The term K-12 is used in reference to educational technology and education in general in Canada, the United States and a number of other countries. The term is the short form for the school grades before college that are publicly-supported in these countries. These grades are kindergarten and the first twelve grades, that is 1st to 12th grades. In this context, the first year of college would be the 13th grade. Most communities within Canada and the United States have just begun to offer information technology within the various K-12 levels. The main law of the K-12 education system in the United States between 2002 and 2015 was The No Child Left Behind or NCLB. This law would hold schools accountable for the learning of students as well as their achievement. The law in question proved to be controversial especially because it actively worked to penalize schools that failed to show improvement.
Summary of The Law
In 2001, United States Congress proceeded to pass the NCLB by means of overwhelming bipartisan support. President George Bush therefore subsequently signed it into law in January of 2022. The law is understood to have resulted from the concern that the educational system of the United States was no longer competitive around the world. It therefore functioned to significantly increase the role of the Federal Government when it came to holding educational institutions answerable for the academic growth of all their pupils. The law placed specific focus on making sure that the state and the schools within in boosted the performances of specific student groups such as students in special education, those learning English and minority and poor students whose achievements at the time on average trailed those of their peers (Helbig, 24). The law however did not force students to comply with its requirements. However, if they failed to comply, they would risk forfeiting federal Title I money.
The Role of the State and the School Under NCLB
Once the NCLB law was enacted, states were first and foremost needed to test students in both mathematics and reading from grades three through eight as well as in high school. Furthermore, the state had to report the results of the tests of both their student populations in general as well as those of particular subgroups that the federal government had placed a special interest, in such as students in special education programs, English learners, children from low-income households and racial minorities (Moinolnolki and Han, 6). Furthermore, it was the responsibility of the state to bring all of its students to a “proficient level” on statewide tests by the end of the 2013-2014 academic year. However, ever school had the bandwidth to decide or to define “proficiency” in its context as well as which tests to use. This proved difficult in 2015 as the deadline passed with no state having achieved the 100 percent proficiency of students in the year.
Under the NCLB, schools were needed to keep on track towards achieving proficient levels and their goals through a mechanism that was called “adequate yearly progress.” AYP meant that if a school failed to achieve the annual achievement targets of the state for two or more consecutive years, either for the students of a specific subgroup or all the students, the school would be identified as failing to “making AYP,” thereby deeming the institution liable for a number of sanctions of varying intensity. First, any school missing AYP for two consecutive years would have to allow students to transfer to schools with better performances but within the same district (Markowitz, 274). Secondly, schools missing AYP for the third consecutive year have to provide their students with free tutoring. Based on the law, schools that continue to miss the above mentioned achievement targets stood to face intervention from the state. The state may choose to shut down such institutions, turn them into charter schools or utilize any variety of strategies to turn these institutions around.
The law in question required states to make sure that their educators were qualified highly. Generally, this would mean that all teachers needed to have a bachelor’s degree in their area of specialization as well as certification from the state. From the start of the 2002-2003 academic year, all the teachers that had been newly hired with Title I money would have to have been highly competent. However, by the end of the academic year 2005-2006, all teachers hired under the same conditions had to have two years of college, attained either an associate’s degree or higher qualification or needed to have passed evaluations that demonstrated their teaching ability and knowledge. Furthermore, the state had to make sure that all teachers that were deemed sufficiently qualified were evenly distributed among wealthy schools and those with higher poverty levels.
The Benefits of the NCLB Law
First, this law was effective in ensuring an improvement in all scores across all the states. This is because the targeted student populations including the needy and minority students for the first time had an equal opportunity to succeed to that experienced by other fortunate groups throughout history (Roach, 12). This lead to a drastic increase in the performance of minority groups since the law was enacted. NCLB ensured that there was quality education throughout the United States thereby addressing the fear that the education system was no longer competitive. Quality education is the product of the services that can only be offered by a well experienced and learned workforce in the educational sector. This law required that all teachers be qualified and therefore the students would benefit from education of an increased quality.
Parental awareness was also a significant benefit of the law in question. This is because the parents of children highlighted as part of the less fortunate groups could now be able to better understand the school needs of their children and how they are performing (Roach, 13). At the same time, they could understand how this new school system worked. Furthermore, the law connected the quality of the academic content of the state with the performance of the students. This meant that the best educational outcomes would be attributed to the use of research in classroom settings, the incorporation of parental programs and the action plans and development plans created by teachers.
