The Effects of the No Child Left Behind Legislation on Curriculum in SchoolsLaura HoldrenEnglish 309JProfessor FlynnFebruary 19, 2009 The Effects of the No Child Left Behind Legislation on Curriculum in Schools Two days after taking office in January of 2001, President George W. Bush proposed a law to the United States Congress. The law that he proposed, and Congress eventually passed, was the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. This act, made the most drastic changes to federal law pertaining to public schools and education in over forty years. The basic purpose of this legislation is to provide children in public schools with equal opportunities to obtain high-quality education. It also mandates achievement standards and academic assessments and sets minimum proficiency standards each student must meet (No Child Left Behind NCLB, 2005). If schools fail to meet certain standards applied to assessments in math and reading, they are put on watch and the parents of children at the school are informed. Ultimately, the No Child Left Behind Act has led to greater accountability and higher standards throughout public schools in the United States. It is easy to identify the fundamental objectives of the No Child Left Behind Act. What is more difficult is identifying exactly how the legislation helps public schools to meet the set standards, and if the schools fail, what the legislation does to prevent the school from recurring failure. First, NCLB allocates more money to school districts. It also gives the districts more flexibility in how they use the money that they receive. This allows the school districts to give the areas of discipline that are struggling more attention and an opportunity for improvement (Ellis, 2007). The No Child Left Behind Act holds school districts accountable for meeting higher standards. Whether or not a certain school passes all of the assessments, the results are made available to parents of students who attend the school. If the school is doing well, parents of the students become aware of this and feel secure about where they are sending their children to school. If the school fails to meet the standards however, parents can become aware of this as well and choose to send their children elsewhere. If a parent were to choose to send their child elsewhere, the school district that did not meet the standards would be responsible for paying for the child to be transported to another school district (NCLB, 2005). In order to understand how the legislation prevents schools from future assessment failure, it is necessary to examine the actual assessment given to the children in public schools. Under the No Child Left Behind Legislation, students all over the country must participate in annual assessments (Cortiella, 2005).The subjects that students must be assessed in are Language Arts, Reading, Mathematics and Science. The assessment process, in which the students participate, is often referred to as “High-stakes testing” (Cotriella, 2005). In order for students to pass these high-stakes tests however, they are required to learn the material that is to be covered on each test. Because of this, many problems arise as a result of teachers having the responsibility to cover such a large amount of material, in an often inadequate amount of time or with limited resources (Ellis, 2007). Many students suffer because teachers can no long help children with certain special needs or children that are gifted. Also, as a result of teachers teaching their students the necessary material to meet the standards of NCLB, many very important subjects are cut from the curriculum in schools (Lemann, 2008). Because there are many negative impacts of the No Child Left Behind legislation, it is necessary to exam how the legislation impacts curriculum in schools and determine whether or not the benefits of the act, outweigh the disadvantages. How the No Child Left Behind Legislation Assesses Students The No Child Left Behind Legislation requires students to be assessed on a yearly basis. This assessment is designed by state governments as criterion-referenced tests (Smyth, 2008). These tests are not designed to compare students with each other, but rather to gage the students’ competency levels in a single behavioral objective in a specific course of study (Smyth, 2008). Although students have been given assessments since World War I, it was not until the No Child Left Behind Act that the results of these assessments had a direct effect on all schools across the nation. Since the government now has control over the consequences placed on schools that do not pass these assessments, the stakes to do well have significantly risen (Smyth, 2008). Since the government can now place consequences on schools that fail to meet standards, the pressure to pass these tests is much higher, which causes teachers to teach to the test. Instead of instructing in an exploratory, lifelong learning fashion, teachers instead teach what facts their students need to know to pass the assessments and rarely break the boundaries set by the assessments (Henley, McBride, Milligan, Nichols, 2007). Teaching to the test reduces teacher creativity and does not allow teachers to use various different methods of teaching to reach different students’ needs. Because the stakes are so high to pass the tests, some students that did well before, no longer get the attention they need from their teachers in order to succeed (Cortriella, 