In January 2008, former President Bush signed the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLBA) with the intention of improving the education system (Wrightslaw, 2009). The reform law mandated states to create and implement annual standardized tests to measure reading and math skills of students from grades three to eight (James, 2008b). Until today, however, the validity and effectiveness of NCLBA is still debated, with numerous teachers, students, and their parents protesting against it and believing it does more damage than good for the children taking it.
The news article written by Susan James (2008a) presented the conflicting opinions regarding the NCLBA and the purposes it serves. On one hand, the authorities are saying the reform ensures schools’ accountability for the results and good measuring of students’ abilities. Requiring students to take and pass the test before moving on to the next grade level provides certainty that there is equal learning and achievement opportunities for all students, regardless of social status and race. Test results show if schools are able to maintain quantifiable standards for education, guaranteeing parents that their children do learn (James, 2008a).
Many educators question the stated purpose of the tests. They see the intense weight of standardized testing resting on students’ shoulder when the tests are actually more about states and schools’ score standings and the resulting funding increase, rather than better instruction and learning for children (James, 2008a). The pressure and fear students feel towards the exams have been blamed for killing their love for learning. Teachers are greatly affected by the test results. Thus, instead of making sure children are learning with respect to each one’s personal pace, teachers might focus on ensuring that students pass the state exams.
Gilliam of the Yale School of Medicine says what the Act needs is more research (cited in James, 2008a). The opposing views on the NCLBA are based on different levels of perspectives. The government may have the broad macro-perspective on education and be more aware of the bigger issues. On the other hand, teachers and parents have the micro-perspective which allows them a closer and more personal encounter with the effects of the education reform. The purposes and intentions of the test are clear; it is its effects that are still debatable.