The Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, Research Paper Example
Words: 3285Research Paper
In the reshaping of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA), the No Child Left Behind Act was designed to hold states and schools accountable for the student’s academic achievements, while they are supplied with funds by the government based on results. (Perie, Scott, Brian, 2007) The legislation was created to raise test scores, focusing on math and reading, and provide flexibility for parents in choosing their child’s primary school. However, since former President Bush signed the act in 2001, there has been minimal progress in testing scores. According to educational statistics, many students are still struggling with their grades, as more attention has been placed on meeting the testing standards than improving the quality of teaching. (Schul, 2011) Anderson, Butcher, and Schanzenbach (2011), for example, state that “schools may cut back on recess and physical education in favor of increasing time on tested subjects”. The law has failed in many aspects of education, including helping higher achieving students, minority students, students that are from low-income neighborhoods, and have special education needs. The below concept paper will review the related literature, statistical data, and theories in order to determine which conditions have negatively impacted the effectiveness of NCLB.
The purpose of this concept paper is to look at how No Child Left Behind Act is having the opposite effect on the intention of its purpose. Prior to the act, many of the schools across the country were struggling with test scores, students failed to achieve their target reading level, dropout rates were high, and schools failed providing resources to students. Schools did not have curriculum designed for preparing students for higher education, or the real world. In addition, the achievement gap between minorities, (Blank, 2011) specifically African American students, and Caucasian students graduating, or reaching the same grade levels, was constantly increasing. (Braun, Chapman, Vezzu, 2010) With the implementation of the act, in some cases, statistics have shown that test scores have improved in some schools, but the achievement gap between socio-economic and ethnic groups is still large. The greatest problem in the focus of this paper is that the concept of NCLB is ineffective in improving learning outcome equalities and the quality of teaching, as it focuses mainly on test scores only. NCLB overlooks and undermines higher achieving students, forcing students to stoop low for a leveled playing field, instead of being motivated by educators to reach higher. For this purpose, this paper will be supported by educational theories, as well as numerous research from studies focusing on the NCLB impact on special education, physical education, and the achievement gap between minorities and Caucasians.
The topic chosen to be discussed will be the No Child Left Behind Act, while it has shown improvement in some areas that hold the schools and the states accountable for their students’ achievements, it borders on the issues of focusing too closely on test scores, instead of actual education. (Gardiner, Canfield-Davis, Anderson, 2008) Many contend that with restricted assets States will center their endeavors on raising the scores of the lower achieving students, as opposed to raising the scores of all students. The most recent NCLB results, demonstrate all subgroups with generally equivalent increases, appear to discredit this thought. Whether in light of the fact that it is politically unpalatable to reallocate assets towards minority students, on the grounds that it is essentially hard to refocus assets. (Kaniuka, 2009) In addition, many contend it is impractical to reallocate sources to just minority students, or because there is still vulnerability over how to impact intense change in the scores of minority youth altogether. (Whitney, 2014) The scores of Latinos, African Americans, and Caucasians appear to be climbing at generally the same rate.
Goals and Research Questions
The goal of the paper is to look at several different resources, as well as the education theory of the achievement gap that has increased under the NCLB. However, the main goal is to evaluate if NCLB is a policy driven by accessibility or accountability, as proposed by Aske, Connolly, and Corman (2013). Their study, that provides support for this paper looks to the educational accountability that NCLB is intended to have for schools and states. It provides the purpose that access to public education for children, should be the primary driving factor. However, because NCLB forces schools to shift their priorities from accessibility to a well-rounded education, and to obtaining high test scores, many of the schools are considered failing in all other subgroups (health, physical education, special education, and college readiness). (Anderson, Butcher, Schanzenbach, 2011) The questions that are needing to be answered are Does the No Child Left Behind Act allow students to get a well-rounded education or does an emphasis on testing distract from this? In addition, the goal of this paper is to examine, the achievement gap, as well as the lack of accountability in improving inner-city schools where funding and resources are at the lowest. Does the No Child Left Behind Act improve inner-city schools in a manner that makes them as effective as those in a suburban or rural setting?
