It has already been noted that schools have had to trim down on the subjects that are being taught, and the depths to which certain subjects are taught, and this ha of course had a direct effect on teachers' ability to both direct their own teaching and serve what many feel is the true purpose of their work as teachers -- providing true cultural knowledge and critical thinking rather than simply fundamentals. Though change was definitely needed, the No Child Left Behind Act was not the right change according to many teachers.
Schools that were already strapped for funds were the hardest hit by the new regulations and standards for federal funds, as they had fewer resources with which to achieve the standards being set by the No Child Left Behind Act and to provide the individual attention that the legislation required from each student as part of the school's "report card" (Reeves 2003). Especially hard hit were schools in rural areas, which are typically the schools with the least in the amount of absolute and per-student funding and also have difficulty attracting teachers (Reeves 2003). It was immediately clear that these schools would be unable to comply with the standards of the legislation and would suffer the consequences of reduced funding if state and county governments did not intervene and find ways to change their rural schools; for teachers this meant the instant increase of bureaucratic intervention in the teaching practice that did not clearly improve academic achievement, but that quite clearly frustrated teachers' intentions 9 Reeves 2003; Toppo 2007; Bernstein 2010).
The No Child Left Behind Act also had immediate implications for teachers in terms of job security. Section 1119 of the actual text of the legislation mandates that all teachers teaching "core" subjects be "highly qualified," and that states and schools must show certain increases in the number of "highly qualified" teachers employed (USDOE 2001). This has several implications for teachers. First, the designation of core subjects automatically relegates other subjects to lower attention, funding, and support. Second, the term "highly qualified" is loosely defined and the requirement of improvements in the numbers of "highly qualified" teachers necessarily entails many teacher losing their jobs due to this Act.
As stated in the introduction to this paper, I do not believe that the No Child Left Behind Act has been especially effective in achieving its desired goals or in improving education at all. It has done little if anything to close the education gap that exists between minorities and non-minorities and between genders, and also ended up hurting many of the schools that were already some of the worst performers. While removing unqualified and/or bad teachers and improving standards are certainly laudable goals and something that everyone can probably support, cutting funding to schools that fail to perform is certainly not the way to go about achieving these goals. In addition to these general problems, there is also one specific area of the legislation that has me especially worried and angered.
There are several ways in which the No Child Left Behind Act is unfair to special needs students, teachers, and classrooms. First, the legislation mandates the same standards for all learners, and while most students with special needs are quite capable making large advancements in their learning, certain standards are simply out of step with developmental trends in certain disabilities (IU 2006). In addition, special needs classrooms often cannot progress in as linear a fashion as is proscribed by the standards of the legislation; the many different learning needs and developmental stages of students often involves varying curriculum that are not supported by the Act (IU 2006). There are also ways that the Act directly affects special education teachers, further impacting special needs classrooms.
Just as special needs students are held to the exact same standards as all other students by the No Child Left Behind Act, all special education teachers that are responsible for teaching any of the core subjects must demonstrate their teaching competency in all of the core subject areas (CADOE 2010). This is true regardless of the setting in which the special education instructor teaches; teachers that work specifically with reading skills in Learning Centers must still demonstrate competency in other subject areas, even though they are not responsible for teaching them and often have no experience and little training in these areas (CADOE 2010). This has no doubt cost many teachers their positions, and persuaded many more not to try to work in a school where they will be relied on for a core competency, driving teachers out of special education and out of the teaching profession generally. Just as cutting funding to schools that don't perform well seems like a backwards method of achieving success, making it more difficult for teachers to teach in their areas of expertise does not seem beneficial to teachers or to the students they serve.
The No Child Left Behind Act was full of promise and good intentions. Much of this promise was built on relatively empty rhetoric, however, and if the intentions of this Act were as good as they were stated they have unquestionably failed. There are numerous reasons to repeal this legislation and institute a better form of educational standards and incentives, and it is hoped this will be accomplished once the economic and political situations have regained some semblance of normalcy.
Benson, S. (2010). "The effects of the implementation of the No Child Left Behind Act on the gap between African-American and White students in Georgia middle schools." [Dissertation, Liberty University]. Accessed 15 November 2010. http://digitalcommons.liberty.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1380&context=doctoral
Bernstein, B. (2010). "The Effects of NCLB on High-Achieving Students: A Cross-State Analysis." Accessed 15 November 2010. http://www.colgate.edu/portaldata/imagegallerywww/21c0d002-4098-4995-941f-9ae8013632ee/ImageGallery/Bernstein%202010.pdf
CADOE. (2010). "NCLB FAQ for Special Education Teachers." California Dept. Of Education. Accessed 15 November 2010. http://www.cde.ca.gov/nclb/sr/tq/nclbspecedfaq.asp
IU. (2006). "Report: No Child Left Behind is out of step with special education." Indiana university. Accessed 15 November 2010. http://newsinfo.iu.edu/news/page/normal/4379.html
Jorgensen, M. & Hoffman, J. (2003). "History of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001." Pearson. Accessed 15 November 2010. http://www.pearsonassessments.com/NR/rdonlyres/D8E33AAE-BED1-4743-98A1-BDF4D49D7274/0/HistoryofNCLB_Rev2_Final.pdf
Reeves, C. (2003). "Implementing the No Child Left Behind Act: Implications for Rural Schools and Districts." North Central Regional Educational Laboratory. Accessed 15 November 2010. http://www.ncrel.org/policy/pubs/html/implicate/NCLB_PolicyBrief.pdf
Toppo, G. (2007). "How Bush Education Law has Changed Our Schools." USA Today. Accessed 15 November 2010. http://www.usatoday.com/news/education/2007-01-07-no-child_x.htm
USDOE. (2001). No Child Left Behind Act. U.S. Dept. Of Education. Accessed 15 November 2010. http://www2.ed.gov/policy/elsec/leg/esea02/index.html
USDOE. (2010). "A Guide to Education and No Child Left Behind." U.S. Dept of Education. Accessed 15 November 2010. http://www2.ed.gov/nclb/overview/intro/guide/guide_pg12.html