No Child Left Behind Act of 2001

AuthorJeffrey Wilson

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On January 8, 2002, President George W. Bush signed into law the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLBA). This legislation reauthorized, and provided major reform, to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA).

The Cold War and the Soviet Union's successful launch of the Sputnik spacecraft in October 1957 brought calls for improvements to the nation's educational system. In the early 1960s, President John F. Kennedy developed proposals to ensure that American students were competitive with students around the world. His proposals were intended to guarantee that students of every race, religion, and social standing would receive a good education. After Kennedy's assassination, President Lyndon B. Johnson revised Kennedy's proposals, and oversaw their introduction in Congress. Part of Johnson's "War on Poverty," ESEA was the most expansive federal education legislation ever passed. The bill passed with little debate and in only three months' time.

ESEA provided federal funding for 90 percent of the nation's public and parochial schools. Title 1, the law's most important provision, provides guidelines for the education of "educationally disadvantaged" students. It also provides funds: more than 80 percent of the original appropriation under ESEA went to ESEA. In 2005, President Bush's proposed budget for fiscal year 2006 asked for an appropriation of $13.3 billion for Title 1, a $4.6 billion, or 52 percent, increase for Title I since enactment of NCLBA. According to the Department of Education, 12.5 million students in public and private schools are served through Title I.

Part of ESEA's legacy has been controversy. Prior to ESEA, educational policy decisions had been almost exclusively in the hands of state and local governments. Critics have charged that the federal government has become too involved in regulating educational matters better left to local school districts. The federal government now provides approximately seven percent of the total funding for elementary and secondary schools.

Critics of ESEA have also charged that Title 1 has done little to raise student performance, because it did not mandate accountability for academic results. No Child Left Behind was crafted to address that issue. According to Congress, the two goals of

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NCLBA are accountability for schools and teachers, and closing the achievement gap for students of lower socioeconomic backgrounds, "so that no child is left behind." No Child Left Behind's lofty and worthy goals brought it broad bipartisan support in Congress, but its implementation has engendered considerable controversy.

Provisions of No Child Left Behind

No Child Left Behind is comprised of hundreds of pages of text. The law is divided into ten sections, called titles. The titles are:

Title I: Improving Academic Achievement of the Disadvantaged

Title II: Preparing, Training, and Recruiting High-Quality Teachers and Principals

Title III: Language Instruction for Limited English Proficient and Immigrant Students

Title IV: Twenty-first Century Schools

Title V: Promoting Parental Choice and Innovative Programs

Title VI: Flexibility and Accountability

Title VII: Indian, Native Hawaiian, and Alaska Native Education

Title VIII: Impact Aid Program

Title IX: General Provisions

Title X: Repeals, Redesignations, and Amendments to Other Statutes

Title I and Reading First

Title 1 of NCLBA amends and expands Title I of ESEA and has as its purpose "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." More specifically, Title I encompasses the following goals and methods:

Using high-quality academic assessments and other methods to measure progress against common expectations for student academic achievement

Closing the achievement gap between high-and low-performing children, especially the gaps between minority and nonminority students, and between disadvantaged children and their more advantaged peers

Meeting the needs of children in need of reading assistance, including minority students, English-language learner students, students with disabilities, and poor students

Careful distribution and targeting of resources

Holding schools, local educational agencies, and states accountable for improving the academic achievement of all students

Improving and strengthening accountability, teaching, and learning by using state assessment systems

According to the Department of Education, prior to enactment of the NCLBA, only 32 percent of the nation's fourth graders were reading at a level deemed "proficient." The huge "Reading First" program in Title I of No Child Left Behind is intended to address the reading deficiency in elementary students. In 2003, more than $990 million was appropriated for the program; the number pushed past the $1 billion level in subsequent years. Money for Reading First is distributed in two ways. First, states receive distributions on the basis of the number of low-income children ages 5-17 who live in the state. Second, districts compete for funds in state-run competitions. Priority goes to districts with high rates of poverty and reading failure.

Reading programs under the Reading First program must be devised from "scientifically based research." This phrase recurs dozens of times in NCLBA, although it is not clearly defined within the act. Essentially...

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