The American educational system suffers from a wide disparity between the poor and rich schools in the country. Race relations is a prominent cause of the problem wherein the white-dominated school districts get the most funding and government support while non-white children live in poverty, academic underachievement, indifferent government officials and hopelessness.
The No Child Left Behind Act seeks to lessen this disparity by equalizing governmental funding, ensuring a competent teaching workforce and instilling a system of accountability. However, like many other laws, No Child Left Behind has its shortcomings and needs re-examination and/or fine tuning to ensure its effectiveness. No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 and the Issues in Jonathan Kozol’s Book
Through the book Savage Inequalities: Children in America’s Schools, Kozol (1991) made several noteworthy points such as (1) many schools in poverty-stricken areas have non-white children comprising the majority of their student populations, (2) poor, run-down schools in non-white neighborhoods view themselves as serving those children who have little value to the country, (3) students, school administrators, public officials and community residents have a shared feeling of hopelessness for their plight and nobody is willing to be accountable for the problem, and (4) increased funding for the poorest schools in America can make a difference if this is accompanied by a change in the society’s attitude (pp. 82, 114, 243). Former US President George W. Bush signed “The No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) of 2001” into law on January 8, 2002 as part of his educational reform agenda (“No Child”, 2007).
The Act sought for immense transformation in America’s K-12 education by underscoring four principles: (1) greater accountability for results, (2) increased flexibility and local control, (3) expanded options for parents, and (4) an emphasis on proven and effective teaching methods (“New Jersey”, 2006). The four principles are aligned with the areas of racial inequalities among schools as identified by Kozol (Check, 1992, p. 1) which include funding, governmental assistance, political support, buildings upkeep, quality of educators, availability of and funding for school supplies, extra-curricular facilities, overcrowding and accountability system (Warner, 2002, n. d. ).
Extent of Effectiveness of the Act Some of No Child Left Behind’s remedies are more pronounced in student academic performance. Thompson and Barnes (2007) cite that albeit slow progress, NCLB yields favorable results in strengthening student academic achievement. For example, scores in mathematics among 4th and 8th graders from 2003 to 2005 increased nationwide with scores for Hispanic and African American students showing significant improvement in the same period. Further, 4th graders’ national average scores in reading improved while achievement gap between African American and Hispanic 4th graders narrowed slightly from 2003 to 2005 (p. 16).
More than two-thirds of the states also reported that test scores disparity in terms of race, income, or language background has lessened or stayed the same (Rentner et. al. , 2006 as cited in Thompson and Barnes, 2007, p. 16). On the contrary, the mostly debated shortcomings of the law fall in three areas. First, its stringent assessment and reporting requirements forced educators to allocate instructional time in preparation for assessment thereby suppressing creative learning in the classroom. Secondly, the Department of Education has failed to immediately ensure and monitor that the states comply with the NCLB’s teacher quality provisions; this being done only two years after the effectivity of the law.
Lastly, fund disbursements in some states primarily devoted to professional development were done without full consideration of effectiveness or content quality of the trainings (Thompson and Barnes, 2007, pp. 19-20). Conclusion In summary, the NCLB has laid the foundations for educational reform and academic equality but continuous evaluation is essential to make the law work for all. References Check, J. (1992). Book Review: Savage Inequalities: Children in America’s Shools, by Jonathan Kozol. The Quarterly, 14 (3). Retrieved April 10, 2009, from http://www. nwp. org/cs/public/print/resource/1139 Kozol, J. (1991). Savage Inequalities: Children in America’s Schools. New York: Harper Collins New Jersey No Child Left Behind. (2006). Retrieved April 10, 2009, from http://www. nj. gov/education/grants/nclb/