No Child Left Behind

Published 16 Feb 2017

The legislation of Public Law 107-110 more popularly referred to as No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act of 2001 is an effort to recognize the significance of education as national and social issue. Ideologically, there is little doubt of the relevance of the value of instituting educational systems and standards that ensure access of education without discrimination. According to Kahlenberg (2003), social developments are challenging educational systems not only to ensure learning but also to ensure productivity and social participation. The provisions recognize the unique educational challenges presented by the need to improve educational standards for students, educators, levels of proficiency, creating social relevance, developing partnerships with parents and the community, recognizing cultural and ethnic heritage, revising laws, statutes and provisions and developing flexibility and accountability in education (US Department of Education, 2004)

However, there has been significance critic regarding the NCLB. In general, the core of the concern is about the failure of the NCLB program to effect the changes in education it has promised. Worse, there are criticisms that it has in fact has deterred access to quality education (Houston, 2007). An evaluation of the issue creates a realization that educational reform entails more than legislation but requires that they can be operational in actual settings (Pennington, 2007). The objective of this paper is not to deny the importance or urgency of the objectives of NCLB, however this research will provide evidence that it has not been able to deliver the reforms it envisioned and that there is a need to amend the act substantially if it is to be effective (Noll, 2005).

Issues and Concerns

NCLB is characterized as an outcome-based: by setting high targets, educational programs will be more effective (Allen et al, 2007). For the past twenty years, there has been an active effort to develop social institutions that recognize and respond to social, economic and political factors that affect learning strategies, educational programs and access to these programs (US Department of Education, 2004). Earlier, concerns were primarily socio-economic in nature and in recent years, culture and ethnicity have come to the forefront. The primary motivation behind the program is to ensure access to education and to allow schools to develop strategies to improve performance and feasibility of education programs (Johnson, 2001).


One of the primary issues raised against NCLB has been in failure of funding leaving programs not fully implemented, it at all. The federal government has been the most criticizes regarding the issue that has already had a history of not prioritizing education spending (Nelson & Jones, 2007). The dependency on federal funding for the NCLB programs developed from declining tax revenues and the institution of federal standards for students and educators. Furthermore, Pennington (2007) points out that the though the act was an administration sponsored legislation, the President nor the Senate have actually requested the funds as provided (Cooper, 2007). The reality is that local governments do not have the capacity to support the NCLB which in turn has created the requirements for education reform but not the means to meet them (Noll, 2005).

On a psychological level, the lack funding enforces the idea that the reforms to for implementation are not considered urgent contrary to the original premise of the legislation. There is also fear that the provisions of NCLB are prompting a spiraling deterioration in educational institutions. Consider this scenario” according to the provisions of the NCLB, schools that have performed well according to its standards are afforded better funding as incentive. However, failure to meet standards of performance do not provide for support programs and thus, schools who are already facing significant stress may further be disadvantaged (Chubb, 2007).

Social Conflicts

NCLB has also been criticized to violate the state, privacy and social equity. Education has traditionally been state-managed but since NCLB is federal legislation, states have to comply with the provisions whether it is applicable to them or not and whether they have the means to implement it. The states recognize the ideological value of the NCLB but point out that states should be reserved the right to choose what provisions are to be implemented (Noll, 2005). This is not just to support the power of the state over education legislation but also to uphold the constitution that provides no foundation for federal legislation on the issue. Another issue is the provision of the NCLB recognizing religious groups as educators, making the eligible for public funding. Though the provision can be considered as an effort to recognize these groups, it also raises the question of the separation of church and state (Lewis, 2007).

An issue raised regarding privacy has stemmed from the provisions in section 9528 that requires that military recruitment programs be considered as institutions of higher education. This provides them access to the personal information of all students without the need to inform parents except if they have directly opted out from it. Questions regarding the method of dividing resources are also a concern (Gingrich, 2006). The NCLB’s punitive measures for schools that fail to meet its requirements and if they are able to meet the standards, the incentive is to have performance expectations set lower. In the first scenario, it is viewed that schools with problems will be left with even less competency to meet requirements while in the latter scenario, lowering of expectations encourages slacking off from standards or not having sustainable programs (Lang & Wilkinson, 2000).

Standardization of Education

Another major issue is with regard to implementation of standardized programs and education assessments. The critique is that it leaves no flexibility in terms of recognizing social conditions, culture or ethnicity among others in education (Chubb, 2007). At the same time, there are fears that focus on the standardized tests will not allow for collaborative classroom experience (American Association of School Administrators, 1991). Advocates of the program, reason that NCLB is able to accomplish this by setting non-discriminatory standards in assessment. However, the critiques are that the program does not consider the setting of issues or the availability of the programs in the state. The issue raised in particular with native language assessment that requires a proficiency exam before taking and English proficiency exam (Vance, 2004). Currently, not more than ten sates have the programs in place and the majority of these programs limited to Spanish proficiency testing.

The NCLB’s focus on math and reading as standards of performance also raise concerns regarding the limitation it sets on students’ overall curricula. At the same time, since the NCLB provides that states are able to design their own standards of testing then this may motivate states to insufficiently test students because of the punitive measures and impact of funding (Lang & Wilkinson, 2000). Another social issue related to standardize testing that persists is the perceived cultural bias. It has been established that standardized test by nature can not accommodate fully for cultural idiosyncrasies, learning disabilities and other conditions that preclude students from the majority of students (Vance, 2004).


The issue of education is one that will always encourage significant debate because of social significance and impact (Pennington, 2007). There is no doubt that the NCLB is an effort to create better access to education and to create programs that are sensitive and responsive to the developing needs of society. There is also no doubt that many of its provisions have proven to be problematic when applied. Beyond the administrative, social and operational concerns of the program, there should be recognition that the program creates a platform for abuse, corruption and ironically, the deterioration of educational standards (Noll, 2005). Therefore, this paper concludes that the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 has not been bale to raise the quality of education comprehensively and neither will the current provisions be able to do so (Cooper, 2007).

Thus, many of its initial proponents, like Ted Kennedy now, ironically, opposing further implementation (Lewis, 2007). There is recognition that the abandonment of the support to the program may also have its political motivations but the lack of significant impact seems to support the idea that the program has not been able to live up to its promise (Butzin, 2007). Failures in implementation and operation have created political divergence concerning not only NCLB but also the federal education program in general (Gingrich, 2006). There should be a realization that reforms have to be operationally viable and effective. In conclusion, the failure of the Act is not because the concerns are not valid but it has failed because of the lack of administrative and operational foresight in implementing the programs that has rendered the programs futile if not a deterrent to its own objectives.


  • Allen, JoBeth, Altwerger, Bess, Edelsky, Carole, Larson, Joanne et al. (2007). Taking a Stand on NCLB. Language Arts, 84(5), 456-464. Retrieved August 8, 2007, from Research Library database, Document ID: 1272627141
  • American Association of School Administrators (1991). Learning Styles: Putting Research and Common Sense into Practice. Arlington, VA: American Association of School Administrators
  • Butzin, Sarah M. (2007). NCLB: Fix It, Don`t Nix It. Phi Delta Kappan, 88(10), 768-769. Retrieved August 8, 2007, from Research Library database, Document ID: 1287129691
  • Chubb, John E. (2007). Confluence Is a Cure: A Reply to `Edison Is the Symptom, NCLB Is the Disease`. Phi Delta Kappan, 88(6), 444-450. Retrieved August 8, 2007, from Research Library database, Document ID: 1227801271
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