in education, unlike other systems that rely on the teachers to guide their children throughout the education system. NCLB gains its major support through its involvement of all players in a child’s education, which are the teachers who represent their schools, the parents of the children, and the government which is responsible for educating its citizens.

The NCLB has also played a big role in enhancing equality in education between the highly endowed in the society and the minority populations across the country. No difference exists between the Hispanics, the whites, or the black Americans in their children’s access to quality education. It has done this through the creation of general expectations among all the groups of people in the US in the performance in school for their children (Abernathy, 2007, p. 23).

The US Education Department has ensured that the marginalized and minority groups’ achievements are put into focus by their schools and their districts at large. More attention has also been diverted towards caring for students with some disabilities like autism or even chronic diseases like leukemia. This has enhanced proper care and lowered the stigmatization of children suffering from various medical conditions.

The NCLB offers flexibility in the transfer of students from one school to the other. For example, in the case of a student who is already enrolled in a public institution whose performance is quite dismal, there is the likelihood that within two academic years, such a student may not have attained much progress in their academic performance. In such a case, the learning institution in question is obliged by the law to give such a student the chance to try their luck in another school that is performing better as opposed to remaining in the poor performing institution (Dean, 2003, p. 56). The schools may also be obligated to offer free tutoring or after-school programs to deserving students.

The NCLB contains provisions that offer the state and districts more flexibility in deciding how to spend fractions of the money allotted to them by the federal government. Through Title 1 funding, school districts with large populations of poor children have been targeted with increased resources. To improve the teaching of reading in schools, programs have been created receiving a large number of funds for their running. These programs allocate money to schools especially when specific schools apply for funding directly from the federal governments (Abernathy, 2007, p. 30). Through NCLB, there is increased funding for improved technology in the schools.

The funding is utilized in buying the equipment, giving specialized training to the educators, and ensuring the schools are up to date with current research undertakings. In addition, NCLB saw the increase of funding for individuals with disabilities by the state. This has continued to enhance the good and efficient care for all individuals with disabilities.

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NCLB’s criticisms

According to the critiques of this system, funding is not of high priority in the US. Several schools are experiencing a never-ending cut in their budgetary allocations. This increases difficulties for the schools in controlling their expenditures like in the purchase of educational books among others. Many teachers who would otherwise be of much value to the students by offering competent professionals instructions are unwilling to join the public school sector due to low remunerations in these schools and dilapidated learning facilities. In fact, in some poor schools, the teachers are at times forced to purchase learning resources out of their own money (Smith, 2003, para. 2)

The use of standardized testing in an effort of evaluating the educational progress in the schools under the NCLB has also raised various critiques. They argue that students on standardized tests generally perform better than others on random tests. Good performance is not always an indication of quality education in a country. This is especially when the teachers are highly pressured to perform or produce good grades. This will lead the teachers to embrace the ‘teach to the test’ formula where only the knowledge and skills expected to be tested during the examination are instilled. Furthermore, the focus on performance creates a likeliness of discrimination in the education system.

The students who are low intellectually or those having cognitive developmental disabilities may be excluded from some schools (Hayes, 2008, p. 43). This also applies to those students from other nations who use English as a second language for communication. There are chances also, that the tests which are set by each state for its learning population may be maneuvered to ensure that the children in that state can perform better than others from a different state.

The NCLB has set out criteria for determining and distinguishing the nonperforming schools from the performing institutions. Under this system, those schools deemed as nonperformers or failing are imposed with sanctions. Critiques have argued that the sanctions are perceived to be a form of punishment rather than corrective and therefore do not offer any help in addressing the failing education system. Moreover, the sanctions imposed might be sensible and affecting all players in the education of their children (Smith, 2003, para. 4).

Under this law also, parents are given the opportunity of moving their children from the schools undergoing sanctions to better schools. The district that is failing is expected under this law to cover the transport costs as a result of the transfer. NCLB places a lot of emphasis on some precise scientific research leaving the teachers with no flexibility to determine the kind of assistance that is necessary for the children.

NCLB calls for corrective actions against a failing school which is often not considered too restrictive by its critics. These corrective actions involve firing the staff in the school that is believed to be behind the failure together with reconstituting the school management. This may involve outsourcing educational professionals from outside the failing district and to a larger extent formulating a new curriculum for the district.

If after all these corrective measures the school continues to kick back and forth, the school is closed or there are chances it might be opened again, and this time with new management. According to the critics, this continues to harm the same children that the law is protecting. The reconstitution is said also to break the school community, causing distractions of the working environment and disrupting the relations that do exist between the schools and the neighborhoods (Hayes, 2008, p.163).

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Finally, the NCLB has been accused of having a narrow curriculum that is very restrictive. It lays a great emphasis on maths and English reading skills hence the students are destined to fail to acquire the benefits of the broad education. Since the inception of the NCLB, there have been increased instructional times for testable skills like reading and writing, and mathematics. On the other hand, the arts, social studies, and study of foreign languages have continued receiving much less instructional time (Benjamin, 2008, p.112). When NCLB is rolled out at times of budgetary constrictions, lessons and activities which are not within the guidelines of NCLB are eliminated. This has led to a large group of young people lacking essential knowledge on subjects like history and literature.

