The Federal No Child Left Behind Act of 2001
Sources: United States Department of Education and NEA Today, May 2003
On January 8, 2002, President George W. Bush signed into law the federal No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB). The law reauthorized the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA), the principal federal law affecting K-12 education, as well as redefined the Improving America’s Schools Act (IASA) of 1994. The law served as a sweeping overhaul of federal efforts to support public education in the United States. The purposes of the law are to ensure that all children, regardless of race or socioeconomic background, have a fair, equal and significant opportunity to obtain a high-quality education and to ensure that all children reach, at minimum, proficiency on challenging state academic achievement standards and state academic assessment. The goal is to close the achievement gap between poor and affluent children and between minorities and non-minorities.
No Child Left Behind is built on four components: stronger accountability, more freedom for states, scientifically based educational programs, and parental choice. Schools, local educational agencies, and states become accountable for student achievement. Through the creation and administration of annual assessments that measure what children know and learn in reading and math, parents, educators, and administrators are empowered with data that help determine the quality of schools, the qualifications of teachers and the progress of students in major subject areas.
States and local school districts have the freedom to transfer up to 50% of the federal dollars they receive among several education programs without separate approval. NCLB also allows local school officials serving rural schools and districts more flexibility and a greater voice in how federal monies are used in their schools.
Focusing on “what works”, No Child Left Behind puts a special emphasis on implementing educational programs and practices that have been clearly demonstrated to be effective through rigorous scientific research. In reading, for example, NCLB supports scientifically based instruction programs in the early grades under the Reading First program.
Parents who have children in low-performing schools have new and immediate options. In schools that do not meet state standards for at least two consecutive years, parents can transfer their children to a better performing public school within their district. The district must provide transportation. Students from low-income families in schools that fail to meet state standards for at least three years are eligible to receive supplemental educational services (tutoring, summer school, after-school services).
There are clear and specific consequences/sanctions for those schools that fail to meet the criteria of NCLB. Schools that do not make Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) for two consecutive years will be identified as needing improvement. For each year that schools fail to improve, specific sanctions are implemented:
· Year 2- Parents of children in low-performing schools can transfer their children to another school in the district not in school improvement.
· Year 3- Districts must provide tutoring and other supplemental academic enrichment services before or after school, on weekends, or in the summer.
· Year 4- Schools enter into “corrective action”, where they must appoint outside experts to advise the school, institute and implement new curriculum, or extend the school year or school day.
· Year 5- Schools must prepare a plan to restructure the school.
· Year 6- Schools must implement the plan prepared the previous year and reopen as a public charter school, replace all or most of school staff, including the principal.
Additionally, states that narrow the achievement gap and improve overall student achievement are rewarded and successful schools that have made the greatest progress in improving the achievement of disadvantaged students are recognized and rewarded with NCLB bonuses.
For states across the country, NCLB has sparked a mixture of reactions and responses. In Mississippi, we have taken full advantage of the flexibility of NCLB by revising our plan several times with the United States Department of Education. In Tennessee, the Tennessee Education Association speaks daily with the state Department of Education, offering recommendations about the NCLB state plan; the Pennsylvania State Education Association coaches teachers about the kinds of education reforms that “really turn schools around” helping them articulate how the federal law hinders and not helps; Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina host Closing the Achievement Gap conferences in hopes of inspiring schools to perform at their highest levels; and Michigan has enacted more stringent teacher certification policies.
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