Every individual who has experienced some form of education throughout his or her lifetime knows very well that there are many assessments and testing that takes place within a single school year. This movement in education that focuses on student excellence and school district performance is nothing new, these notions of wanting the best for and from each student and school district have been around since the 1980’s and even before that. One specific topic of controversy within this excellence reform movement in K-12 education is that of the No Child Left Behind Act that was signed into law in January of 2002.
Nature of the Problem No Child Left Behind (NCLB) is a bipartisan federal law that aims to improve the education of elementary, middle, and high school students in all school districts across the United States by mandating programs and increasing accountability standards. NCLB gets its basis from outcome-based theories where goal setting with high expectations for students will in turn result in greater achievement by students (White, 2015).
Along with the aim towards improvement in student academic achievement, the primary provisions of NCLB include increased accountability for states and school districts, more choice for stakeholders and especially for those in lower performing school districts, more flexibility for educational agencies in the form of federal financial assistance, and a larger emphasis on reading for younger students (Tozer, Senese, & Violas, 2013). The NCLB law comes with various points of contention for those in support of the law as well as for those who oppose the law, this paper will discuss some of those points.
Supporters of NCLB Those in support of NCLB believe that this mandate designed to improve accountability within the educational standards while emphasizing standardized testing will increase student academic achievement across the country. Supporters believe that these provisions will help to improve overall education across the country while providing equal resources to all schools, regardless of location or student demographics (White, 2015).
Supporters of NCLB believe that by emphasizing improved instruction in core academic subjects, such as math and language arts, the achievement gap between Caucasian students and minority students will get getting smaller and smaller. Along with shrinking the achievement gap among students, supporters of NCLB also believe that this law is succeeding in requiring school districts to focus on providing equal opportunities of education to the typically underserved population of students (Connect US, 2015).
Those students typically underserved are those of minority groups or those in need of special education services. Supporters of NCLB believe that the standards-based assessments and common core knowledge learned by students and taught by teachers are essential parts of the academic experience. The supporters believe that all students, across the country and regardless of demographics, should be able to and are expected to meet the common core standards through which they are challenged to acquire content and skills that are more than just mere requirements (Wang, 2016).
I think the supporters of NCLB make some very good points regarding why this law is successful in creating and sustaining high rates of achievement for students across the country. I think the supporters also point out reasons why common core standards of knowledge for students are needed to accurately measure those achievement rates across all school districts. Opponents of NCLB Those in opposition of NCLB believe that this mandate to improve accountability within the educational standards while emphasizing standardized testing is not working to increase student academic achievement because it is deeply biased and has many flaws.
Opponents believe that NCLB fails to address potential reasons, such as the common core standards of curriculum, for why achievement is not actually growing for students across the country (White, 2015). This also leads opponents of NCLB to believe that schools across the country, made up of various unique qualities and demographics, are not actually receiving equal opportunities and resources to improve overall education for students.
Opponents of NCLB believe that under these standards teachers are merely teaching students how to successfully take a test rather than teachers teaching students with a main goal of learning taking place (White, 2015). Opponents of NCLB believe that by emphasizing core academic subjects, that are measured by standardized testing, students are not being exposed to other elective subjects such as foreign languages, social studies/history classes, and art programs.
Since there needs to be a focus on high rates of achievement in the core subjects, many school districts have had to make large budget cuts resulting in the elimination of the elective subjects (White, 2015). Opponents of NCLB believe that the very high teacher qualification standards have actually caused many problems for school districts to acquire teachers, because up and coming teachers are now required to pass various proficiency tests or possess more than one college degree (Connect US, 2015).
Opponents of NCLB believe that imposing standards-based assessments and common core of knowledge on the students is actually depriving the intellectual freedom that each student individually possesses. The opponents believe that by implementing these one-size-fits-all standards students are not using as much higher-order thinking skills as they could be and the knowledge is instead being oversimplified or even watered down to the lowest common denominator for all students (Wang, 2016).
I think the opponents of NCLB make some very good points regarding why changes need to be made within this law to create better opportunities for students across the country to successful without having a narrow focus solely on core subjects. I think the opponents also point out reasons why teacher qualification standards do not necessarily need to be as extreme as they are becoming, teachers can successfully teach students without having to jump through countless hoops to do so. Supporters for NCLB Respond to Opponents
In response to the opponents believing that teacher qualification standards are too high and can cause problems when hiring new teachers, supporters believe that these high standards for teachers will actually guarantee that teachers are highly qualified for the work they will do with the students on a daily basis (White, 2015). In response to the opponents believing that the achievement gap between Caucasian students and minority students has not improved, supporters believe that scores on standardized testing have generally improved for both groups of students which is a good sign for closing the achievement gap further (Connect US, 2015).
In response to opponents believing that standardized testing doesn’t increase student achievement and is biased and flawed, supporters believe that the use of this regular standardized testing has benefits in that it can assist school districts in identifying students who are in need of extra instruction and the federal government also offers extra incentives to aid school districts in supporting those students (Connect US, 2015). Supporters of NCLB believe the pros of the law outweigh the cons and that student achievement scores are improving across the country.
Opponents for NCLB Respond to Supporters In response to supporters believing that students across the country and regardless of demographics should be able to meet the common core knowledge standards, opponents believe that students are actually forced to learn limited concepts with an emphasis on test-taking skills rather than learning being the main goal of instruction and that teachers are also forced to teach a narrow range of knowledge to get students to score well on the tests (Connect US, 2015).
In response to supporters believing that students can be more successful and the achievement gap can shrink by emphasizing instruction in core academic subjects, opponents believe that focusing on core subjects leads to school districts having to make large budget cuts in elective subjects such as history and art which can negatively affect students (Connect US, 2015).
Opponents also believe that this focus on instruction in core academic subjects that students will be tested on is taking away from a well-rounded educational experience for the students, so the education isn’t actually improving it just means school districts have to sacrifice some subjects for others (Chen, 2015). Opponents of NCLB believe the cons of the law outweigh the pros and that major changes need to occur in order for student achievement scores to improve across the country. I Will Argue That…
Finding a balance between the support and opposition of NCLB would be beneficial for students across the country, but I will argue that there needs to be some changes made to improve NCLB and I agree with the opponents of this law. I agree with the opponents because I think key points of importance are brought up with this side of the discussion and that there are some major issues negatively affects students. I agree with the opponents in that there are various flaws and biases within the standardized testing assessments that students are now required to take to determine achievement scores for each school district.
In order to actually improve student learning and academic achievement, there needs to be an overhaul and restructuring of the common cores standards curriculum as well as the assessments students are taking. I agree with the opponents on the idea that because of all the testing students are required to participate in the teachers are now forced to merely teach students how successfully take a test, rather than teaching with a main goal of learning for the students.
I also agree with the opponents regarding the idea that school districts are having to make large budget cuts in order to focus on core academic subjects so that students will score highly on the assessments. These budget cuts are leading to dramatic decreases in the elective subjects that students would be able to take classes in to gain a more well rounded academic experience or even find a passion within a subject area. I think that there need to be some big changes made to the NCLB law to improve the educational experience of students across the country.