Methodology and Additional Research
The methodology that will be used in this paper is a mix methods approach in which will look at quantitative and qualitative data provided by the NCLB, as well as the other resources to support the main purpose of the paper, and to answer the research questions etched out in this concept paper. More research needs to be conducted on allowing states to create their own proficiency standards, so that there can be an accurate measurement for progress and achievement with each school in the state. (Chakrabarti, 2014) As well as more flexibility given to incorporate other subgroups that have been left out including, the health and physical education of students, providing standards for public education, and placing more focus on closing the achievement gap. As well as research surrounding teacher’s effectiveness and qualifications on teaching students. Additional focus on research for NCLB falls around helping students navigate away from just attention on tests scores, to providing a well-rounded education for all students.
Several authors have covered the No Child Left Behind Act and analyzed it from the theoretical and practical perspective. The below literature review will cover four different aspects of the Act: legislation, theories related to education, and practical/ implementation. The main focus of the below review will be how the Act addresses equality, social justice, and human rights issues, and what the main shortcomings of the policy in practice are.
Leeper & Tonneson (2008) reviewed the theoretical background of NCLB. Examining the government initiative from the viewpoint of two theorists: Levine and Gardner, the main finding of the theoretical review is that children learn in different ways, and schools should implement flexible teaching and motivation methods. The theories developed by a trained pediatrician, Levine, and Gardner, a Harvard educated researchers highlight some of the most important issues with NCLB in practice. First of all, both authors agree that children learn in different ways. Levine, according to Leeper & Tonneson (2008) defined eight different learning systems within humans: “attention control system, memory system, language system, spatial ordering system, sequential ordering system, motor system, higher thinking system, and social thinking system” (Leeper & Tonneson, 2008, p. 21). For each individual, the development pattern of the above areas is different, therefore, the “one size fits all” approach of NCLB is simply ineffective. Gardner, on the other hand, redefined intelligence as “a psychological potential to process information” (Gardner, 2004, p. 3). He, just like Levine assumed that intelligence had different facets: “logical-mathematical, linguistic, interpersonal, intrapersonal, musical, spatial, and bodily-kinesthetic” (Leeper & Tonneson, 2008, p. 22).
Foley & Voithofer (2003) used the Poststructural premises of power and discourse as a theoretical approach to analyze the No Child Left Behind program. The main focus of the authors’ study was to examine the pre-defined roles of parents, educators, children, and teachers, as well as their relationships pre-conditioned by NCLB. According to the approach, the policy and recommendations, setting clear objectives and defining responsibilities of different parties. The authors (Foley & Voithofer (2003) found that there are several issues that make the policy that is aiming to create equal opportunities lacking fairness. As an example, the authors state that “NCLB offers parents the opportunity to move their children out of low performing schools, the implication of such choice is that students must leave their local communities. This is a problem because education cannot be decontextualized from the environment in which it occurs” (Foley & Voithofer, 2003, p. 12). This is an important remark, as if parents are able to leave schools that are under-performing, those who can afford traveling and investing into a new school will move, leaving behind the most disadvantaged school population. Instead of supporting low income and low socio-economic status communities, NCLB neglects them, by not providing them with culturally and socially relevant teaching and context.
Referring to the text of the NCLB Act, the authors further state that the responsibilities of teachers prevent them from using the flexibility offered by the program: “It is difficult to see how adhering to state standards and assessments through standardized testing offers teachers greater flexibility” (Foley & Voithofer, 2003, p. 13).
Lynch & Baker (2005) reviewed education strategies from the equality of condition perspective. The authors state that there are five main dimensions of the equality of condition within education: “resources, respect and recognition, love, care and solidarity, power, and working and learning” (Lynch & Baker, 2005, p. 133). While the NCLB Act addresses working and learning, as well as power, it is not successful in providing respect and recognition, love, care and solidarity for pupils and parents, according to some authors (Foley & Voithofer, 2003).
Examining the above theories, it is important to review which dimensions of education the Act strengthens, and which ones it neglects. Based on the premise that children’s cognitive development differs from one individual to another, it seems that applying a standardized assessment to measure school performance is not the best approach.
