Bush's No Child Left Behind Law Leaves Certain Children Behind

Jul 18, 2007

Is the five year old ''No Child Left Behind Law'' leaving some children behind? A new university study says yes and explains why.

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A new study by the University of Chicago lends credence to criticism of the 'No Child Left Behind' Act by proving the law is benefiting only the kids in the middle, and not those on the high or low end of the achievement scale. In other words, the so-called 'No Child Left Behind' Act is leaving children behind:

Students Test Scores Since No Child Left Behind Act
Bottom 20% lost ground - test scores got worse
Middle test score improvement
Top 10% no change

Students who are considered to be on 'middle ground' had significant test score gains, but those who were in the top ten percent saw no change. The bottom 20 percent of students, on the other hand, actually lost ground in most cases. In fact, these students did better in 1998 before the 'No Child Left Behind Act' was passed.

Economist Derek A. Neal, who co-authored the study, concluded that teachers in the area surveyed are being forced to practice 'education triage' and focus their attention on children who are in the middle, thus passing over those at the top or those deemed to have little chance of improvement.

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What is the 'No Child Left Behind' Act?

Only three days after taking office in 2001, President George Bush, announced the desire to pass the 'No Child Left Behind' Act. Less than one year later, the act passed.

The 1,200 page law was complicated, but the goal was simple: reform public elementary and secondary schools to make sure no child is left behind or stuck in a failing school system. By 2014, every child in a U.S. public school is expected to be proficient in both reading and math.

To track progress, state testing programs were created to annually assess children in grades three through eight, and then once more in the high school period. School's that don't perform as well as they should are penalized with less funding, firings, an extended school year, and other various punishments.

What's the Debate All About?

While no one is disagreeing with the goal of the 'No Child Left Behind' Act, there is a great debate as to how to achieve these results.

Critics of the 'No Child Left Behind' Act say the law and mandated tests track the progress of our schools, but do nothing to help improve them. And because the 'No Child Left Behind Act' permits states to create their own tests, some states have been accused of 'dumbing down' tests to improve student scores.

Evidence that this might be occurring was seen most recently when state tests indicated that Mississippi students outscored Massachusetts students. This rose a red flag because on national standardized tests, Massachusetts students outscored Mississippi students, and were, in fact, top in the nation.

Congress has just begun to debate the reauthorization of the 'No Child Left Behind' Law. Predictions as to whether or not the law will change vary, but most think the moderate gains on test scores will be deemed unacceptable, and, as a result, a new reform plan will be implemented.

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