Politicians have been concerned about the high achievement gaps and low test performances among students of all grade levels. As a response to this outcry, a controversial legislation known as No Child Left Behind has been passed. As a result of this legislation, students are required to take additional standardized tests, including the CRCT (Criterion-Referenced Compentency Tests), which tests students knowledge of reading and math. Many researchers allege that No Child Left Behind is failing our schools because high-stakes testing widens the achievement gap between high-performing and under-performing students.
Texas schools have been studied by researchers from the Regional Educational Laboratory at At Edvance Research, Inc. who insist that high-stakes testing leads to increased dropout rates among students in urban schools. “High-stakes, test-based accountability leads not to equitable educational possibilities for youth, but to avoidable losses of these students from our schools (Wilkins 2).” Urban schools have been researched in this quantitative study, and the data suggests that there were 271,000 students in the Texas district. Among this number, an analysis was conducted on retention rates among students taking these standardized-tests, and it has been concluded that 135,000 students had dropped out, with 60 percent of the students consisting of African American and Latino students.
Research at the University of South Florida has been done to suggest that studies in support of No Child Left Behind are invalid, stating that those studies covered data representing only small groups of people in short periods of time. “Because the data are cross-sectional, the findings of relationships between school characteristics such as class size and student achievement cannot be used to draw causal inferences (Wenglinsky 2).” Critics of No Child Left Behind claim that their research emphasizes on data gathered from longitudinal studies, which focuses on data gathered from larger groups in longer periods of time. Those who oppose No Child Left Behind also suggest that supporters of the legislation distort the research on its impact, meaning that they only record the results of students that meet academic yearly progress, and they don’t record the scores of students that have not met academic yearly progress. Therefore, bias played a tremendous role in the results of such a study.
Critics of No Child Left Behind have also conducted research indicating that students who are learning English as a second language are not afforded an opportunity to learn the material they need to take the tests in America. In otherwords, these students are expected to take the CRCT without receiving extra assistance on content that they didn’t learn to before coming to school in America. An example studied was the effect No Child Left Behind had on Cambodian students, which was highlighted by Wayne E. Wright and Xiaoshi Li, the two authors of “High-Stakes Math Tests: How ‘No Child Left Behind’ Leaves Newcomer English Language Learners Behind,” an article in the journal “Language Policy.” According to the source, “These analyses provide strong evidence that the Cambodian newcomer students were not afforded an opportunity to learn grade-level content before the test, and that the language demands of the test are beyond reasonable for newcomer students(Wright and Li 237).” This is a good example of inferential research, as immigrants are part of the larger population of
study, and Cambodians are used as samples.
California isn’t the only place state in which research indicates that No Child Left Behind fails to cater to individuals that are less proficient in English, and Cambodian students aren’t the only types of students that are impacted by the legislation. Every state has failed to adopt a dual language program for those who are speaking English as a second language. Critics of No Child Left Behind argue in favor of a bilingual education, stating that doing so will help students improve their grades. In fact, Juliet M. Ray, author of “Building The Bridge As You Walk On It: Didactic Behaviors of Elementary Teachers in a Dual Language Program” attests that the use of symbolic interactionism by dual language teachers has been studied in elementary schools and results in more flexibility for English language learners. “While there is evidence that the dual language model has the potential to raise the academic achievement of English language learners (ELLs), the policies mandated through the No Child Left Behind Act do not support maintenance of the student’s heritage language which is an integral part of the model (Ray 1658).” This is an example of ethnographic design, as it is a nonexperimental study in which methods such as observation methods take place in classrooms as natural settings.
There are others that are believed to be negatively impacted by this legislation. Theoni Smith “analyzes the side effects of testing, and focuses on subgroups of school populations that are negatively affected by NCLB, specifically students from low socioeconomic backgrounds, minorities, students with special needs, and second-language learners (Smyth 133).” It is also suggested that students aren’t the only ones who have a lot to lose from No Child Left Behind. Research from the Journal of Educational Strategies highlights data indicating that teachers are also victims of this legislation, as when schools do not meet the test score requirements set by the federal government, they are closed down and teachers lose their jobs.
A study regarding the impact that policies of No Child Left Behind has on math scores of students with disabilities, including learning, visual, or hearing disabilities, was conducted in Massachusetts by the Regional Education Laboratory. According to this correlational study, the number of students with disabilities who perform proficiently in math tests had reduced. “This report, analyzing the mathematics performance of grade 4 students with disabilities in Massachusetts across several metrics (by local-need combination categories, in top performing schools, and relative to general education students)-finds that the proportion of students with disabilities scoring proficiently fell by less than 1 percent point between 2004 and 2006 (Ehrlich 4).” A possible research question for this type of study could be “Does the fact that students who have disabilities are required to take standardized tests contribute to lower test performance among these students.
As a result of the many challenges and controversies of No Child Left Behind, many activists are proposing to reform this legislation. Many urban school districts have focused on implementing organizational change and leadership dynamics on teacher’s professionallearning experiences. Some of the reforms include introducing project-based learning initiatives in the classroom and improving the access to technology in libraries. “A theoreticallens--called the Vygotsky Space--is used to analyze case study data from a reforming urban school district located in the Pacific Northwest (Galluci 541).”
Other calls for reform are that the community should be more involved determining the curriculum instead of politicians. A journal article written by Roberta Levitt, examines “the transformative power of Foucault's pedagogy for educational reform in which students, teachers, parents, and scholars are agents of change (Levitt 47).” This idea suggests that the institutions and individuals providing an education or receiving an education should ultimately determine what is taught. A possible outlook on the future of education is how Barack Obama, the next President of the United States of America, will handle No Child Left Behind. George W. Bush signed into law the legislation and has put a lot of funding into standardized tests, so we may see if Obama decides to keep the current President’s policies or change them.