NCLB and Social Justice
The major sources of inequality in education, defined by Lynch & Baker (2005) are extremely relevant to the current study’s topic, and it would be useful to examine their prevalence within the NCLB policies. These are defined as:
- educational institutions promoting social class inequality
- the ideology of “ability” or grouping children based on attainment
- bias within the education system towards linguistic capabilities
- selective admission systems
The research will further examine how the No Child Left Behind Act incorporates provisions and systems to prevent bias, selection based on equality and social class, and linguistic capabilities.
St John (2007) created a model for assessing the impact of education policies on social justice, based on Rawl’s theory (2001) that analyzes social justice in education on a moral basis. The three principles of finding balance among different competing interests in education are described as: basic rights of individuals, equal opportunity, and the use of taxation to develop and improve education. The author (St John, 2007), based on the systematic research created concludes that “The current education and public finance policies encourage large numbers of children to drop out, a troublesome outcome for both conservatives and new liberals” (St John, 2007). This is a concern that should be addressed through policies that focus on culturally and socially relevant teaching and schooling approaches.
Robicheau (2007) goes further than St John (2007) and claims that the No Child Left Behind Act simply lacks ethics. Quoting Houston’s (2007) list of “seven sins” of NCLB, the author states that there are some fundamental problems with the policy, namely: assuming that schools are broken, the conflation of education and testing, harming the poor, building policies on fear and punishment, lacking clarity in wording and guidelines, not involving experts, and making the American education system less competitive on the international level (Robicheau, 2007, p. 4).
The author further lists some of the main shortcomings of NCLB, as unequal requirements, lack of public engagement, neglecting over-achieving students, while assuming that one standard would be suitable for measuring academic attainment of all children from different socio-economic and minority backgrounds. Focusing on the “typical student”, with the typical learning approach and development disadvantages both groups well below or well above the cut-off line. Finally, there are claims that Robicheau (2007) quotes that “NCLB is creating a generation of test takers and not future educational leaders” (p. 6). The main problem, however, highlighted by the author is that the system is built on one measure (academic attainment), and does not have measures to assess fairness, social justice, and cultural relevance. This means that educators would need to focus on getting students to pass tests, instead of their special educational, emotional, or cultural differences. The author (Robicheau, 2007) claims that “to rely on the results of standardized tests, without regard to how students learn and not relying on authentic assessment, is to act unethical” (p. 8).
Overall, the above review of theoretical assessments and criticism of NCLB has revealed that the Act does not successfully address social justice, and fails to take into consideration cultural and social class differences, using a single measurement: test scores.
Sunderman et al. (2004) examined how the No Child Left Behind Act impacts day-to-day teaching in schools. Focusing on teachers’ perceptions about the effectiveness and feasibility of the Act, the main finding of the study carried out in Fresno, California is that while teachers believe in the NCLB Act’s values and principles, they lack support, and seek collaboration with experienced teachers as administrators, who understand the challenges of implementing changes in classrooms to improve both the quality of teaching and academic achievements. According to Sunderman et al. (2004, p. 6), “The No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) is largely built on assumptions about ways to change teachers’ behavior”. This statement indicates that policy implementation cannot be carried out without a close collaboration between policymakers and educators.
Reeves (2003) states that smaller, rural schools are likely to be disadvantaged by the No Child Left Behind program, as the reporting requirements of the Act are designed for larger educational facilities. The test scores can fluctuate from one year to another, and this would result in smaller schools being placed into the category: “in need for improvement”.
Sanctions built in the NCLB Act can create an atmosphere of fear, and negative attitudes of teachers towards the implementation of changes. Sunderman et al. (2004) states that one of the main problems with implementing the programs outlined by the No Child Left Behind Act for under-performing schools lies in the lack of support provided for leaders and educators (resources and teacher support systems). Further, regarding the accountability element of the Act, the authors (Sunderman et al. 2004) recommends that “standardized testing should be only one part of assessing school performance and this assessment should measure not only existing achievement levels but also the contribution a school makes to improving student achievement” (p. 44).
Dee & Jacob (2010) analyzed the impact of NCLB on teaching quality and approaches. Reviewing education statistics regarding student attainment, the authors conclude that “the effects of NCLB on student achievement have been at best limited to certain groups” (Dee & Jacob, 2010, p. 156).
Two common claims stand out in the above reviewed publication: the lack of real improvement and progress, and that the measurements and accountability policies are not suitable for assessing school performance.