Another benefit of this law was that it required the highest qualifications on the part of the teachers. This resulted in other teachers working to get better education and therefore getting more qualified. Students were the biggest beneficiaries of this as they were taught by the most qualified teachers the system had experienced in a long time meaning that they received the best quality of education as well. Furthermore, the system included extra tutorials. The performances of schools under the law would determine the amount of financial support that the schools received. This resulted in a situation where teachers created times during the day when they could help students that were struggling as a means of raising their performances and that of the school.
The NCLB law resulted in a bridging of the achievement gap. This is because many of the minority students ended up benefiting from the legislation as the increase in the quality of education put them at part with the majority thereby fostering an environment with a healthy competition and good performance (Roach, 16). Finally, the law resulted in an improvement of the structural programs in education. This is because it was the first law to place emphasis of getting the students of the United States the best programs in education as well as the best performance. The above was achieved through the standardization of testing results where the system would compare students from different parts while identifying and solving problems.
Disadvantages of the NCLB Law
This law was deemed ineffective in some aspects. Since the law was conceived, it was made to improve the educational sector. It however achieved the opposite effect. Data derived from studies on the law and on the performance of schools showed that the performance experienced was not sufficient to place any school on the map. The law also resulted in a shortage of teachers (Heise, 1883). This is because the strict requirements for highly qualified educators, fewer individuals with qualifications availed themselves for teaching positions.
Because of the implications of the state and school requirements, educators and schools placed too much emphasis on test scores. The law is known to have used test scores as the main determiner of the success of a school. This concentration resulted in a bad culture in education where educators only trained students on how to get better scores instead of how to learn and understand (Helbig, n.d) At the same time, governments showed a lack of constitutional authority over the educational system. Many critics of the law understood that the government did not have any control over the sector in question and that the education of the students could not be monitored or controlled by the government.
It is also worth noting that the qualification standards required of teachers in the system were deemed too high. Requirements of the NCLB required that teachers needed to have college degrees in a number of subjects. This made it difficult to hire teachers as very few people met these requirements. The law in question resulted in underfunding. For this law to be fully in effect, the government and the states needed to offer full financial backing (Hodges, 228). However, the funds budgeted for the law were insufficient to propel the same to success and posed the risk of withdrawal of funding for the program if it failed to yield good performance for students in the allocated time. Because of this, funding also became a concentration for some schools instead of the main focus being teaching students. This meant that the mandate of the NCLB law had been abandoned.
The NCLB law caused the involuntary transfer of a number of teachers. This law allowed the state and schools to transfer teachers even if they did not agree to the same (Markowitz, 278). This resulted in some of the best teachers being moved to schools that were performing poorly meaning that they had to relocate with their families to their work areas. Finally, the greatest failure of the law was that the goal of learning changed because of the law. This began when teachers began to teach students how to maneuver standardized tests instead of teaching them how to learn. The above was a function of the fact that the law forced schools to pass tests and get good scores so that they could get funding (Hodges, 233). Furthermore, this would bring about a situation where students left school with too little knowledge as they were only bright on paper.
A lot can be said about the No Child Left Behind Law but the bottom line remains that it failed and for this reason got replaced. While the law has some positive attributes, the highlighted cons can be said to have been responsible for its replacement with the Every Student Succeeds Act. The NCLB proved to be more oriented towards money as opposed to focusing on the learning of students. The schools as well as the educators were both concentrating on getting the best test scores as a means of getting funding for the school as opposed to helping students to learn. The NCLB law frustrated educators who are at the frontline of driving education with forced transfers and also frustrated bright students whose abilities were limited by test scores.
Heise, Michael. “From no child left behind to every student succeeds: Back to a future for education federalism.” Colum. L. Rev. 117 (2017): 1859.
Helbig, David. “Teaching to the Test: Public School Reality or Myth? A Review of Curriculum Changes and Teacher Attitudes Since the 2001 Enactment of No Child Left Behind.” (2021).
Hodges, Jaret. “Assessing the influence of No Child Left Behind on gifted education funding in Texas: A descriptive study.” Journal of Advanced Academics 29.4 (2018): 321-342.
Markowitz, Anna J. “Changes in school engagement as a function of No Child Left Behind: A comparative interrupted time series analysis.” American educational research journal 55.4 (2018): 721-760.
Moinolnolki, Neda, and Myae Han. “No child left behind: What about refugees?.” Childhood Education 93.1 (2017): 3-9.
Roach, Andrew T., and Jennifer L. Frank. “Large-scale assessment, rationality, and scientific management: The case of No Child Left Behind.” High Stakes Testing: New Challenges and Opportunities for School Psychology. Routledge, 2018. 7-25.