2005). Not only do the students only learn what the need to know to pass an assessment, many programs that were beneficial to many children are no longer in place. Programs such as gifted education and special needs education are often cut from schools in order to ensure that students are passing the assessments (Henley, et al, 2007). Since test preparation takes so much time out of a normal school day, gifted children no longer have time for their gifted education classes. The priority to advance gifted students has been replaced by the priority to bring the low scoring children up to proficient levels (Henley, et. al, 2007). Also, special needs programs are often negatively impacted by the No Child Left Behind Legislation. There are no provisions in the act that account for children with special needs or disabilities. These children are still required to pass these assessments; with no consideration given to any special needs they may have (Smyth, 2008). Because they are still required to pass the assessments, teachers are forced to teach these children concepts that are often way above their ability levels (Henley, et. al, 2007). Benefits of No Child Left Behind The initial purpose of the No Child Left Behind Act, was to improve accountability in schools and to ensure the teachers and school systems were doing their job well and meeting legitimate expectations. Along with this, NCLB also provides funding for schools across the United States assesses children and ensure that they are at the grade level mentally in which they are enrolled, and allows for higher involvement for parents in their childrens’ education. In October of 1957, the United States government realized that the nation was falling behind other nations in the field of education. On this date, the Soviet Union launched the first satellite into outer space. Prior to this event, the federal government had little legislation over publics schools- education was left up to the legislation of the states (Paige, 2006). At this point, the federal government decided that they needed to take more control of the public education system in order to keep up with students in other countries. Until NCLB was introduced, the federal programs before it did improve the quality of education in the United States, but not to the extent the government hoped NCLB to improve the quality of education. The first premise of the NCLB Act is that the public should have specific expectations for students in the math and language arts subject areas and that each student’s ability should be measured in subject (Paige, 2006). This ensures that once each student gets to 8th grade, they are all at, at least, a proficient level in both math and language arts. If a student were to not meet the expectations, remediation opportunities would then become available. In turn, this would prevent students from falling too far behind to catch up to where they should be once they entered the 9th grade (Alexander, 2006). Also, if a school fails to meet these expectations, the school itself is put on a watch list and the parents of the children that attend the school are notified. Public schools are funded by the government and by taxpayers of the specific school district. If the government and the citizens are contributing so much money to the public schools, the government feels that the schools should be held accountable for the students that attend the school (Alexander, 2006). If the schools had no expectations to meet or were not held accountable for teaching their students certain things, and the federal government did not regulate this, there would be no purpose for a public education system in the United States. The No Child Left Behind Act helps to prove to citizens of the United States that the federal government is doing its part in contributing to the education of the nations’ children.Disadvantages of the No Child Left Behind Legislation There are three major aspects of a typical school day that are negatively affected by the No Child Left Behind Legislation. These include: gifted education, special education, and recess. The NCLB Act forces schools to pass assessments in order to not lose federal funding. This, in turn, puts a big blow to these three critical programs in schools. Because teachers are required to teach their students so much information in order to pass yearly assessments, many important programs get cut of students’ school days. One of these is gifted education. Even though gifted students perform at a higher level than non-gifted students, teachers are concerned that if the gifted students were to leave the classroom for their gifted programs, they would miss important lessons they need to know for the yearly assessments (Henley, 2007). This is important because in the case of a gifted learner, the school day becomes boring and dumbed-down in order for the school to ensure that the student has learned the standards in order to pass the test. Because of NCLB, gifted students are pushed to the back burner and often overlooked because teachers feel they are doing all they need to do, which is passing the assessment (Henley, 2007). Also, special needs children are also often overlooked because of the No Child Left Behind Legislation. Even special needs children are required to pass the same assessment as every other student. This is problematic because many special needs children are no where near the I.Q. level they need to be in order to pass the tests (Lynch 2008).