No Child Left Behind Act Review


The No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act of 2001 has been the subject of a lot of controversy during its short existence. In spite of its great intentions that every child of school going age in the United States have to be proficient in reading proficiency and math, many issues still remain unresolved. The major criticism is the lack of a uniform grading standard for the country as a whole. Each state can have its own policies and grading standard which results in qualitative difference among students within the states. Some states have been accused of grading standards that are quite low in order to create an impression that the school performance of children is very good. The focus on math and reading proficiency with relatively low importance of other areas of study like history and science is also an area of criticism. This paper is a study on the ineffectiveness of the NCLB Act with reference to the above mentioned issues. It is seen that the NCLB does not improve the quality of education in the United States of America due to lack of national performance assessment measures and neglect of some discipline


Ever since the implementation of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) of 2001 was enacted in favor of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, it has been dogged by controversies. A lot of issues have come up and very few of them are positive. The NCLB has been so much in the minds of all those related to children’s education (parents, teachers, students, state and central authorities) that it even became a point of discussion in the recently concluded Presidential Election campaign. There are many among the categories mentioned above who hope that substantial changes may be brought about by the new administration.

Thesis claim

The No Child Left Behind act does not improve the quality of education in the United States of America due to lack of national performance assessment measures and neglect of some disciplines.

Reasons and evidence

Lack of national performance assessment measures: One of the main criticisms against the education policy is the lack of uniformity of policies, testing and performance assessment measures among different states in the country. There are many who raise questions that certain states have made tests easier in some subjects so as to provide a wrong impression of the quality of the students who appear for examinations in that state. “Many states have dumbed tests down to increase proficiency rates, and created disparities that insure at least two-thirds of American children attend schools with low expectations.” (State tests dumbed down to create a false impression of NLCB success, 2007). The Thomas B. Fordham Institute and the Northwest Evaluation Association had compiled data from 26 schools across the country and refers to the practice as proficiency illusion. The study was with regard to two topics namely reading proficiency and math. A few graphs are provided to show the difference in standards that can be seen across different states. This is a problem of the lack of a uniform proficiently testing scale.

Grade 3 reading proficiency standards
Grade 3 reading proficiency standards, 2007

It can be seen that Colorado, has the lowest proficiency which is below ten with Wisconsin, New Jersey and Michigan only slightly ahead which hovers around fifteen. On the other extreme, California and Massachusetts has a score of approximately fifty five and sixty one respectively. This disparity using the NWEA scale is high for math proficiency also for third graders. Here, the same states mentioned above lie at the bottom of the scale with only their order changed. Colorado and Michigan has percentages below ten in this case while New Jersey scores approximately twelve. With regard to the better performing states here again California and Massachusetts come out on top with scores lying between fifty and sixty. Another example that is provided is the scores for eighth graders for the same topics mentioned above.

math reading proficiency standards
Grade 3 math reading proficiency standards, 2007

Here Colorado, Wisconsin, and Delaware are the poor performers while only South Carolina is way ahead with a score of more than seventy two. In the case of math score for eighth graders, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Colorado come at the bottom, while Washington and Montana are among the better performers.

There are two major issues here that arise due to the inconsistency in standards and grading. The first issue is that quality of students among various states varies widely which will make evaluation of a national average meaningless. The second issue is that students from these bottom performers who need only a lower grade for passing will find the subjects tough when they reach middle and high school levels.

Lack of focus on all disciplines

The NCLB aims to achieve a 100% level of literacy and educational quality by the year 2014. With regard to this aim, another area in which this study focuses is that the schools are only required to take disciplines like reading skills or proficiency math tending to ignore other areas like language and history which are also necessary for the all round development of the students at school level. “Only reading and math scores count towards the progress measure, science scores do not. As a result, many in the science community feel that their content is undermined as schools teach to the test, focusing class time and resources on math and reading.” (Boisseau, 2008). This feeling is also endorsed by teachers of other disciplines like arts subjects. A report from National Academy of Sciences in 2005 reveals that good knowledge in both math and science subjects are essential for national development especially with regard to its economic growth. In such a scenario, the focus on just two areas of education and the lack of a national policy on education will surely make the quality of students poorer when compared to other countries like Japan.

Other areas of concern

Since focus is that no child be left behind, there is overcrowding in schools in many areas across the country. Funding by the state for schools that are struggling financially is not available readily. There is a marked difference within the African American community and the white community with regard to children dropping out of school or not attending college. The level is very low with regard to the former with members preferring to take up vocational education or stopping studies altogether. With focus on math and reading proficiency schools are finding it difficult to find the required number of competent teachers.

Opinion Paragraph

No Child Left Behind (NCLB) act was drafted with the hope to boost the academic performance of students and ensure that all students are given equal access to education they deserve. Nevertheless, the research suggests the consequences of the act are rather opposite. NCLB fosters the widening of the performance gap and deprives minority children of opportunity get quality education. Moreover, lack of the national performance assessment standards allows freedom of setting state-level requirements which may differ significantly across the country. Finally, emphasis on specific subjects narrows the academic development of children to a limited number of disciplines which is not good for the academic growth of a child. NCLB does not fulfill its objectives and cannot be used a guide to decide on the funding for schools.


Boisseau, Rob. (2008). Science and Math education challenges face next president, congress. American Institute of Physics. Web.

Grade 3 reading proficiency standards. (2007). Education Portal.

Grade 3 math reading proficiency standards. (2007). Education Portal.

State tests dumbed down to create a false impression of NLCB success. (2007). Education Portal. Web.

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