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No Child Left Behind
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No Child Left Behind, or NCLB, was an education scheme that became United States law during the George W. Bush administration. Just guess how well it was implemented. It was succeeded in 2015 with the Every Student Succeeds Act.
Implementation and effects of NCLB
NCLB requires that school districts focus maximum attention on developing basic reading and mathematics skills. In order to measure success, schools must administer several aptitude tests on a regular basis. Unfortunately, this has had two negative effects on schools: 1) Many teachers now "teach to the test" rather than teach using a broad base of information; and 2) many other subjects like music, art, science, social studies, health and physical education, and vocation education have suffered budget cuts as school districts scramble to fund basic skills education.
Another problem with NCLB is the stress it puts on teachers to perform at unreasonably high levels. This has led to a rapid increase of teacher turnover since NCLB was introduced. Among the more unrealistic expectations:
- Students are required to read in English at grade level by the end of the school year even if they began the year two or more grade levels behind. Unfortunately, many students live in non-English-speaking households and/or illiterate households. Many others come from households where reading is of little importance. Unless the student is labeled "learning disabled," the federal government allows no exemptions in these cases. Students must read at grade level to avoid failing, period.
- If a school meets all but one NCLB requirement, that school as a whole still fails.
- If a school fails its NCLB requirements, the federal government punishes the school by cutting its funding, causing drastic cuts in programs. Schools quickly find themselves in financial holes they cannot climb out of.
As of March 2006, twenty-seven percent of U.S. schools failed to meet minimum NCLB standards.
Apart from changing educational provisions, NCLB also extended the access of military recruiters to the schools' students: upon request, schools have to release name, phone number and home address of all students who haven't (or whose parents haven't) opted out of this until a certain deadline. Additionally, if a school allows postsecondary institutions or prospective employers to advertise themselves at the school grounds, military recruiters have to be given the same access. The schools face the loss of funding if they do not comply with these rules.
Theories about why NCLB was introduced
- See also: conspiracy theory
- NCLB makes public schools look worse than they actually are. This lends false credibility to the argument that all schools should be privatized.
- NCLB readies public school children for a lifetime as a cog in the corporate machine. It does so by requiring that certain fields of study be defunded in favor of basic skills curriculum. By defunding arts, music, literature and science education, NCLB discourages the teaching of creativity. NCLB also reduces the ability to teach social sciences, which would expose students to the true structure and nature of American society. As a result, NCLB leaves most students with few skills beyond sitting in a cubicle all day to do the bidding of mid-level management.
- NCLB is a long-range strategy for the liquidation of public education: impose unreachable norms, punish those who cannot reach those norms by reducing sustenance required for function, rinse and repeat until target is dead.
However, the reader should be careful to appreciate the distinction between purpose and function: the fact that a policy, in practical application, functions in a particular way provides no evidence that that function was the intended purpose of the policy rather than the result of unintended consequences or perverse incentives.
- California Teachers Association calls for revision of NCLB
- It's Time for a Change! NEA Offers Plan to Improve NCLB
- The News Hour With Jim Lehrer (PBS) three-part series on NCLB (14–16 August 2007):
- Schools Cut Back Subjects to Push Reading and Math: New York Times, 26 March 2006 
- Where you fall in poll of U.S. reading habits: CNN, 21 August 2007 
- Bush's 'No Child' Goals Not Met by Quarter of Schools (Update 2): Bloomberg.com, 28 March 2006 
- The ACLU on No Child Left Behind
- The Federal Government's Q&A about the new rights for military recruiters