No Child Left Behind Act and Higher Education Challenges — What Can Policy Makers Do about the Issue of the Achievement Gap?

NoChild Left Behind Act andHigher Education Challenges — What Can Policy Makers Do about theIssue of the Achievement Gap?

Summary

Thispaper explores the problems of NCLB act reforms, questioning whetherit meets the intended goals and hoping to suggest recommendations topolicymakers on how to address the issue. This review has beenmotivated by concerns that since the enactment of NCLB Act, educationsector continues to grapple with some issues that compromise thecompetitiveness of the education sector. The problems of theachievement gaps are noted as the outstanding challenges that shouldconcern players in education. It turns out that since the findings ofindependent researchers contradict those affiliated to the NCLB Actimplementation bodies, the problem could with the researchmethodologies employed in studying the issue. In essence, reformingthe education issue should begin by conducting research studies. Thestudies should be objective to resolve the tensions and thissituation calls upon the policymakers need to liaise with all theplayers, share ideas, and adopt a holistic approach to the problem.

Background

Oneof the notable points, as far as US education is concerned, is theacknowledgment of education as the key pillar of sustainabledevelopment. To be able to achieve the desired sustainabledevelopment, policymakers have embraced reforms to boost the capacityof the education sector to achieve its goals. This commitment isreflected in the signing of education laws. The No Child Left Behind(NCLB) Act is perhaps one of the remarkable laws the government hasadopted to improve education. The No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Actdescribes a series of laws that were passed by the Congress in 2001and signed into law by President George Bush in 2002, which wereaimed at steering reforms within the education systems, motivated bythe concerns that the prevailing environment within the educationsystem was not internationally competitive. The No Child Left Behind(NCLB) Act paved the way for increased involvement of the Federalgovernment to hold the schools responsible for student academicprogress. The No Child Left Behind lays emphasis on the schools andstates to be accountable for the performance of diverse groups ofstudents, including poor and minority children, English-languagelearners, and students with disabilities, whose average progress wasgenerally behind others. States did not have to comply with thelegislation necessarily, but they would be under the risk to lose thefederal Title I money if they did not (Center on Education Policy,2013).

Sinceits enactment, however, the education sector continues to grapplewith some issues that compromise the competitiveness of the educationsector. The problems of the achievement gaps are some of theseoutstanding challenges (Knaus, 2012). For policymakers, the questionsconcerning the causes of these problems lend themselves asproblematic issues that need to be resolved to achieve the overallgoals of education. This paper explores the nature of the issue withthe aim of suggesting recommendations to the policymakers toameliorate the situation.

TheKey Issues

Severalstudies have alluded to the concerns of the inability of practicereforms to exhibit significant, positive developments in reducing theachievement gap. A study by National Council of Churches Committee onPublic Education and Literacy (2013), for instance, sought to comparethe results of the national and state tests across students withdifferent demographic characteristics such as gender, disability, andnon-English speaking to establish whether the No Child Left Behind(NCLB) had any significant impact on reducing the achievement gaps.The study reports that, after an extensive score analysis of studentperformance data, NCLB had not resulted in any significantimprovement in the student performance, not even reducing the gaps inachievement.

Asimilar study by Geiger and Heller (2011) that utilized the FairTestapproach to analyzing NAEP results also showed that NCLB reforms didnot have a significant impact on the results yet. This study assessedthe NAEP results, both before and after the enactment of the NCLBAct. The study established that contrary to the state claims that theaverage scores in mathematics and English have not improved. Thestudy notes that the trend in English and math results will not reachthe desired NCLB proficiency target of 100 percent in anytime soonunless appropriate measures are taken. Besides, despite the NCLB keyfocus on eliminating the achievement gaps between the whites and theminorities, the achievement gap persists, and that it was notpossible to find evidence of gaps closing in. This study predictedthat within ten years, students from the poor and Black who will beable to achieve the NAEP proficiency reading target would only beless than 25 percent, while those who will gain the proficiency inmathematics will be less than 50 percent. In retrospect, the studynotes that the findings in the FairTest trial are not anysignificantly different from those obtained in 1999 before theenactment of NCLB. The reading scores have remained more or less thesame, and despite the nearly three decades of test-based graduationrequirements embraced by different states, the trend of NAEP scoresfor various grade levels have tended to decline or remain flat of thevarious demographic categories of learners. Moreover, the assessmentof the performance of students in the urban settings based on theNAEP scores showed the lack of significant gains in grade fourmathematics scores of the learners, resulting to the inference thatthe urban minority pupils have not significantly benefited from theschool reforms caused by the NCLB.

