For Bush, the "formation and refining of policy proposals" (Kingdon's second process stream in policymaking) came to fruition when he got elected, and began talking to legislators about making educators and schools accountable. Bush gave a little, and pushed a little, and the Congress make its own changes and revisions, and the policy began to take shape. The third part of Kingdon's process stream for Bush (politics) was getting the necessary votes; Bush had his handlers buttonhole certain conservative politicians, and united them with Democrats, to get enough votes to pass the NCLB.
Meantime, it was truly "organized anarchy" as the debate in the House and Senate lasted seven weeks, and some members of Congress rejected the idea of having the NAEP double check state statistics that show whether test scores have gone up or not. Civil rights groups attacked the bill, saying it would be unfair to minorities.
There was a lot of give and take, and much debate, according to the journal Education Next, published by the Hoover Institute (www.hoover.org),a conservative think-tank organization. "The Bush Administration's shrewd brand of alliance politics enabled it to..." put together a coalition of conservative Republicans, New Democrats, and the Democratic regulars, according to Andrew Rudalevige, author of the article in Education Next. The compromises reached by Democrats and Republicans - both parties wanted the public to see that they were trying hard to improve education, so this fact helped move the legislation along through the system - ended up being acceptable to the majority. In fact, the House of Representatives passed the bill 384-45, and the Senate passed the bill 91-8.
Question FIVE: What constraints did policymakers face? As mentioned in the above answer to question FOUR, there was a need for compromises because not all Republicans could go along with spending billions of dollars on education when it was clear that many schools were failing or at least not living up to standards. And not all Democrats wanted to hold schools and teachers accountable in the way the bill demanded; that is, if you don't increase test scores by a certain percentage during a certain time, federal money would be cut off. And many governors and mayors from states and cities with large numbers of urban poor, and with schools that were badly run down and had outdated equipment and textbooks, were worried that their schools could not meet the new strict requirements; they lobbied their Congressional legislators and senators to cut part of the legislation out. Policymakers, in short, faced a difficult task because while no one was against fixing education and making schools more effective, how to do that was not a simple issue to resolve.
Question SIX: What was the outcome of the policy process, and what did it mandate?
Back in 2002, when it was signed into law NCLB was called the most significant educational legislation in many years. Indeed, NCLB brought together, with much fanfare, educational leaders and key people in both political parties, seemingly united in a reachable goal to promote success in learning for all students. Under the law's most "visible stipulation," an article in Time magazine reports (Wallis, et al. 2007), states must test public school students "in reading and math every year from third through eighth grade," plus high schools must test their students in reading and math every year. Those test results for blacks, Hispanics, English-language learners and learning-disabled students, must be published and made available to the public, which is a bit embarrassing for schools that don't live up to the accountability standards.
Question SEVEN: Did the policy attain the intended goals and/or address the issue that motivated the process in the first place? Unfortunately (NCLB) has not been the panacea that it was touted to be in 2002. In fact, there are serious problems in many aspects of the legislation and how it affects students, teachers, and communities. This paper takes the position that there is need for a change in NCLB strategies; and to make those points several reviews of reliable publications will be reviewed and analyzed.
Meanwhile, the American Federation of Teachers asserts, "flaws in the law are undercutting its original promise" (www.aft.org),and federal guidance for states, "Has been unclear, untimely and unhelpful." Moreover, the AFT statement on their Web site indicates serious concerns about the "pervasive problem" of under funding; the cornerstone for NCLB is Title 1, and the authorization for Title 1 in 2006 was scheduled to be $22.75 billion (according to the legislation). But President George W. Bush only put $13.3 billion in his budget request. "This continues a pattern of underfunding for NCLB," AFT explains, adding that the $9 billion left out of Bush's request is "crucial" to more than 1,700 secondary schools.
Those 1,700 schools - along with 7,000 elementary schools - are "struggling the most to meet high standards" by lowering class size, hiring reading and math specialists, and improving technology equipment for teachers and students. As to one of the key components of the NCLB legislation, the "adequate yearly progress" (AYP), the teachers' organization says it is "a highly inaccurate and arbitrary yardstick for measuring progress." The testing of students with disabilities and English language learners - using AYP guidelines - "is neither valid nor reliable," AFT contends. Also, the "highly qualified" requirements for teachers "...are unworkable for some teachers and do not apply to all individuals..."
In addition, according to a study by the Civil Rights Project at Harvard University, the NCLB accountability rules - "adequate yearly progress" - fall "especially hard on urban schools while asking for much less progress from affluent suburban systems." And more than that, the Harvard study - published in the AFT publication American Teacher - claims, "the reality for too many public educators is confusion and frustration..."
Another group, the Center on Education Policy (CEP) - an independent, nonprofit educational advocacy and research group - has been closely monitoring NCLB for the past four years, and their report was published in October 2006. The CEP lists ten "big effects" of NCLB; the first concern ("effect") that many teachers (along with CEP) have raised is the fact that in order to meet NCLB standards, teachers are obligated to "teach to the test." In other words, instead of teaching students problem-solving and instilling creative, investigate strategies for their future, students are taught the materials that will appear on tests, to raise test scores and make it look like progress is being made.
The second "affect" that CEP has observed is that schools are spending far more time on math and reading, "sometimes at the expense of subjects not tested" (Jennings, et al., 2006). The discipline that is most affected / neglected due to the extra emphasis on math and reading is social studies; and CEP reports that "ninety-seven percent of high-poverty districts" have strict requirements for the amount of time spent on reading, but only 55% to 59% of districts reflecting middle income families has those requirements. This suggests an uneven approach, designed to make it appear that low income and minorities are making huge gains in learning, when in fact they are apparently just being drilled on subjects that will beef up test scores. It also echoes the issue brought up by the Harvard research, mentioned earlier in this paper.
The third "effect" involves the "adequate yearly progress" (AYP) part of NCLB; because of the requirement that schools show AYP, many schools realign curriculum and instruction simply to avoid being cut off from federal funding. The fourth effect is that schools known as "low-performing" are "undergoing makeovers rather than the most radical kinds of restructuring." Fifth on the list of effects, CEP mentions that although schools and teachers have made "considerable progress" in demonstrating that teachers do indeed meet the academic qualifications that NCLB puts forward, many educators are "skeptical" that this part of the law "will really improve the quality of teaching."
There is far too much testing being asked of students as a result of NCLB, the CEP mentions as its 6th effect; even more tests will be given students in 2007-08 (many in science), but of course testing, not necessarily learning, is how politicians in Washington justify the spending of billions on NCLB. Number seven is seen as a positive effect resulting from NCLB, according to CEP, as schools are paying "much more attention" to achievement gaps between ethnic minorities and mainstream Caucasians. The downside of number seven though is that the states testing for students with "cognitive impairments" is inappropriate and serves "no instructional purpose." In other words, some disable students are indeed being "left behind."
The eighth effect of NCLB is that about 20% of eligible students each year have used the "supplemental educational services" tutoring that is available to students of low-income families whose schools have not made…
Sources Used in Document:
American Federation of Teachers. "NCLB - Let's Get it Right." Retrieved 7 Dec. 2007 at http://www.aft.org/topics/nclb/index.htm.
American Teacher. "Harvard study cites NCLB implementation flaws." (April 2004) Retrieved Dec. 2007 through http://www.aft.org/pubs-reports/american_teacher/apr04/nclb.html.
Nation at Risk. "An Open Letter to the American People: The Imperative for Educational
Reform." April 1983. Department of Education. Retrieved 10 Dec. 2007 at http://www.ed.gov/pubs/natAtRisk/findings.html.