With overwhelming bipartisan support, the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 was signed into law by President Bush on Jan. 8, 2002. The bill outlined President Bush's public education reform agenda, proposing the most dramatic changes to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act since its enactment in 1965.
law affects schools receiving Title I funding -- supplemental
funds granted to school districts with high concentrations of
students at the poverty level and most at-risk for low academic
achievement. Determined by the proportion of students enrolled
from low-income families, over 90 percent of all elementary and
secondary schools around the country currently receive Title I
NCLB's strategy is to provide "greater decision-making authority and flexibility to schools and teachers in exchange for greater responsibility for student performance" in order to fulfill the law's main goals.
These goals include:
- Close the achievement gap between advantaged and disadvantaged students
- Reading proficiency for all students by the end of grade 3 by 2013-4 school year
- Math and reading proficiency for all students within 12 years (2013-4 school year)
- A highly qualified teacher for every core academic subject
To achieve these goals, the law is based on four main principles:
1. Stronger Accountability for Results: States are required to develop and implement their own academic achievement standards and benchmarks of proficiency and will be held accountable to them by the federal government.
2. More Choices for Parents and Students: Parents will be given the option of transferring their student out of a low-achieving or unsafe school.
3. Greater Flexibility for States, School Districts, and Schools: States can transfer federal dollars between different grant programs in order to improve school progress.
4. Proven Education Methods: Education programs must be based on scientifically based research that proves their effectiveness. NCLB outlines standards for scientifically based research.
The law asks each state to define "proficiency" by establishing its own tests and state standards. The law also grants the federal government an increased role in public education by establishing a national deadline to reach proficiency and consequences for missing federally mandated education goals. For instance, states that fail to develop and implement state standards and a road map for achieving proficiency might risk losing federal funding.
Under NCLB, states must implement their standards of academic proficiency and measure student achievement against these standards through testing. States must also set annual achievement goals called Adequate Yearly Progress, or AYP. Defined as a percentage of students achieving proficiency level on annual testing, AYP must be raised each year to reach an overall goal of 100 percent student proficiency by the end of the 2013-4 school year.
Each state will have its own definition of academic proficiency and its own AYP benchmarks and will be held accountable by the federal government for the goals it has set.
Key Provisions of NCLB
1. All schools must test students in grades 3-8 in reading and math by the 2005-6 school year and test students in grades 10-12 at least once in reading and math.
2. All schools must test students in grades 3-8, 6-9, 10-12 in science at least once by the 2007-8 school year.
3. All schools must test 95 percent of its students in each grade and in each subgroup -- poverty level, race, ethnicity, disability and limited English proficiency -- before assessing whether or not they meet their AYP.
4. Students in all subgroups must meet the AYP in order for a school and district to reach its AYP.
5. School districts and states must release district and state report cards tracking student achievement broken down by each subgroup.
6. District and state report cards must be made public for parents and taxpayers.
7. A school's teaching programs must be scientifically tested and determined to be effective, based on standards outlined by NCLB.
8. NCLB establishes Reading First and Early Reading First programs, competitive state grant programs to promote scientifically based reading instruction for kindergarten through third grades and 3-5 year olds, respectively.
9. All teachers in core academic subjects must be "highly qualified" by the 2005-6 school year. In general, the federal standards for being highly qualified mean teachers must hold at least a bachelor's degree and demonstrate proficiency in the subject(s) they teach by majoring in the subject, passing a subject test, or meeting a State High Objective Uniform State Standard of Evaluation.
10. States must implement a plan to reach the goal of having all teachers highly qualified by the 2005-6 school year and must report their progress. All teachers hired from the 2002-3 school year onward must be highly qualified.
11. Parents can request information on the qualifications of their child's teacher and must be informed if their child is taught by a teacher that is not highly qualified for more than four consecutive weeks.
12. NCLB authorizes alternative methods of teacher certification and rewards higher salaries and bonuses for teachers in high-need subjects, such as math and science.
13. The law also increases federal funding for teacher training programs, such as the Troops to Teachers program that encourages military veterans to become teachers, the Transition to Teaching program that encourages experienced professionals to become teachers, and Teach for America which recruits recent college graduates to teach in disadvantaged schools.
14. Miscellaneous provisions include the constitutional protection of school prayer, equal access to facilities for Boy Scouts, access to high school directory information for military recruiters, andthe banning of smoking in all school indoor facilities.
Consequences for Failing to Meet AYP
If a Title I school fails to meet AYP:
For two consecutive years, the school must implement a two-year improvement plan, including teacher development and utilizing scientifically based education resources. Students must be given the option to transfer to a higher performing or charter school with Title I funds covering transportation costs. The school is also designated as "in need of improvement."
For three consecutive years, the school must continue to offer school transfers to students to better performing schools and implement improvements, such as teacher professional development. Students are also eligible to receive federally subsidized supplemental educational services, such as tutoring.
For four consecutive years, the school must take at least one serious corrective action, such as staff replacement, school restructuring, a new curriculum, the appointment of a consultant, extension of the school day/year. The measures come in addition to continuing to offer school choice and supplemental tutoring.
For five consecutive years, the school must completely restructure itself by replacing staff and school management, or turn control over to the state.
Students will also be allowed to transfer schools if a school is termed "unsafe" by the state or district.