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Effectiveness of No Child Left Behind Debated

President Bush's No Child Left Behind education law, passed in 2002 to help close the gap between advantaged and disadvantaged students, is set to expire this year. Two education administrators discuss the law and give their views on its effectiveness.

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  • JIM LEHRER:

    Finally tonight, the impact of the No Child Left Behind law, as seen by two school officials. Ray Suarez begins with some background.

  • RAY SUAREZ:

    For millions of American schoolchildren, springtime not only brings more outdoor fun, it's also standardized test season. And now their schools' futures rest on how well they score.

    Student test results have been a source of debate since the No Child Left Behind act was passed with overwhelming bipartisan support. The landmark federal education bill was signed into law by President Bush five years ago.

  • TEACHER:

    Make sure you get your homework copied.

  • RAY SUAREZ:

    No Child Left Behind proposed the most dramatic changes to elementary and middle school education in 40 years. It was a big domestic legislative victory during George W. Bush's first year in the White House.

    GEORGE W. BUSH, President of the United States: The fundamental principle of this bill is that every child can learn, we expect every child to learn, and you must show us whether or not every child is learning.

  • RAY SUAREZ:

    The law is up for reauthorization this year. It's designed to improve student and teacher performance, in part by penalizing schools where scores on standardized tests do not improve rapidly enough.

    No Child Left Behind requires public schools to conduct annual tests of third- through eighth-grade students in reading and math and have every student proficient in those subjects by 2014.

    Schools that don't meet new standards right away get extra federal aid to improve their curriculums and train teachers. Schools that fail to improve over the long term have to pay for students' private tutoring and transportation to another public school. Low performing schools may be taken over and run by the state.

  • TEACHER:

    You may go to the computers. You may find pictures of "Alice in Wonderland."

  • RAY SUAREZ:

    Some superintendents, principals and teachers have praised the law; others have complained the unfunded federal requirements cost too much, that reforms have turned teachers into test coaches, and classroom creativity has been squelched.

    More than 20 states have sought to roll back all or some of the law, and President Bush faces a battle with Democrats and some members of his own party on Capitol Hill over its renewal this year.

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