Astudy by Soares (2013) has also found results that are in tandem withthe findings of the reported studies, too. This study examined thescores of the 12 state tests and NAEP, highlighting the discrepanciesbetween them. The author proceeded to assert that some stateauthorities might be abusing statistics to favor the NCLB when, inthe real sense, it is not delivering the intended goals. The reportmakes a note of five points. First is that since the enactment of theNCLB, the achievement gaps in racial and socio-economic demographicshave not changed significantly, and is not likely to change unlessreforms are taken. Second is that NCLB attempts of narrowing to studythe performance of early adopters in test-driven accountability havenot succeeded, too. These early adopts have not also exhibited anysuccess, as far as the efforts of reducing the diversity gap areconcerned, and these successes have neither been shown by the secondgeneration of adopters. Third is that state testing, which is theaccountability tool that NCLB uses, is not informative, butmisleading because they report inflating proficiency levels and gainswhile deflating the achievement gaps between socio-economic andracial demographics.

Options

Basedon the discussion, it is relatively difficult to assert that the NCLBAct is delivering the intended education goal because the findings ofindependent researchers contradict those affiliated to NCLB Actimplementation bodies (Schulenburg &amp McPherson, 2014). However,there are two options concerning the impact if NCLB Act on educationpractices.

Thefirst option is that NCLB Act reforms might be delivering theintended goals such as increasing the proficiencies of learners inreading and mathematics, only that different research studies havenot well captured these. If this were true, this option would justifythe need for continued support of the NCLB education reforms byhelping different states to rise above the challenges and arrive atfull implementation NCLB-related reforms.

Thesecond option is that NCLB Act reforms might be flawed and limitingthe capacity of education to meet the desired goals and that thefindings of the highlighted studies are accurate in revealing theproficiency gap of learners in reading and mathematics acrossdifferent demographic groups. Under such a circumstance, it will alsobe possible to infer that the studies conducted by bodies affiliatedto NCLB Act implementation are misleading because they reportelevated proficiency levels and gains while deflating the achievementgaps between socio-economic and racial demographics. If this is thecase, then the policymakers will need to reconsider the NCLBpractices that are currently in place. In particular, players mightneed to consider adopting some few reforms about NCLB, or chose tooverhaul NCLB act.

Conclusionand Recommendations

Inconclusion, this paper has sought to explore the problems of NCLB actreforms, questioning whether it meets the intended goals, and suggestrecommendations for policymakers on how to address the issue. Thisreview has been motivated by concerns that since the enactment ofNCLB Act, education sector continues to grapple with some issues thatcompromise the competitiveness of the education sector. The problemof the achievement gap is noted as the outstanding challenge thatshould concern the players in education.

Thereview reveals that several studies have alluded to the concerns ofthe inability of practice to exhibit remarkable, positivedevelopments in reducing the achievement gap. Many studies havetended to compare the results of the national and state tests acrossstudents with different demographic characteristics such as gender,disability, and non-English speaking to establish whether the NoChild Left Behind (NCLB) has had any significant impact on reducingthe achievement gaps. These studies have generally arrived at theconclusion that the extensive score analysis of student performancedata concerning NCLB Act does not indicate any significantimprovement in the student performance, not even reducing the gaps inachievement.

Achoice of two options is presented in practice. First is that NCLBAct reforms might be delivering the intended goals such as increasingthe proficiencies of learners in reading and mathematics, only thatdifferent research studies have not well captured these. The secondoption is that NCLB Act reforms might be flawed and limiting thecapacity of education to meet the desired goals and that the findingsof the highlighted studies are accurate in revealing the proficiencygap of learners in reading and mathematics across differentdemographic groups.

Inretrospect, it turns out that since the findings of independentresearchers contradict those affiliated to NCLB Act implementationbodies, the problem might be researching methodologies employed instudying the issue so that it is relatively difficult to assert thatthe NCLB Act is delivering the intended education goal. As thediscussion stands, it is difficult to recommend any changes inpractice because the evidence for and against NCLB reforms cannot besubstantiated yet. Therefore, reforming the education issue shouldbegin by conducting research studies. The studies should be objectiveto resolve the tensions. To achieve this objective, the policymakersneed to liaise with all the players, share ideas, and adopt aholistic approach to the problem.

References

Centeron Education Policy (2013) Answeringthe Question That Matters Most: Has Student Achievement IncreasedSince No Child Left Behind?Washington: Center on Education Policy, June 2007).

Geiger,R. &amp Heller, D. (2011). Financial Trends in Higher Education: TheUnited States.Working Paper .No 6. Forthcoming, Peking University Education Review.Retrieved on 8thMarch, 2012 fromhttp://www.ed.psu.edu/educ/cshe/working-papers/WP%236

Knaus,C. (2012). StillSegregated Still Unequal: Analyzing the Impact of No Child LeftBehind on African American Students.University of California, Berkeley: National Urban League.

NationalCouncil of Churches Committee on Public Education and Literacy (2013)TenMoral Concerns in the No Child Left Behind Act A Statement of theNational Council of Churches Committee on Public Education andLiteracy.Retrieved fromhttp://www.ncccusa.org/elmc/specialministries.htm#anchorwgpel

Schulenburg,D &amp McPherson, P. (2014). UniversityTuition, Student Choice and College Affordability: Strategy ofAddressing Challenges.Washington, DC: National Association of State Universities.

Soares,J. (2013). ThePower of Privileges: Yale American Elite Colleges:Stanford: Stanford University Press.