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No Child Left Behind (BSCS, 2008)

The No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) was passed in 2001 with a purpose of ensuring that all children in the United States receive a high-quality education. Because of NCLB, there are higher standards and accountability in classrooms across the country, and the responsibility for children’s learning has been placed in the hands of the teachers and schools. Parents receive information in the form of a report card on the schools in the district, so they can see which ones are succeeding and why. The report card includes information about whether the school made Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) based on student performance, with at least 95 percent of students participating in NCLB assessments, and continued school progress over time. For more information on AYP see Dillon and Rotherhman’s "States’ Evidence: What It Means to Make ‘Adequate Yearly Progress’ Under NCLB" External Web Site Policy (2007).

To obtain this information, NCLB relies on testing children each year in reading and math during grades 3 through 8, and at least once in high school. Science is not currently included as an area that counts toward a school’s AYP. The testing allows states to compare not only a particular student’s progress, but also to compare schools with one another and determine which schools need improvement.

If a school does not make AYP, it is given two years to make improvements. If there is not sufficient progress by the end of two years, the school is subject to corrective action. Examples of corrective actions include replacing the school staff relevant to the failure, extending the school day or year, decreasing the management authority in the school, or restructuring the internal organization of the school. If, after one additional year, adequate progress is not made, the school is subject to restructuring. This may include such actions as replacing all or most of the school staff, including the principal; reopening the school as a public charter school; or having the state take over the school. These possible actions underscore why many teachers feel their positions are at risk and are thus focused on ensuring that students are able to successfully complete the NCLB assessments. For more on assessments, see Rotherham’s "Making the Cut" External Web Site Policy(2006).

Because students and schools are being evaluated each year for progress in reading and math, teachers must be aware of the state goals at all times. This emphasizes the importance of meeting with teachers before you become involved in the classroom to ensure that your ideas fit into the time frame and curriculum available to teachers. A teacher may also help refine your plans so that they are as effective as possible.

It’s also important to be aware that the U.S. school has become increasingly diverse over the past several decades with respect to ethnicity and English language learners. A key feature of the NCLB legislation is that it seeks to ensure equity in education regardless of ethnicity, race, disability, or socioeconomic position. That is, all students must make AYP. Meeting this provision of the law has proven problematic for many school systems, so it may have a great impact on how your interactions with teachers and students are structured. For more on this topic, see "States’ Evidence: What It Means to Make 'Adequate Yearly Progress' Under NCLB" External Web Site Policy (Dillon, 2007).

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