No Child Left Behind (NCLB) was created to help American children improve their educational standing in the world. The law certainly has its moments of controversy, especially since many of the standards are based on generalized assessments instead of individualized student needs. With more than a decade of implementation in place, here are some of the key NCLB Act pros and cons that can be considered today.
What Are the Pros of the NCLB Act?
1. It is an easy way to determine if a curriculum is helping students to learn.
Declines in general standards indicate that there is a curriculum inadequacy somewhere in the US educational system. Having tests designed to specifically measure what data is being absorbed by students can help educators create better learning solutions that can stay with students instead of information being forgotten as time passes.
2. Minority test scores have improved since its implementation.
It has been a slow and steady growth, but the NCLB Act has helped to raise test scores in many population demographics. The most dramatic gains have been seen in schools that have a primarily minority student population. Part of the reason for this may be because of the free supplemental education opportunities that are provided to at-risk students.
3. It allows parents to have more choices in the schools that their children attend.
One of the overlooked components of the NCLB Act was that it took out some of the district requirements that were in place before. Instead of having just one assigned public school that was based on a student’s address, parents have been allowed to make choices that don’t include the costs of a private education. It also means qualified teachers tend to receive the top priority for classrooms, a change from a generation ago when teachers could teach just about any subject in some districts.
4. The educational gap has decreased.
For a number of years, Caucasian students in the United States had a superior educational level in many standardized subjects when compared to minorities. Called the “Educational Gap,” this difference in achievement has been narrowing since the implementation of the NCLB Act. This gives hope to many students that they’ll be able to pursue their own path toward happiness as they enter the working world.
What Are the Cons of the NCLB Act?
1. It is expensive.
An interesting fact of the NCLB Act is that the US government often failed to fully fund the requirements that they themselves passed. This made it difficult for school districts to implement the mandated changes and they were held accountable if they did not, yet there was no accountability from the government. The brunt of this burden was typically placed on property tax levies, disrupting local economies by reducing discretionary spending.
2. All standards are equal.
No matter what learning difficulties a student may have, they are held to the same standards of learning in the NCLB Act. Unless there is a diagnosed learning or developmental disability that is documented within their file, there are no exceptions to the learning standards that students are forced to follow. This means students who may learn better in different methods or environments are expected to conform to current standards instead of the standards conforming to their needs.
3. Test scores can be raised simply by “teaching to the test.”
Many teachers have simply started teaching students the materials that are expected to be on the standardized tests. Instead of creating individual learning opportunities, what is basically being taught in many American classrooms is an ability to take a standardized test. Since merit pay for teachers has also been included as part of this process for many schools, this just enhances that outcome.
4. Other subjects are neglected or ignored.
Because the points of emphasis in the NCLB Act have been reading, mathematics, and science, this has caused school districts to dedicate most or all of their resources to these subjects. This means the creative subjects like art and music, or important cultural subjects like social studies, get ignored so the NCLB standards can be met.
The NCLB Act pros and cons have shown some key gains, but there have been some key losses as well. These key points show that a better balance in education could provide even better educational results. Including creative subjects with the mandatory needs could help students retain more of the information they are learning. If funding can become consistent for schools and teachers be fairly paid, then the goals of the NCLB Act may be able to be achieved.
Crystal Lombardo is a contributing editor for Vision Launch. Crystal is a seasoned writer and researcher with over 10 years of experience. She has been an editor of three popular blogs that each have had over 500,000 monthly readers.