Gaps Identified in Current Literature
Prior to the act, many of the schools across the country were struggling with test scores, students reading at their intended level, school dropout, and providing resources to students. Schools did not have curriculum designed around preparing students for higher education, or the real world. In addition, the achievement gap between minorities, specifically African American students (Donnor, Shockley, Kant 2010), and Caucasian students graduating, or reaching the same grade levels, was getting worse. Braun et al., believe that the state reforms efforts have not been enough to adequately reduce the achievement gaps between Black and White students, as test-based accountability is the only method used in justifying continuing with the policy. (Braun, Chapman, Vezzu, 2010) According to Blank, the goal of NCLB, “with the inception of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, a core purpose of federal education policy has been to improve public education provided in schools serving students from economically disadvantaged families.” (Blank, 2011) With the implementation of the act, in some cases statistics have shown that test scores have improved in some schools, but the gap is still big, as well as the academic performance is still low for students. The biggest problem that surrounds the purpose of this paper is that the concept of NCLB is by focusing on test scores it fixes the problems in the school. “Concerns have also been raised regarding unintended consequences such as the narrowing of the curriculum, teaching to the test and focusing attention on those students whose perceived score is near but below the proficiency standard.” (Braun, Chapman, Vezzu, 2010) However it overlooks and undermines higher achieving students, forcing students to stoop low for a leveled playing field with low achieving students to reach higher, negating the time and attention needed in helping to develop their minds.
The research focused on the main goals of the Act (closing the gap) is currently limited. Instead of examining averages, there is a need for embracing a new approach of research: the impact of the Act on different groups of children: minorities, low socio-economic status, under-achievers, and over-achievers. This way, the author of the current study could determine which groups benefited from NCLB, and whether or not the Act promotes social justice in education.
The above review has indicated that NCLB does not provide significant advantages for students, and it is not a vehicle for delivering social justice. It focuses on standardized test scores, instead of personal targets, therefore disadvantaging under-achieving and over-achieving students. Further, it does not allow educators to implement effective, innovative teaching methods that would improve learning experience for students, as it limits the tools and methods funded by the program. Overall, it is evident that there is a need for close collaboration among parents, policymakers, and schools in order to align the objectives of the programs with the interest of all parties.
Braun, H., Chapman, L., & Vezzu, S. (2010). The black-white achievement gap revisited. education Policy Analysis Archives, 18, 21.
Dee, T. S., Jacob, B. A., HOXBY, C. M., & LADD, H. F. (2010). The impact of No Child Left Behind on students, teachers, and schools [with Comments and Discussion]. Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, 149-207.
Donnor, J. K., & Shockley, K. G. (2010). Leaving Us behind: A Political Economic Interpretation of NCLB and the Miseducation of African American Males. Educational Foundations, 24, 43-54.
Foley, A., & Voithofer, R. (2003). Bridging the gap? Reading the no child left behind act against educational technology discourses. American Educational Research Association National Conference, Chicago, Illinois.
Gardner, H. (2004). A multiplicity of intelligences: In tribute to Professor Luigi Vignolo. Retrieved February 11, 2008, from http://www.howardgardner.com/Papers/docum ents.pdf
Leeper, L., & Tonneson, G. (2008). Truly No Child Left Behind: Implementing the Theories of Melvin Levine and Howard Gardner. Journal of Cross-Disciplinary Perspectives in Education, 1(1), 20-2.
Lynch, K., & Baker, J. (2005). Equality in education An equality of condition perspective. Theory and Research in Education, 3(2), 131-164.
Reeves, C. (2003). Implementing the No Child Left Behind act: Implications for rural schools and districts. Educational Policy Publications. Retrieved April, 2, 2004.
Robicheau, J. (2007, June). The Absence of Ethics in No Child Left Behind. InForum on Public Policy: A Journal of the Oxford Round Table. Forum on Public Policy.
St John, E. P. (2007). Finding social justice in education policy: Rethinking theory and approaches in policy research. New Directions for Institutional Research, 2007(133), 67-80.
Sunderman, G. L., Tracey, C. A., Kim, J., & Orfield, G. (2004). Listening to Teachers: Classroom Realities and No Child Left Behind. Civil Rights Project at Harvard University (The).
Time is precious
don’t waste it!