Recent studies on NCLB

According to Dillon (2007, para. 1-3), higher achievements have been noted among children in the united states since the passing of the NCLB law. The gap in score performance in reading and maths that had been wide between the white students and black and Hispanic students has continued being narrow and narrower. However, caution is called for in determining the extent to which NCLB has achieved this.

After 3 or more years of comparable research test data, it was noted that the student’s ability in reading skills and mathematics had improved. Other confounding factors may have contributed to these findings rather than the application of the federal law. This may include widened accessibility to programs on early childhood that had been adopted before the NCLB. The study acknowledges that the results may have been mixed. In 2005, maths results showed improvement over another test performed in 2005. The study finally concludes that NCLB was a positive step towards improving the education sector in the US but calls for more attention to the many caveats encountered during the study.

Researchers at Rice University (2007, para.1) did a study on the negative implications of the NCLB law. The study found out that out of 271,000 students enrolled in American schools and of different racial inclinations, the overall graduation rate was only 33 percent. One researcher notes that the creation of stakes that are high by the NCLB law and the over-reliance on accountability that is based on tests does not lead to improvements in the school nor does it offer equitable educational opportunities.

She notes that it results in losses of students that could have been prevented and leaves the principals in dilemma on whether they should comply or educate. It was a pity that compliance led to the loss of students. Due to the accountability system, the study notes that a large number of students left schools after low ratings or after their principles are disciplined through sanctions. The implications of this study to schools under the NCLB are not conducive to its implementers (Rice University, para.3).

There is fear that the school’s personnel will see the students not as children in need of education but as beings’ tools for school performance, either a threat or asset to their careers and for the school’s funding. According to the study, there is a strong relationship existing between the rising number of dropouts and the school’s increasing ratings. It found out that, the ratings of a school under the accountability system rise as a result of loss of low achieving students, the principals under the accountability system have the privilege to hold back students hence leading to them dropping out of school. When the test scores were grouped by race, low achieving students in the minority underprivileged groups were allowed to make a quiet exit from the system.

Finally, the zero-tolerance nature of the accountability system placed the students in court systems for minor offenses and absences from school and this has the likelihood of increasing school dropout (Rice University, 2008, para.5).


The NCLB has had major impacts on the educational system in the US. Although not hailed as the best its impacts are acknowledgeable in enhancing learning to take place in the schools. It has improved test scores as indicated by the Department of Education on the National Assessment of Educational Progress results of 2005. It has also increased accountability on the school administration to produce results and thus close the educational achievement gap that existed before. This is one of the most commendable achievements of this system. It has given the required attention to minority groups and therefore improved the overall quality of education in the US. However, it continues to accrue major critiques on how it punishes schools that fail and how it rewards the schools for progress.

The NCLB should be amended appropriately to ensure the negative impacts it has been minimized (Benjamin, 2008, p.116). Individual states need to embrace educations standards that when implemented shall ensure that the knowledge they acquire while still in school acts as a stepping stone to successful professions and careers later on in life. Evaluation and assessment should focus on subjects rather than just relying on reading and mathematics. This will allow the teachers to focus on other subjects like history and the arts and thus the education system will be all around. The government should also increase the federal funding of education to reduce the increased competition for grant money among the states.


In conclusion, the No Child Left Behind is an education Act that has been passed by Congress in the United States. It became operational in 2002 and brought with it many impacts to the education system in the US. It dictates what the children are taught, the evaluation process and the tests the student undertake, how their teachers have trained, and the way education money is utilized. Major reforms in the education sector are called for to ensure the negative impacts of this law are amended to suit America in the 21st century. This will enhance education opportunities for all in the country.

Reference List

Abernathy, S. (2007). No Child Left Behind and the Public Schools. Michigan: University of Michigan Press.

Benjamin, M. (2008). The Courts and Standards Based Education Reforms. Oxford: Oxford University Press US.

Dean, H. (2003). Winning Back America. New Jersey: Simon & Schuster.

Dillon, S. (2007). New Study Finds Gains Since No Child Left Behind. New York Times. Web.

Groenke, S. (2009). Critical Pedagogy and Teacher Education in Neoliberal Era: Small Opening. New York, NY: Springer Publishers.

Hayes, W. (2008). No Child Left Behind: Past, Present and Future. R & L Education.

Maranto, R., & Lansford, T. (2009). Judging Bush. Stanford: Stanford University Press.

Meier, D., & Harrison, G. (2004). Many Children Left Behind: How the No Child Left Behind Act is Damaging Our Children and Our Schools. New York, NY: Beacon Press.

Rice University (2008). Negative Implications Of No Child Left Behind: As Graduation Rates Go Down, School Ratings Go Up. ScienceDaily. Web.

Smith, E. (2003). What Are Some Criticisms of No Child Left Behind? wiseGEEK. Web.

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