As promised in an earlier post, we’re introducing various education-related topics as a series of primers. In this one, let’s talk about No Child Left Behind.
The federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act, which was proposed and eventually signed into law by President George W. Bush, has dramatically impacted numerous facets of the educational system—including those here in Colchester School District. As such, it is worthy of a primer series in order to help clarify and explain what NCLB is and how it has changed the way we educate our students.
NCLB, which was signed into law in 2002, was designed with the belief that public education could be improved through setting higher standards and by establishing observable and quantifiable results. While NCLB does not determine or enforce a national achievement standard, it requires each state to establish such standards and to develop basic skills assessments in order to receive federal funding. In Vermont—and thus here at CSD—we use the New England Common Assessment Program (NECAP) tests, which are also administered in New Hampshire and Rhode Island. (We have already published articles that touch on NECAP during our discussions about each school’s contribution to the 2011 Annual Report that was presented to the school board. For a recap of that information and/or about each school’s contribution to the annual report, please visit here for CHS, here for CMS, here for MBS, here for PPS, and here for UMS.)
The various provisions and requirements of NCLB are somewhat complicated, but as a simple summary, any state receiving federal funding for public schools must assess all students using the same standardized test for all public schools within that state. The schools’ test results are used to determine the quality of education the students received.
If a school’s performance is determined to be unsatisfactory as the result of these standardized tests, a number of consequences ranging in severity come into play depending upon the amount of time the performance has been deemed in need of improvement. These consequences range from the development of two-year improvement plans to mandatory free tutoring. Further action against schools identified as underperforming might even include such things as the complete replacement of its staff, lengthening of the school year, or instituting a brand-new curriculum. In other cases, a school may even be closed or taken over by a private or state agency.
NCLB has been highly controversial since its enactment, mostly because, while everyone agrees that education is important, the means by which improvement in the educational system is achieved are highly complex and multifaceted, and there is no one-size-fits-all solution to the numerous challenges that educators face.
So that is a bit of background about what the No Child Left Behind Act is and what it requires. Because this is a complex topic, it will require more than just this article to discuss it even in summary form. As such, please stay tuned for the next installment continuing our conversation about NCLB, including supporters’ and opponents’ positions and some of the act’s impacts upon public education.
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