No Child Left Behind
The No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law, an Act of Congress, is aimed at improving school performance by increasing the standards of accountability for states, school districts, and schools, as well as providing parents with more flexibility in choosing which schools their children will attend. It also promoted an increased focus on reading and re-authorized the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA).
NCLB enacts the theories of standards-based education reform, which is based on the belief that setting high expectations and establishing measurable goals can improve individual outcomes in education. The Act requires states to develop assessments in basic skills to be given to all students in certain grade levels. NCLB does not assert a national achievement standard; standards are set by each individual state.
NCLB is organized into sections called “titles.” In California, funds from NCLB’s programs are generally channeled through the California Department of Education to districts and schools. California receives about $3 billion in NCLB program funding, with Title I grants to local education agencies representing about two-thirds of that amount.
- Title I: Extra support for students who live in poverty. Along with basic grants to local education agencies, Title I includes the Reading First, Early Reading First, Even Start, and Comprehensive School Reform programs. A large portion of Title I funding is aimed at schools serving students living in poverty.
- Title II: Preparing, training, and recruiting teachers and principals. This provides funds to school districts to improve training and development, hire new educators, and retain highly qualified ones.
- Title III: Language instruction for limited English proficient (LEP) and immigrant students. This state-administered grant program provides funding to districts based on the number of LEP and immigrant students they serve. It includes specific assessment and parent notification requirements.
- Title IV: 21st Century Schools. This title provides grants for out-of-school programs aimed at keeping students safe and supporting academic achievement.
- Title V: Promoting informed parental choice and innovative programs. This provides federal grant support for Innovative Programs and Public Charter Schools (both previously existing programs). It also includes an incentive program to help charter schools meet their facility needs.
- Title VI: Flexibility and accountability. Title VI provides funds for states to improve the quality, validity, and reliability of their testing systems.
NCLB includes increased requirements for high-quality teachers and paraprofessionals. All teachers must be fully certified to teach the subjects or grade levels to which they are assigned. Parents must be notified about the qualifications of their children’s teachers.
Para-professionals were required to meet NCLB proficiency requirements. They must hold an AA degree or 48 units of college work, or pass an examination that includes both content knowledge and ability to work with students. There is an additional state requirement that all paraprofessionals must pass the local proficiency exam.
The progress of students in math and reading must be measured annually in grades 3-8 and at least once during high school. Testing is also conducted in science once during grades 3-5, 6-9, and 10-11. The type of assessment is left up to the state, but should focus on whether a student knows the required content or can do the required skill as outlined in the state’s standards.
English learners are generally exempted from testing during their first year in an American school. After that, they must participate in the assessment process – either in English or in their native language – for the next three to five years. After five years, students are expected to be sufficiently proficient in English to take the test in English.
Federal law requires that all students meet proficiency in reading, language arts, and mathematics, and science by the year 2014. Students must be tested, and schools must achieve an Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) target. Each subgroup in the school must also meet the target AYP.
Schools not achieving AYP two years in a row become Program Improvement schools and have a variety of requirements they must fulfill, including parent choice to move their children to another school, transportation, tutoring, and eventual change in school structure. Each district must develop and disseminate an annual School Accountability Report Card.
Schools are required to use “scientifically based research” strategies in the classroom and for professional development of staff. California’s approach to standards and curriculum satisfies NCLB requirements, although the law’s new emphasis on using “scientifically proven” reading and instruction programs has meant that districts must select from a list of state-approved materials that meet this requirement in order to continue to receive federal Title I funding.
Public School Choice
Schools identified as needing improvement are required to provide students with the opportunity to take advantage of public school choice no later than the beginning of the school year following their identification for school improvement.
NCLB’s Unsafe School Choice Option allows students to transfer to a “safe” public school if they become victims of a violent crime while on public school grounds or if their school meets the definition of a “persistently dangerous” public school. Such schools must develop a plan to correct the unsafe conditions. The Unsafe School Choice Option applies to all schools in California, regardless of whether they receive Title I funds.
Enhancing Education Through Technology (EETT)
EETT provides assistance for elementary and secondary schools to use technology to increase student achievement. The goal is to encourage effective integration of technology in classrooms and assist in eliminating the digital divide through funding for equipment, professional development and training for educators.
- Lynn Garric, Consultant, Safe Schools
- Jeffrey Heller, Assistant Superintendent
- Rick Phelan, Director, Technology for Learners
- Mickey Porter, Assistant Superintendent