No Child Left Behind: Summary, Pros & Cons

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  • 0:01 No Child Left Behind
  • 1:20 Pros
  • 3:01 Cons
  • 5:14 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Natalie Boyd

Natalie is a teacher and holds an MA in English Education and is in progress on her PhD in psychology.

The No Child Left Behind Act has been both influential and controversial since it was first passed over a decade ago. But what exactly is it? In this lesson, we'll explore the No Child Left Behind Act, including its pros and cons.

No Child Left Behind

Imagine that you went to school where there were no assessments. Pretty cool, right? No papers to write, no tests to take - that would be awesome!

But wait! If there were no assessments, how would you and your teachers know if you're learning? You might think you understand something, and your teacher might assume you do, but you could have it totally wrong! Not to mention the fact that without assessments, you couldn't tell if you were doing well enough to pass on to the next grade.

Not too long ago, schools were not required to give assessments to students. Many of them did, but it wasn't a requirement. But then the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 was passed, which was the first federal law requiring schools to assess students and put forth standards for students to pass.

NCLB, as the No Child Left Behind Act is often called, focused on assessments, standards, and accountability of schools and teachers. It was linked to Title I Funding, which are federal monies given to schools with a high percentage of low-income students. Essentially, the law said that schools would have to administer standards-based assessments. If students didn't do well enough on the assessments, the schools risked losing their Title I funding.

Let's look closer at the pros and cons of NCLB.


Many educators were very excited about NCLB when it was first signed into law at the beginning of 2002. And there are some really good things that have happened since then to bolster the support of NCLB. They include:

1. Test score improvement

In general, test scores have improved since 2002. Not only that, test scores of minority students have improved since then, a good sign for the future!

2. Teacher qualifications

One of the issues that NCLB tried to tackle was that of making sure that teachers were highly qualified for the jobs that they do. Since 2002, more teachers are qualified and more highly educated than they were before. This means that students are getting instruction from the best possible teachers.

3. Extra help

One benefit of regular testing is that it helps schools identify students who need extra help. And because the schools could lose funding if students don't do well on tests, they have an extra incentive to help struggling students. Since NCLB was passed, hundreds of thousands of students have received tutoring or other free supplemental help from schools.

4. Parental understanding

Remember when we said that without assessments, you can't know how well you're doing in school? Thanks to the tests mandated by NCLB, parents have a better idea of how their child is doing.

Not only that - because schools' test scores are made public, parents have a better idea of how their child's school is doing, and that allows them to better understand options, like private school or charter schools, that might provide a better place for their children to learn.


Despite all the good news, there are some issues that critics have raised with regards to NCLB. They include:

1. Test score improvement

As we saw, proponents of NCLB point out that test scores have improved since 2002. But critics aren't sure that the law is responsible for that. They point out that even before NCLB, the schools that were giving tests saw test score improvements since the 1980s.

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